A modular framework for management of complexity in international forest-carbon policy

Elizabeth A. Law, Sebastian Thomas, Erik Meijaard, Paul J. Dargusch, Kerrie A. Wilson. 2012. A modular framework for management of complexity in international forest-carbon policy. Nature Climate Change 2:155-160. doi:10.1038/nclimate1376


Complex and variable ecological and social settings make the programme on reducing emissions through avoided deforestation, forest degradation and other forestry activities in developing countries (REDD+) a challenging policy to design. The total value to society of each type of REDD+ outcome is dependent on the fundamentally different risk profiles of alternative forest-management approaches and their scope and potential for co-benefits. We suggest a modular policy framework for REDD+ that distinguishes and differentially compensates the distinct outcomes. This could represent an improved framework to promote and manage incentives for effective forest-carbon initiatives, offer better scope to find common ground in policy negotiations and allow faster adaptation of policy to an uncertain future.

REDD+ conceptual design under present policy (left-hand side) and a proposed modular framework based on separation of REDD+ outcomes (right-hand side).
Figure 1: REDD+ conceptual design under present policy (left-hand side) and a proposed modular framework based on separation of REDD+ outcomes (right-hand side).

The “success” of the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun

Liz Law

After the media circus around COP15 in Copenhagen, COP16 barely managed a blip on the radar.

What was it like? Interesting. Absurd. Atrocious. Intriguing. These words would all fit the bill.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, and still am not quite sure what to make of it.

The setting

There was strong indication that there was not to be a repeat of the Copenhagen circus. For one, there was to be no snow, only the long white sand and turquoise blue of Caribbean beaches. From the opening the ES Cristiana Figueres made it clear that they had every intention of achieving an agreement in Cancun, if only to create the impression that the UNFCCC process can achieve something. Compromise was strongly pushed. She also made strong statements regarding transparency of the process, a response to the backlash against the closed doors in previous meetings.

The spatial allocation of venues was clearly an exercise in avoiding any “incident” – such as negotiators and diplomats meeting with demonstrations and protestors. The main negotiations took place at an exclusive resort, miles from anywhere, quite isolated from the public by multiple security checkpoints, and surrounded by military on both land and sea. At over US$500 a night, and limited capacity, you can imagine how this would restrict the people who could stay on location. Media offices were so far from the main rooms that they had to have a mini bus to take them there, and the closed doors and restricted capacities in some rooms seemed to be intentional strategic barriers for many attendees.

The side events were held at a different venue, about 30 mins away from both the city and the main negotiation venue. Again strictly controlled by a military presence, there was virtually no opportunity for non-conference attendees to make any sort of presence there. They really should be called “sideshows”, they are an eclectic series of random events from industry promotions, science reports, advocacy rants, and community sing-alongs. Almost all showered you with a forest load of reading material to compliment the non-climate friendly air conditioning. Networking was clearly the primary aim for most people’s game, but it was also useful to gain a wider perspective on what is certainly a multifaceted mess. Continue reading The “success” of the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun

Will REDD payments save threatened species?

Only if we want them to; it won’t happen by itself!

The spectre of climate change casts a worrying pall over our planet’s biodiversity. Amidst the gloom, however, hangs many opportunities and one of the brightest of these is that the cost of carbon might save many of our tropical forests. That’s because in a carbon constrained world it makes sense to pay people more to NOT cut down their forests than they would make from clearing them. And in so doing it’s been realised that these payments might then also be one of our best opportunities for protecting the animals and plants found in these forests.

Read the rest of Oscar‘s article about the global REDD project in Decision Point 35.

Ecosystem protection: a solution to climate change

Article from the December edition of UQ News – see the original article here.

Delegates to the climate change conference in Copenhagen have been told that ecosystem-based strategies offer cost-effective and sustainable solutions to climate change that can deliver multiple benefits.

This is according to a report from Dr Kerrie Wilson from UQ’s The Ecology Centre, who is attending Attending COP15 on the second day of plenary sessions.

“With many of the impacts of climate change already being felt, methods to adapt to climate change are a key focus of discussions at the climate change meeting in Copenhagen,” she said.

“Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change – referred to by some scientists as a ‘convenient solution to an inconvenient truth’ – are one mechanism on the negotiating table.”

Dr Wilson said the broader issue was the Reducing Emissions through Avoided Deforestation and Degradation mechanism (REDD) to reward nations and communities for voluntarily improving forest protection and management.

Greenhouse gas emissions from forests were caused by logging and conversion to agriculture, resulting in a release of stored carbon which was the largest source of emissions caused by humans, second to combustion of fossil fuels.

“The advisory group responsible for the technical support of mechanisms to lessen and adapt to climate change revealed optimism today that a decision on REDD will be made at this meeting,” she said.

“Acceptance of REDD as a viable means of reducing international emissions could offer a new platform and financing mechanism for protecting biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the livelihoods of those that depend on forests.”

Dr Wilson said representatives of developing nations were calling for enhanced capacity to promote readiness for REDD and secure funding commitments, along with acknowledgement of the role that indigenous communities can play in implementation and monitoring. The realities of REDD and issues surrounding corruption and law enforcement were also being openly discussed.

The original form of REDD was now being replaced by REDD +, where forest management, reforestation and carbon sequestration in other landscapes are also compensated.

With multiple objectives, and multiple ways to achieve these objectives, the careful planning and prioritisation for REDD implementation would become pivotal.

Dr Wilson said not everyone could be a winner and trade-offs between objectives were inevitable.

“Our research has proven that it is feasible to integrate the dual objective of conserving biodiversity and reducing the release of greenhouse gases. We can analyse in a transparent way the winners and losers, and thereby inform decision-making for REDD.”

Brief bio of Dr. Wilson
Dr Kerrie Wilson holds a degree in Environmental Science from The University of Queensland (top graduate in 1999, University Medallist). She obtained a DPhil in ecology from the University of Melbourne in 2004. Kerrie is author of approximately 50 scientific publications (including publications in Science and Nature) and one edited book. In 2009 she was awarded an Australian Leadership Award and an European Erasmus Mundus Fellowship. Kerrie has previously held leadership positions with non-government organisations including Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy Australia. Her research into the socio-economic aspects of conservation involves collaborations with national and international government and non-government organisations.

Media: Dr Kerrie Wilson (k.wilson2@uq.edu.au, +45-35-331-855 Copenhagen) or Tracey Franchi, School of Biological Sciences Communications Manager (+61-7-3365-4831).