Climate Justice & Sustainability

Doha Debrief: Updates from the UN Climate Negotiations in Qatar - Forest and Land Use

Published on

For many indigenous peoples and communities around the world, forests equal life. From food to medicine, and from income to religion, forests hold an importance to many that cannot and should not be underestimated. But progress in Doha towards an agreement on how emissions embedded in land are calculated and how indigenous knowledge and livelihoods should be calculated was almost non-existant. Reuben tells us more…

For many indigenous peoples and communities around the world, forests equal life. From food to medicine, and from income to religion, forests hold an importance to many that cannot and should not be underestimated[1].

Forest Facts[2]:

  • Forests cover 31 percent of total global land area.
  • Forests store more than 1 trillion tons of carbon.
  • Over 1.6 billion people’s livelihoods depend on forests.
  • 30 percent of forests are used for production of wood and non-wood products.
  • Roughly 13 million hectares - an area the size of Nicaragua - are converted to other land uses each year.[3]
  • Deforestation and forest degradation, through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, fires etc., account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.[4]
  • Forest resources directly support the livelihoods of 90% of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty and are home to nearly 90% of the world’s land-based biodiversity.[5]
  • Local communities depend on forests as a source of fuel, food, medicines and shelter. The loss of forests jeopardises poverty alleviation and the capacity of poor people to adapt to the already changing climate.

With some estimates setting emissions from deforestation and the degradation at staggering 25% of total global emissions[6], it is little wonder that the issue of forests and biodiverse lands have been put on the agenda at the UNFCCC.

What is REDD?

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD has been expanded (to REDD+), which still encompasses the goal to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation but it places an additional focus on the role of reforestation (planting trees), conservation, and sustainable, forest management in developing countries. REDD+ also introduced the idea of payment (in the form of tradable offsets/credits) for forest protection to further encourage a positive change in forestry practice in developing countries.

Laying the gauntlet; Gateway to no-man’s land

Going into the COP 18 talks, one of the key issues concerning REDD was Finance. Discussions regarding this were under the Ad hoc Working Group-Long term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). The frustration of coming out of the negotiations without a clear finance mechanism was evident at the close of the discussions. The final text pushed the topic of ‘money’ to 2013, where further deliberations would be made on the issue, essentially leaving REDD in no man’s land[7]. In addition the LCA also deliberated on the issue of exploring non market based mechanisms, again pushing further deliberations on this to 2013[8].

The scientific advisory body (SBSTA) looked at the monitoring and measurement mechanisms where the aspect of verification took centre stage. Discussions concerning monitoring reporting and verification (MRV) - mechanisms to measure states’ success in cutting emissions - bore no fruit, making it yet another frustrating outcome. Essentially there was a deadlock between two fronts, Norway pushed for an international independent verification process while Brazil favoured a national verification approach rejecting an external verification mechanism. Again NO DECISIONS WERE MADE[9]. Deliberations were yet again postponed to 2013.

Calls for parties to lay emphasis in the aspect of human rights and particularly those of the indigenous communities depending on forests could also be heard from civil society groups, NGO’s and oung people with concern about the “laissez faire” approach to a rights based mechanism.

Where next?

Concise commitments regarding finance and MRV are needed if the program is to be enhanced and progress made by 2015. The impasse regarding MRV would have to be resolved bearing in mind most developing countries don’t have the necessary resources to carry out such programs. Further, the money just has to flow. Bolivia’s position fronting non market based mechanisms is an interesting twist concerning the future of REDD. Time is running out and the successful implementation of REDD is highly dependent on the ability of the parties to take bold concrete steps. Who knows Bolivia might just have given us a way-out.


[2] Unless specifically referenced, all facts are sourced from International Year of Forests Fact Sheet



[5] UN-REDD Beyond Carbon: Ecosystem-based benefits of REDD+


[7] Final LCA Text (FCCC/AWGLCA/2012/L.4)

[8] An idea fronted by Bolivia

[9] Final SBSTA text (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.31)

Feature Image Credit: Ian Sane via Compfight cc