REDD Eye: World Leaders Call for a Deforestation Deal in Durban, Progress is Steady but Slow

A group of world leaders is calling for negotiators in Durban to move forward on a deal that they say would prevent massive deforestation and help substantially reduce carbon emissions.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined famed British anthropologist Jane Goodall at the COP 17 climate conference today to support a mechanism called REDD+ (also known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

They called it a “win-win” for reducing carbon emissions and preserving biodiversity.

The REDD+ mechanism, which is still being hashed out by negotiators this week, allows emitters to offset a portion of their emissions through forest preservation projects in developing countries. It’s one of the main agenda items in Durban actually getting traction.

Also joining the event to support REDD+ were Bill and Hillary Clinton, who spoke to a diverse crowd of diplomats, journalists and NGOs via separate recorded video messages.

“Clearing and burning of tropical rainforests is responsible for approximately 15% of global carbon emissions, but conserving forests is one of the most affordable ways to reduce pollution,” said Clinton in a brief address to a large crowd. “Help us fight one of the greatest threats in history.”

President Obama even made a recorded cameo at the event. He praised the work of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, who established a tree-planting movement in the 1980’s in order to empower local communities and fight back against exploitation of Africa’s forests.

“Here in Durban, we can carry on her work, to … grow our economies in a way that’s sustainable and that addresses climate change. In this you have the partnership of the United States. Delegates must remember her call in which she said: ‘We must not tire. We must not give up.'”

An ironic statement, considering the criticisms against Obama for exactly that: limiting his talk about climate change in the U.S. in the face of a well-funded smear campaign against the science.

While delegates at this year’s climate conference are concerned about the lack of progress on internationally binding commitments, they haven’t given up yet. Yesterday saw some movement on the much-anticipated $100 billion Green Fund, with the U.S. indicating it would support the text. And the last week of negotiations have brought countries closer to agreeing to the framework for the REDD+ mechanism.

Like the Green Fund, REDD+ has broad support from international negotiators. But the details on how to fund it, how to administer it, and how to accurately monitor emissions are still being worked on.

A technical working group issued a draft decision this week that identifies how to track and report those emissions reductions. If the text is approved, it could put the international community closer to a framework on deforestation emissions – a problem that accounts for more carbon released into the atmosphere than the entire global automobile fleet.

The REDD+ program being debated is an extension of the Clean Development Mechanism established under the Kyoto Protocol, which allowed developed countries invest in forest conservation projects in order to reduce emissions. Jonathan Pershing, the deputy climate negotiator for the U.S., today praised the latest iteration of the program. But he also called it “nascent.”

Pershing said that deforestation offset programs are still evolving from something that simply focuses on “saving a tree” to something that “will protect the ecosystem.” That means addressing food security and creating economic opportunities that make it less attractive to slash and burn valuable forests.

“We agree with others that it’s an integrated problem,” said Pershing “You can’t isolate it without looking at agriculture and food requirements. You can’t just pick it out and say I’m going to save the tree and not the ecosystem. The history of climate protection has been that I’m going to protect the tree.”

While most of the world leaders at COP 17 are praising the development of this deforestation-prevention program, REDD is not without its harsh critics. Some environmental and indigenous groups have issued statements calling the program a hostile take-over of local land rights. Many groups are concerned that it would make forest lands a commodity to be exploited by outside interests, assuming it is eventually tied to a global carbon-trading mechanism.

But the technical group working here in Durban attempted to alleviate those concerns by establishing standards for reporting information on projects. These standards will make it easier to see details of transactions and determine if local land rights are being protected. The working group is also developing verification and reporting methods for transactions. But those won’t likely be completed here in Durban.

Although movement on REDD+ is slow, onlookers expect to come out of Durban with more clarity on how the mechanism will be formed. Meanwhile, world leaders continue their call for faster action:

“We need to have a COP decision on REDD,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. “We need to support a climate friendly forest sector. And we need innovative policy and actions that can halt deforestation.”

13 Responses to REDD Eye: World Leaders Call for a Deforestation Deal in Durban, Progress is Steady but Slow

  1. Luc Binette says:

    There should NOT be any carbon offsets transferable to other countries with any scheme that aim at preserving forests, this is the points. Why not mention that the whole point of REDD is that of creating offsets for rich countries? which is totally unethical.

  2. Mae Cam says:

    Luc, that is ignorant. Try justifying your remarks. REDD is about directing money towards forest conservation in the developing world – are you denying that the global South needs aid, or do they simply allow deforestation because they think its a good idea? If you don’t like the structure of the UNFCCC, which is where your opposition to offsetting comes from, propose a better solution that is realistic. Otherwise, bench your negativity and support those who are actually attempting to do something worthwhile.

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Really? I thought the whole point was to save my friends and relatives, the trees and orangutans etc. How would you do it? ME

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Rewarding countries for preserving forests is worthwhile and cost effective, in spite of past adminstrative and accounting glitches. If good science prevails, this can be an effective program.

    There is a nagging flaw, however: If the US, Canada, or Russia clearcuts a large temperate forests, it’s not called “deforestation”, but rather “treatment” or “timber management”. And in reality, carbon benefits of avoiding deforestation in temperate and boreal forests are greater, due to preserving soil carbon as well.

  5. Leif says:

    There are 9 “bio fuel power plants planned for the Olympic Peninsula alone. Planed or in construction. I do not see enough local slash personally to supply all. Where will that wood come from. My guess is that some will be shipped from the dieing forests of Beetle kill to the east. Dieing forests initially caused by the ecocidal forest industry and now labeled “Green’ and sold at a premium. Our Port Townsend plant is affiliated with the local, now German owned, paper plant and piggy backed on the plants pollution credits. What a deal. More local pollution, green credits for the power production, higher profits for the overseas owners and higher power costs for the people. I could be wrong, just a guess.

    or: Invest in Solar PV and put the profits in your pocket. I have and I know it works.

  6. ryan says:

    or perhaps the ‘global south’ doesn’t need anymore of what the rich define as “development.”

    educate yourself. start with a brief history of some of the ‘development’ programs imported south from gringolandia – such as the ironically named “Food for Peace” program (you’ll prolly need to google that one and read for a while to figure out how ‘food as a weapon’ drove farmers into Coca production… then check ya history books on this one –… then move on further south and see what reganomics did for the Somoza fam and the people of Nicaragua, keep diggin’ and try to follow it up until here: Former Indonesian REDD+ negotiator arrested on corruption charge

    all the foreign policy of the ‘developed’ world is and has been grounded in a market-based morality: if it makes more money for the rich it is deemed as “good.” REDD/REDD+ is no different and subject to the exact same corrupt forces as every decision driven by entities who seek to centralize power and wealth in the upper tiers of hierarchical power structures.

    btw – how are you going to “reduce emissions” by “locking” carbon in tropical forests – do you have any idea how often or how much of that carbon goes right back up into the active carbon cycle? any idea of the current conditions effecting tropical forests and plant mortality?

    i dare you to bench your stupidity and try to actually apply 21st conservation to what little is left of those forests.

    “directing money toward conservation in the developing world” jejeje – yer money and yer whole economy is collapsing – keep it.

    Un movimiento de verdad ha empezado
    Dejamos el imperio corrupto descuartizado
    Golpe de estado disparando al presidente
    Es hora de revolución nuevamente…

  7. Chris Lang says:

    This article is based on a side event that took place in Durban last night, organised by Avoided Deforestation Partners. (ADP is a major proponent of a carbon trading version of REDD.) I’m not surprised that the speakers were in favour of REDD and gave the impression that progress was “steady but slow”.

    If you look beyond that side event to the discussions about REDD in Durban, things don’t look so good. Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research described the text as “very weak”. He’s worried that the safeguards are being weakened still further.

    Meanwhile, others are calling for a moratorium on REDD. There’s more on REDD-Monitor:

  8. Mae Cam says:

    Ryan – well sure – on principle, let’s allow infant mortality, poor or non-existent healthcare, poor or non-existent education, food insecurity, resource mismanagement as a catalyst for civil conflict, under-employment and environmental degradation on a huge scale. Of course ‘development’ as a concept is a bad idea, so let’s spend all of our time quibbling over the definition (rather than taking practical action to improve people’s lives). While we’re at it, let’s resist any attempt for assistance or new ideas by assuming that past mistakes will automatically translate into REDD policy (because, after all, those involved in REDD are just greedy capitalists who seek a new form on colonisation and have no vested interest whatsoever in ensuring that REDD projects serve both the environment and local people). Human beings don’t learn from their mistakes and are, after all, and can’t be trusted to attempt new things (depite pending ecological collapse if we don’t try).

    I can’t speak to the science – but something tells me that the 3000 scientists who wrote the 4th Assessment Report know more than you. I’m with them.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I agree Luc-all these ‘carbon indulgences’ are scams to allow business as usual to proceed. After a decent interval it will emerge that the forests were still destroyed, because there was a buck in it, and the whole thing was yet another sham. The parasites know no other way, and they hate and fear the natural world, so have no compunction in destroying it.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m sorry Mae, but Ryan’s realistic cynicism is, in my opinion, closer to the mark. ‘Development’ means destruction for profit. When the rich world intervenes in the poor world it always causes more harm than good, and I’m certain it is deliberate. As long as capitalism rules, as long as the USA and the West, through the thugs of the ‘Washington Consensus’, the IMF, World Bank and WTO, insist on ‘pro-market’ conditionalities, like privatisation, ‘labour market reform’, floating exchange rates, absence of capital controls, ‘openness to foreign investment’ etc, the poor world will be ruthlessly exploited, and the human populations of the global majority and the natural world will come nowhere.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Mike, it’s all a question of money. If the capitalists find it more profitable to destroy the forests to grow soy, or raise cattle, then it will happen. Until the insane desire to turn everything on earth into money is ended, ie until we remove the capitalist incubus from the planet’s back, we are on a fast-track to destruction. It is utterly impossible to use ‘market mechanisms’ to preserve life. The market is interested in transformation into money, not the maintenance of ‘unproductive’ ecosystems, and the capitalists live only for profit and riches.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Whenever business pathocrats talk of ‘partners’ it’s time to run for the hills. Their idea of ‘partnership’ is akin to the relation between slave and master, the model for all their preferred social arrangements.

  13. ryan says:


    now, is there anyone out there who actually can make even a vague estimation of amount of carbon that could potentially be “sequestered” in tropical forests if REDD/REDD+ actually worked. go ahead, google it if you haven’t got the time/care to read through J Kricher or EO Wilson, or actually travel, learn and work in the tropics.

    real simple here people – this is stuff most of undergrads in ecology should know – basic carbon cycling.

    if the rich use REDD to “offset” their pollution by stopping deforestation/degradation of tropical forests about how long will that carbon remain out of active cycling under 21st century global change conditions?

    how long does carbon stay “sequestered” into the trees and plants of forests of the tropics – even before anthropogenic influence? is there anyone on the thread with even the slightest knowledge of the carbon cycle and tropical conditions? bueller? bueller?