The Justice Party (JP) supports all efforts that encourage the preservation of existing forests under the Avoided Deforestation protocols agreed to by the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris in 2015. The JP also supports measures to restore degraded forests and all efforts to plant new trees under the Reforestation and Afforestation protocols of the Climate Agreement. While market mechanisms for carbon finance and forests have proven very effective in many parts of the world, it should be noted that while acknowledging the extraordinary benefits of carbon finance in many countries, the JP carefully reviews specific programs on a national basis to insure transparency, validation and verification.
Forests cover approximately 30% of the Earth’s land surface and are critical ecosystems for habitat, food, water, shelter, nutrient cycling, and cultural and recreational value. Forests also store carbon, contain roughly 50% of all biodiversity on the planet and they help alleviate land degradation and desertification. The Rio Convention, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), all acknowledge the important contribution of forests to achieve their respective goals and objectives. Every effort must be made to preserve and protect existing forest cover and accelerate the planting of trees.
Deforestation and forest degradation account for approximately 13-15 percent of carbon emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. According to the IPCC, it is now abundantly clear that in order to constrain the impacts of climate change within limits that society will reasonably be able to tolerate, global average temperatures must be stabilized within two degrees Celsius. This will be practically impossible to achieve without reducing emissions from the forest sector, in addition to other mitigation actions.
According to The State of the World’s Forests report in 2020, the conservation of global biodiversity is utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use forests. On the International Day for Biological Diversity (22nd May), a report showed that urgent solutions are needed to safeguard forest biodiversity amid alarming rates of deforestation and degradation.
Since 1990, some 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through conversion to other land uses, and although the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades, some 10 million hectares are still being lost each year. It should be abundantly clear by now that with rates of deforestation so dangerously high, how important it is to conserve sustainably those ecosystems in nature that we all rely upon, forests. Protecting habitats and biodiversity is crucial to “building back better” following our current crisis. Considering that forests contain 60,000 different tree species, 80 percent of all amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species, 68 percent of the world's mammal species, and 50 percent of the biodiversity of the planet, all efforts to preserve these ecosystems, especially in the tropics, are critical at this time in human history.
The Kyoto Protocol
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of several thousand climate scientists from a range of countries around the world, identified agriculture, forestry and other land uses as significant net sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, contributing about 23% of human caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) combined as CO2 equivalents in 2007–2016. Forests present a significant global carbon stock accumulated through the growth of trees and an increase in soil carbon. When these forests are destroyed, their carbon stock ends up in the atmosphere.
The IPCC agreed that the rate of build-up of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere could be reduced because atmospheric CO2 can accumulate as carbon in vegetation and soils in terrestrial ecosystems. Under the UNFCCC, any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere is referred to as a "sink". Human activities impact terrestrial sinks through Land use, Land-use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) activities, consequently, the exchange of CO2 (the carbon cycle) between terrestrial systems and the atmosphere is impacted.
The Kyoto Climate Agreement, adopted by 192 nations in 1997 and becoming operational in 2005, actually created, though, a perverse incentive to destroy the worlds’ remaining standing forests. The Marrakech Accords and Declaration of the protocol were adopted at the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2001 and contained provisions to address CO2 emissions from forests and agriculture. Under this agreement a market mechanism was adopted to address emissions from deforestation and degradation.
Unfortunately, the mechanism only included carbon finance provisions for afforestation and reforestation projects. In other words, standing forests were excluded from the mechanism and thus the coalition of rainforest nations at the Convention were left with a rather stark choice. To qualify for billions of dollars of carbon finance, forest nations were told to destroy their standing forests, and all the biodiversity they contain, and then re- plant those forests. Fortunately, in 2015, at COP-21 in Paris, after decades of evolution and years of difficult negotiations, efforts to slow climate change by saving trees and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) were enshrined in the United Nations Climate Accord Agreement.
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) became the mechanism developed by the Parties to the Convention in Paris. The (+) after REDD goes beyond simple deforestation and forest degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. REDD+ created a financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from their own forested lands by investing in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. Developing countries would receive results-based payments for results-based actions. In other words, the carbon sector in one country could, by demonstrably mitigating carbon emissions in developing countries through the transfer of capital and technology, could reduce their own carbon footprint. As mitigating the negative effects of climate change is an international policy goal, billions of dollars in public and private monies are financing programs aimed at reducing or preventing sources of greenhouse gasses in many countries. This carbon financed exchange-based logic is rather simple in theory under REDD+: the idea is simply to pay poorer countries to keep some of their forests standing. Specifically, it seeks to incentivize developing countries through performance-based payments to maintain rather than destroy their forests and to manage their existing forest resources in ways that reduce emissions.
One tree represents around one ton of carbon fixed at maturity so planting billions of trees is an essential component in curbing global atmospheric emissions. While technology, including the planting of trees, is essential to reducing emissions, we should beware of the danger that setting a “net zero” emissions policy by mid-century might have on overall emissions. Any effort to mitigate the devastating impacts of a warming planet through a technological “fix” carries some degree of risk. We cannot, nor should we, rely on a technological fix that leaves the false impression that the problem is solved simply by implementing a new technology such as, for example, the planting of new trees. First and foremost, we must cease reliance on fossil fuels immediately and then proceed to stabilize the atmosphere by sequestering CO2 into the terrestrial sphere through forest and agriculture management.
The fight for our future has to be fought, to a large extent, in developing countries as they move to enhance their human development indices and gross domestic product alike. The international principle of “common-but-differentiated responsibilities” carries the duty to support communities that battle increasing poverty and hardship on their journey towards clean energy and transport, sustainable land use, and healthy ecosystems. After all, developing countries did not create the foundation for the current warming crisis and therefore the primary burden for mitigation should not fall on their economies. Carbon finance can play a big role in such a dispersed need-based compact. Reforestation projects in these countries help small and disadvantaged populations to plant trees and reforest their lands where they previously could not afford to or did not have the capacity to implement. These countries and their populations benefit from reforestation projects in terms of natural resource preservation, soil enrichment, and diversified incomes.