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REDD in the news: 12-18 January 2009

The big news this week was a symposium at the Smithsonian Institute, “Will the Rainforests Survive?” on 12 January 2009. Mongabay’s coverage was the most thorough and the entire symposium is available here. Elsewhere, the Huffington Post comments on the Lacey Act, Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture is dissapointed with REDD and Climatico asks who is in charge of where the money ends up to address climate change in Indonesia.

12 January 2009
New technology needed to monitor rain forest ‘tsunami’
Carnegie Institution press release about the Smithsonian Institute symposium. The press release quotes Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology.

“Selective logging is more difficult to recognize and quantify than outright deforestation, so there have been few estimates of its impact,” says Asner. “But we found that around 28% of humid tropical forests are undergoing some level of timber harvesting.”

“The overall impacts of selective logging on biodiversity are far less dramatic than the wholesale losses incurred by deforestation,” he adds, “but nonetheless it can fundamentally alter forest habitat.”

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Rainforest loss may have been overstated, scientists
Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports on the same meeting at the Smithsonian Institue and comments that satellite data shows that tropical forests are regrowing after logging or farming.

Joseph Wright of the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has pointed out that the tropics now have more protected land than North America, Europe or Japan.

In a 2006 study he asserted that “large areas of tropical forest cover will remain in 2030 and beyond…. We believe that the area covered by tropical forest will never fall to the exceedingly low levels that are often predicted and that extinction will threaten a smaller proportion of tropical forest species than previously predicted.”

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When A Tree Falls Illegally In The Forest
Huffington Post on the Lacey Act’s ban on illegally logged timber and how it “could be a breakthrough on climate change”.

Ultimately, Lacey could be a big breakthrough for efforts to combat climate change from deforestation. In international efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation — REDD as it’s known — the elephant in the room is the lack of capacity in developing countries to enforce any international regime on forestry. The largest wood products market could unexpectedly provide a critical missing piece of that puzzle.

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13 January 2009
Apocalypse delayed: tropical forests fight back as farmers flee
The Times reports on the Smithsonian Institute meeting.

Tropical rainforests are proving more resilient than environmentalists feared, with up to a third of the virgin jungle torn down by loggers and farmers sprouting new trees, scientists announced yesterday.
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The scientists found that while tropical forests are still being lost at a rate of 13,000 hectares each year – equivalent to 50 football pitches every day – the damage is less severe than some environmentalists have claimed.

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14 January 2009
GFC certifies 18 new timber graders
Article in the Kaieteur News focusses on the Guyana Forestry Commission promoting the logging of lesser used timber species. The article ends with comments from the Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud on REDD. According to Persaud, REDD “falls short of the country’s expectations”.

Traditionally, Guyana has a very low rate of deforestation.

International organizations, such as the Food Agriculture Organization, have recorded Guyana’s rate of deforestation as less than one percent.

Guyana therefore is not expected to benefit much, he stated.

The country can however make informed assumptions as to what its projected rate of deforestation could be in the future based on development considerations.

For Guyana such considerations would be associated with the opening of the Takutu Bridge and the increased trade between Guyana and Brazil.

“We can then identify potential alternative employment opportunities, which would allow the foregoing of those activities that would have led to increased emissions. The FCPF would be willing to support these alternative employment opportunities, provided that certain conditions are adhered to.”

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16 January 2009
Symposium tackles big question: how many species will survive our generation
Mongabay reports on the symposium at the Smithsonian Institute on 12 January 2009. “Despite the most up-to-date statistics, prognosis for the future of tropical forests varied widely.” The article carefully describes the various arguments about rates of deforestation and rates of species extinctions. The article concludes with some suggestions for going forward from the symposium, including this from Thomas Rudel, a Human Ecology and Sociology professor at Rutgers University.

Thomas Rudel argued that the shift in responsibilty for deforestation from small cultivators to industrial companies allowed an opportunity for governments and conservation groups to really pursue those responsible for the damage. Such actions he stated was “not available during early period of deforestation”. He emphasized the importance of supporting international agreements, such as REDD, payment for ecosystem services, and organic and certified products.

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17 January 2009
Second Life
The Economist on the Smithsonian Institute’s symposium.

What everyone agreed, though, was that climate change is a threat. Even the optimistic Dr Wright is worried. He warned the meeting that because many tropical species evolved in an environment that has very little temperature variation, they are not equipped to cope with an increase of as little as 3°C, which is the sort of change that many climate scientists predict. Such species may thus have to migrate long distances if they are to survive. He said that by the end of teh century, 75% of tropical forests will be warmer than today, and what will remain in these hot, wet places is unknown.

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Who’s in charge of the money? Indonesia’s fractured climate change leadership

Climatico notes that Indonesia’s new climate change initiative was “conspicuous by its absence” in Poznan, and “given recent disagreements over budgetary control, we shouldn’t expect anything soon.”

So far the US, Germany and Australia have pledged some $6o million in grants to combat climate change. The real prizes are the soft loans from countries like Japan who is providing up to $300 million for climate change mitigation as part of its “Cool Earth Promotion Programme“. Furthermore there could be much more on the way from the Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme.

A cynic may suggest that having presidential and legislative elections in July may have something to do with this. But even then surely, one may ask, the money will still be used for climate change policies. Well this seems more a hope than a certainty as the trust fund will not have the same focus on climate change as the DNPI. This was made abundantly clear when the Bappenas director of forestry and water resource conservation, Basah Hernowo, stated “the trust fund will decide where the loans go. It can also be used to plug the deficit in the state budget”. Given the economic crisis and global recession, it is a valid, yet worrying question to ask how much of the donor’s money will actually be spent on climate change.

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