Common success factors for the countries studied were high level government support, forest governance reforms that addressed challenges in transparency and accountability as well as resolving the issue of secure tenure rights that facilitate community ownership.
By Elizabeth Kahurani
Using examples from countries that have increased their forest area over the last 20 years, a recent report by Rights Resources Initiative (RRI) shows how countries can stop deforestation and start increasing their forest area. The report titled, The Greener Side of REDD+: Lessons for REDD+ from Countries where Forest Area is Increasing focuses on countries that managed to make the transition from being forest losers to become forest adding countries by their own efforts and without external aid/funding.
What this tells us is that governments can achieve much on their own and international pacts can only serve to accelerate the speed and level of impact. The results of concerted efforts in the studied countries have been remarkable. For example, the report indicates that these forest acquiring countries were responsible for 85% of the 86 million ha of forest plantation area added globally in the period 1990-2010.
Common success factors for the countries studied were high level government support, forest governance reforms that addressed challenges in transparency and accountability as well as resolving the issue of secure tenure rights that facilitate community ownership. ASB Partnership work in different sites has presented context specific scenarios, options and tools that could enable developing countries meet these requirements. These include the tool on Fair & Efficient REDD Value Chains Allocation (FERVA).
Along with the positive lessons, there are concerns noted with regard to gaps that need to be addressed by policy reforms both at the national and international levels. The RRI report cites that one of the study limitations had to with countries’ definition of forest, and explains the challenge using ASB Partnership research in Indonesia which shows that one-third of the country’s forest emissions (total of 0.6 Gt carbon per year) occur outside institutionally defined forests and are therefore not accounted for under the current national policy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). If they were to be included, Indonesia would register zero net emission reductions (ASB Policy brief 16). With our research project on Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses, ASB has shown that ambiguities relating to forest definition can be overcome by expanding the scope of REDD beyond the forests to cover all land uses.
Another issue of concern is the fact that one of the ways in which forest transition countries have increased their forest areas is by allowing wood imports. While this may be necessary, there is the risk of international leakage where deforestation and land degradation are exported to other countries. For instance, what Vietnam -one of the forest adding countries- had to import abroad to meet forest related needs represents 39.1% of the added forest plantations in the country. To avoid such displacement that negate emission reduction progress at the global level, ASB scientists have urged negotiators to include emissions embodied in trade in international agreements, with the recommendation that countries should be made to account for emissions associated with products produced within the country and those consumed in the country. (ASB Policy Brief 17).
Indeed, the success factors presented from the forest acquiring countries in the RRI report highly compliment results of ongoing research work that aims to inform effective mechanisms of avoiding deforestation in developing countries. They are a clear indication that initiatives will work only if they are guided by the huge pool of research evidence provided, and it is encouraging to see governments taking heed -on the same day that the RRI report was released, the Indonesian government announced plans to give more rights and empower forest communities. “The government will prioritize the needs of its forest communities and recognize, respect and protect Adat rights,” assured head of the Indonesian President's Special Delivery Unit, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto.