UNFCCC

Climate Smart Territories organize communities to manage the ecosystem

By Marianela Arguello and Mary Coffman 

Ultimately, success in conservation efforts largely depends on decisions and actions by communities that live in and benefit from different ecosystem services.

Farmer Field School in the Trifinio Territory; participative learning mechanisms are key elements of Climate Smart Territories. Photo credit: Maicon BarreraClimate Smart Territories (CSTs) are social and geographical spaces where actors collaboratively manage ecosystem services to equitably improve human well-being. They do so by continuously optimizing land use and engaging in activities to both stop/prevent further emissions and also adapt to climate change effects. This calls for collective efforts within a highly organized society.

The concept of CSTs is elaborated in chapter 6: Climate Smart Territories (CST): An integrated approach to food security, ecosystem services, and climate change in rural areas of the new book Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice.

 CST approach is championed by CATIE (Tropical Agricultural and Higher Education Center) – an institution where decades of experience and commitment in the field have resulted in an integral vision for work in the territories. The book chapter brought together contributions from researchers and implementers in CATIE as well as strategic partners in Colombia.

The main objective of the chapter is to clearly explain the importance of the CSTs, their key elements and characteristics, as well as the way they differ in comparison to other territorial management approaches. The article presents clear examples of CSTs that have been carried out and are in the process of implementation in Huila, Colombia, and the Central American region, where the Mesoamerican Agro-Environmental Programme (MAP) works in the Trifinio and NicaCentral area.

Bastiaan Louman, leader of CATIE’s Climate Change and Watershed Programme, coordinated the study, and understands in great depth the essential aspects that need to be recognized in the CST approach; among them, that each farm or forest is part of something larger, making collaborative actions fundamental.

 “The CST approach gives great importance to the organization of society, so that everything feels like part of the territory,” Louman says. He explained that through CATIE’s experience working in the field, it has been possible to see how the CSTs have helped to emphasize governance factors and the growth of people’s capacities to analyze their situation, and define answers to problems that they find and face through mutual contributions. The farmer field schools (FFS) where farmers learn from each other, the systematization of experiences, applied and collaborative research and the multi-stakeholder platforms are key elements in this process of strengthening capacities.

 “Capacities that combine technical and local knowledge need to be strengthened, but also, the organizational part needs to be strengthened so that in the future, residents can respond to new challenges, such as the ones faced every day with more force and frequency due to climate change,” added Louman.

In the example of the work being carried out by CATIE/MAP in the Trifinio and NicaCentral region many constructive results have evolved from local level collaborations with the farmers, learning in conjunction with researchers, change agents, and producers, and making use of established local and regional platforms. These processes have strengthened the capacities that are needed to address critical issues at different geographical scales (such as ecosystem services) as well as increasing climate-smart practices.

Using this and other examples, the authors show that CST can be implemented successfully by first strengthening the communities resolve to CST so that the required changes can begin to take place. This implies the need for joint planning, monitoring and leadership; negotiation mechanisms; and, the use of systems to generate and share information related to climate and other natural resources.

The link between production standards, the private sector and a landscape approach

By Gabrielle Kissinger, Lexeme Consulting

Production standards and certification such as FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance coffee, Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber, and others provide a means for manufacturers and consumers to have confidence in how raw materials are produced.

Brewery operated by SABMiller’s Colombian subsidiary, Bavaria, in the Chingaza watershed outside Bogotá. Photo: Rudolf, BogotáYet, production standards alone are insufficient tools to address all production risks, such as biodiversity loss, water scarcity, climate change impacts, labour issues, and community and livelihood needs in surrounding areas, among others.  Companies confronting these risks recognize the impacts on business performance, and are increasingly piloting interventions beyond the ‘production unit,’ through landscape initiatives. Often, this is in conjunction with production standards and certification processes.

In Brazil, a group of smallholders united under the Cooperative Central Association of Family Farmers (COOPAFI), who make their living in mixed farming systems, but are reliant on soy as their main cash crop, obtained certification through the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) in 2013.  This enabled the farmers to attract international buyers such as Unilever and the Body Shop, while at the same time maintaining the native vegetation and biodiversity in regions surrounding their farms. 

To ensure that the soy certification standards were met, relevant partners including the Municipality of Capanema in Paraná, worked with the farmers to ensure continuous land management improvement that met existing Brazilian federal laws and the RTRS standard, zero-tillage systems and reduced agrochemical use, restriction on expansion of soy farms into native forests, and linking the soy to frontrunner companies seeking certified products.  

This is one example of seven in the chapter, “Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certification,” in the book Climate-smart landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice.  In his foreward to the book, Jeffrey Sayer of James Cook University notes, “The landscape approach considers how interconnected components of the landscape can be managed to reap multiple benefits and balance commercial, social and environmental concerns.”

Private sector investment in and commercial motivation to pursue landscape approaches is not well documented.  Production standards and certification appear to be an important entry point for companies to think beyond their production unit, and consider risks beyond. 

Often, it is pressure from brand manufacturers and consumers that push producers to demonstrate that raw materials were produced sustainably and multiple benefits achieved.  One such example is the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) that seeks to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. It is comprised of more than 400 retail and brand manufacturers globally, with total combined sales of €2.5 trillion. Unilever aims for 50% of its agricultural raw materials to be sustainably sourced by 2015 and 100% sustainably sourced by 2020.  Similarly, Nestlé, Mars, Tesco, McDonald's, Walmart and other brand manufacturers and retailers have made sustainability purchasing commitments for agricultural products.  

The challenge with production standards is that while some contain criteria and indicators that require producers to go beyond the production unit to demonstrate sustainability, most provide little or no guidance to do so.  Rather, the decision falls on the producer to incorporate better management practices or create partnerships beyond their production unit in order to avert risks.

Nevertheless, the case examples reviewed in the new book chapter demonstrate a willingness by companies and their civil society or government partners to define project parameters that seek integrated landscape management.

While private sector engagement in integrated landscape initiatives appears to be increasing, more assessment of the long-term benefits beyond the production unit and concession-scale is needed and also to determine whether companies stick to the commitments and invest over the long-term. Similarly, there is a need for more evidence of effective coordination between government and private sector actors to support long-term commitment to landscape initiatives. 

More understanding is also needed of how certification bodies are incorporating a landscape lens into criteria and indicators for certification and measuring that performance over landscape spatial and temporal scales.  This is particularly important for fast-expanding commodities such as oil palm, sugarcane, and soy, all of which can place strong pressures on land and water resources. 

Source: This blog is based on Chapter 19: Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certification of the new book: Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

Citation: Kissinger, G., Moroge, M., & Noponen, M. (2015). Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certification. In Minang, P.A., van Noordwijk, M., Freeman, O. E., Mbow, C., de Leeuw, J., & Catacutan, D. (Eds.) Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, 277-293. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

 

About the author

Gabrielle has worked for 20 years at the interface between government policy, markets and land use pressures, from local to national and international scales, and with a range of comapnies, investors, major donors and NGOs. Consulting services and research focus on reducing GHG emissions from land-use in the agriculture and forestry sectors, policy and government affairs, innovative financing for sustainable land management and private sector engagement. Learn more

Climate-smart landscapes: Lessons from the gestion de terroirs approach

By Florence Bernard

Climate-smart landscapes are an emerging concept that captures integration of actions and processes in a Participatory community meeting, Niger. Photo credit:Mahamane Larwanougiven place. This integration is geared towards reducing emissions and enhancing ability to cope with already existing negative effects of climate change while at the same time pursuing multiple social, economic and environmental objectives.

In the past, integrated management initiatives have shared similar ambition and provide lessons for implementation.

In a chapter of a new book titled Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, we study the example of gestion de terroirs (GT), which was an integrated management approach applied in French speaking African countries in the 1990’s.

The GT approach was meant to advance goals related to food production, ecosystem conservation and rural livelihoods on a socially and geographically defined space – the so-called ‘terroir’. It shared a number of similar features with climate-smart landscapes in terms of being a multisectoral, multidisciplinary and multistakeholder approach.

A number of key limitations, challenges and experiences from the GT approach offer lessons for the climate-smart landscape approach.

One limitation of the GT approach was that the geographical area was identified almost exclusively in relation with the practice of agriculture, ignoring other important livelihoods such as pastoralism. A key lesson here is that it should not be assumed that community interests are uniform at the expense of complex social, economic and cultural factors that affect how local communities can sustainably use natural resources.

Both the GT and climate-smart landscapes approaches use a bottom-up management style and are community-driven, so multi-stakeholder planning is a key element. However, experiences with the GT implementation have at times not achieved proper balance in participation between the local communities, project staff and government agency representatives, with local communities being overlooked in technical debates. Another weakness was lack of balance of interests among stakeholders in the local community due as GT committees seemed to be dominated by local elites to the exclusion of the poorest and most marginalized rural populations. According to the study, in order to avoid such pitfalls, both composition and method of inclusion need to be considered with caution to ensure effective representation of all stakeholder groups.

Additionally, effective decentralized governance over land resources is described as a central feature of the GT approach. However, since the legislation never conferred legal right to community-based institutions to exercise public authority over their resources, there has been a huge gap between theory and the reality. As such, if decentralized governance is to happen within climate-smart landscape approaches, there will first need to be clear policies outlining who has the authority to make decisions on resources as well as more reflection on how to transfer authority from central government authorities to local government staff, and from government structures to local populations.

Another issue that GT implementation shed light on, was that attempts for clarifying rights and resource tenure have sometimes exacerbated existing or latent land-use conflicts, the concept of ‘terroir’ being sometimes misinterpreted as ‘for locals only’ and instrumentalized to exclude others in the name of local heritage. To avoid this challenge, there is need for very carefully negotiated processes and a legitimate conflict resolution and recourse system that is supported by an improved justice system, accessible courts, and devolved conciliation powers to local authorities or customary chiefs.

Last but not least, while most GT programmes took place in a policy and institutional vacuum resulting in very limited impact on influencing wider institutional and policy issues, there is need for acknowledging climate-smart landscape approaches within national decision-making processes. Sustainability of the climate-smart landscape approach will require supportive policies at multiple scales.

The study is a book chapter in a book titled Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice which can be accessed here.

Bernard, F. (2015). What can climate-smart agricultural landscapes learn from the gestion de terroirs approach? In Minang, P. A., van Noordwijk, M., Freeman, O. E., Mbow, C., de Leeuw, J., & Catacutan, D. (Eds.) Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, 51-61. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

 

 

 

Complex political and economic realities of being REDD ready

Scientists with the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forests Margins at the World Agroforestry Centre have published a special  issue in Climate Policy vol.14, no. 6, that focuses on the Political Economy of Readiness for REDD+, guest edited by Dr Peter Minang and Dr Meine van Noordwijk.  All articles in this special issue are available for free as “open access” publications.

According to the special issue, the process of REDD+ readiness is shaped by a host of complex political and economic factors largely influenced by the national environment, history and circumstances specific to each country.

“The game changes at country level, and the process has to account for complex political and economic realities involving multiple actors, institutions, political and sectoral ideologies that require an iterative, rather than a simple linear, global process,” says Dr Peter Minang, one of the special issue editors.

Read entire blog from Climate Strategies and climate policy journal blog.

Evidence on adaptation-mitigation synergy at UN climate talks

By Elizabeth Kahurani

At the ongoing UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD), Ministry of Agriculture and The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) joined hands at an official side event to provide scientific evidence and guidance on the issue of synergy between adaptation and mitigation.

In defining the synergy concept, Dr Lalisa Duguma of ICRAF said that usually, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” thus reaching for optimal benefits derived from the two interventions in a way that neither would have achieved independently.

From a study that developed a framework for assessing potential areas for synergy, and applied in developing countries, Dr Duguma noted that most countries were moving towards synergy with a high score on institutional setup although much remains to be seen in terms of implementation for most countries. Read related article

Indonesia is among the exception. The country is implementing several strategies to link adaptation and mitigation in agriculture and peatlands. One of this is the Integrated Crop -Livestock Farming System (ICLS) that is being applied in a rainfed lowland rice  area  of Central Java. According to Dr. Wihardjaka of IAARD, the system significantly improves the productivity of rainfed lowland rice, provides higher  profits and increases resilience of agriculture to climate change. It at the same time reduces greenhouse gas emissions particularly carbon dioxide and methane.

Activities to implement ICLS include “use of direct seeding technique, recycling of organic wastes, crop planting calendar, pest management control, efficient use of fertilizer, water management and control, and high yielding rice variety with low methane emission,” says Dr Wihardjaka. It also involves utilizing natural resources such as biogas for household use, biocompost as fertilizer and  biopesticides that effectively use solar radiation.

“An integrated cropping calendar helps farmers to adapt to unpredictable weather patterns as it acts as a tool for rainfall forecast, provide recommendation for planting time, planting area, risk areas to flood, drought, pests and diseases,” says Mr Fadhlullah Ramadhani also from IAARD. “In fact, it helps to make decisions on fertilizer, seed and pesticide distribution as well as water requirements. We administered multi-channel delivery system including the use of facebook, android, SMS, and Google+” added Mr. Ramadhani. “With the multi-faceted climatic threats, cropping calendar is one among the many adaptation actions being developed and implemented in Indonesia. Other actions include development  of hardy high- yielding varieties, soil and water conservation and crop rotation” added Dr Fahmuddin Agus from IAARD.  

Another source of emissions in Indonesia is degraded peatland. It covers around   25% of the 15 Mha Indonesian peatland area and their high emission potential is exacerbated by the risk of fires. However, this land can profitably be converted for crop production without worsening the environment.

Dr Fahmudin Agus of IAARD and his team conducted a study on viability of agricultural production on peatland. “We found that when properly managed, crop production on peatland is comparable to that of mineral land, and it is quite profitable with an estimated net present value of USD 315 to 4421 per hectare per year,” he says. However, initial investment can be tall order for smallholder farmers. He therefore urges for policy measures that provide incentives to these farmers that could include, “secure and  (semi) permanent land tenure; subsidies for initial investment, especially for smallholder rubber plantation; infrastructure, including drainage canals and water table control system; high quality planting materials and fertilizers; and technical support. Rehabilitation of degraded peatland must be coupled with strict regulatory measures for conserving the remaining  peat forest”.

To objectively determine how such climate change actions as those in Indonesia can be scaled up and applied to different contexts, it is important to know the extent to which countries are ready to implement through policy frameworks provided by the UN processes such REDD.

Dr Peter Minang of ICRAF led a study that developed a framework for assessing REDD readiness in different countries and that can be used to objectively make cross-cutting comparisons. When applied to four countries –Peru, Cameroon, Indonesia and Vietnam, all the countries seem to have adopted most of the UN climate commitment REDD processes and made the required submissions. However, only Indonesia had backed this up with a national policy on REDD linked to the country’s economic strategy, although Vietnam also seem to be making progress with a benefit sharing framework in place. “Most countries scored poorly on benefit sharing; monitoring, reporting and verification; audit and financing,” says Dr Minang. Read related article

Peru is making progress with the launch of their national adaptation and mitigation plans (NAMAs) at the UNFCCC COP 20. Dr Valentina Robiglio of ICRAF was involved in providing technical support to the process. At the IAARD-ICRAF event, she described the NAMA process and how this can be locally adapted especially to cacao production. See presentation.

The Director General of ICRAF, Prof Tony Simons, was moderating the session and concluded by emphasizing the importance of having evidence feed into the official UNFCCC negotiations particularly to influence the formal inclusion of agriculture in these debates.

 

See presentations

Integrated crop-livestock farming system (ICLS) on rainfed lowland rice for sustainable agriculture

Synergies between Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: National Level Experiences

Improving   the profits   from peatland without exacerbating the environmental impacts

Integrated cropping calendar for adapting to erratic rainfall pattern

NEW BOOK: Climate smart landscapes -Multifunctionality in practice

The World Agroforestry Centre is pleased to formally launch the book: Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

This book brings together a range of work around landscape approaches specifically looking at the pathways, methods and tools needed for achieving sustainable multifunctional landscapes within the context of climate change.  It draws strongly on field experiences and case studies from across the developing world to concretely demonstrate how the concept of taking a landscape approach can be applied both in policy and practice. It presents scientific evidence in a way that is accessible and applicable by mid-career practitioners and policymakers in a bid to bridge science, policy and practice. This includes a section specifically identifying opportunities for private sector involvement in landscape approaches.

The book was launched at the Global Landscape Forum held on the margins of the UNFCCC COP20.  Panelists at the launch said the following about the book:

“What I like about this book is that you do not get bogged down trying to define landscapes,” Dr Robert Nasi, Director for the Forests and Environment Programme at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and head of CGIAR consortium research programme, Forests, Trees and Agroforestry: Livelihoods, Landscapes and Governance.

“This book is a watershed moment for the landscape discourse. It balances analytical work on how to think about landscapes in a very sophisticated way,” Dr Sara Scherr, President and CEO, EcoAgriculture Partners

“The book is a great tool for policy makers, it has come at the right time when we have been tasked to develop a landscape approach in Uganda,” Tim Christophersen, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

“This book is practical, with case studies that clearly articulate the concept and implementation of the landscape approach. We will only achieve sustainable development if we work in an integrated manner,” Satya  Tripathi, Director, United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID)

Read and download the book

Related articles:

Book key messages

How to build a business case for climate smart landscape approach to the private sector

Why climate change researchers are so excited about landscapes

Landscape approach: bridging the climate agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals 

The landscape approach for meeting the climate challenge: Examples from Africa 

 

Framework to identify mitigation-adaptation synergy potential

Study develops an analytical framework of enabling conditions necessary for synergies between mitigation and adaptation

By Elizabeth Kahurani

The new IPCC report calls for “sustainable-development trajectories that combine adaptation and mitigation to reduce climate change and its impacts."

Indeed, it is becoming more apparent that linking mitigation and adaptation is a more effective and efficient approach to climate change. Discussions at UN climate talks are heavy on the benefits of synergy; and climate finance mechanisms are increasingly looking for projects with linkages to both.

A field extension officer (middle) explains cacao agroforestry farming methods in Cameroon. Findings of a new study show that in developing countries, institutional setup is an area with strong potential for synergy between mitigation and adaptationGiven that initial framing has had the two elements working in parallel, there is need to identify where there exists strong potential to actualize harmony needed to optimize strengths and benefits of mitigation and adaptation approaches.

In a journal paper titled “A systematic analysis of enabling conditions for synergy between climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries” published in Environmental Science and Policy, Dr Lalisa Duguma and  his colleagues from the ASB Partnership have developed an analytical framework within which they explore four conditions necessary for integrating mitigation and adaptation. These are: i) policies and strategies ii) institutional arrangement iii) Financing iv) Programs and projects.

“After a comprehensive review of publications on climate change integration, particularly those on mitigation and adaptation, it was clear that these four conditions are crucial for countries to move towards synergy,” says Dr Duguma.

The four conditions were examined using eight indicators (see table below) to score the synergy potential of 53 developing countries that were selected based on national communications submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Overall, the countries had strongest potential for synergy between mitigation and adaptation on institution setup, mainly because countries had committees to work on national level climate change strategies and also to participate and ensure compliance to mutual climate agreements and submissions to international conventions. Moreover, two thirds of the countries surveyed had programs dealing with both mitigation and adaptation.

The countries were found to be weak on the potential to finance both strategies simultaneously and to develop policies. “This weak link in potential could be because most of these countries are in the early stages of developing policies on climate change and normally funding/budget allocation is informed by already existing policies. Moreover, majority of these countries are almost entirely dependent on multilateral funding, most of which is given for mitigation activities,” explains Susan Wambugu, a co-author in the study.

A comparative assessment between the countries showed interesting variations, with middle-income countries having strong potential to synergy. “Other studies that we have done show that these fast growing economies exhibit strong potential for synergy as they want to boost their image to be seen as responsible global citizens; also to maintain credibility and attract more climate funding,” says Dr Meine vanNoordwijk who was part of the study. Strong potential was also identified with countries exposed to high climate change vulnerability such as the small island states. “Having been among the most affected by climate change already, these countries have no much option but to take on adaptation even as they implement mitigation approaches,” Dr vanNoordwijk explains.

Other least developed countries had a weak potential score for synergy. According to the authors, this is contrary to expectations given that they are also among high climate risk countries and they are strong proponents for adaptation in international policy debates. However, the study is quick to point out that limited large-scale programs within which they implement climate objectives could explain the tendency seen in these countries.

Further analysis of the synergy score against development and environmental indices such as GDP, Human Development Index, and Environmental Performance Index (EPI) confirm the findings of the study. “Among the countries studied, Indonesia and Jamaica are exceptional on this assessment. Indonesia for example has an independent body reporting directly to the office of the president. Such institutional measures with political will and commitment have largely contributed to a high EPI score for the country,” says Dr Peter Minang, one of the study co-authors. “ A similar trend is seen among least developed countries, with countries like Malawi and Ghana emerging with strong synergy potential scores in an environment where the governments have made deliberate efforts to integrate development and climate strategies,” he says.

As climate change discussions focus on ways to generate meaningful impact from actions to deal with the challenge, this framework and evidence presented is among pioneer studies that governments and practitioners could benefit from in an endeavor to gain lost opportunities from the previous siloed approach to mitigation and adaptation and embrace far more beneficial avenues of a synergy approach.

“With the push for global climate communities towards synergies between mitigation and adaptation measures in order to effectively address climate change, it is important that the necessary enabling conditions be known and made to use. This paper is therefore the first attempt to come up with such key elements to promote synergies particularly from developing countries context” Says Dr. Duguma. 

 

Enabling conditions with their respective indicators used to determine countries’ synergy potentials 

Enabling conditions

Indicators used for each of the enabling conditions for synergy

Policies and Strategies

Does the country have a climate policy that addresses both M+A?

 

Is there a common climate strategy/action plan for both M+A?

 

Has the country submitted NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions)/REDD+

 

R-PP (Readiness Preparation Proposal) and/or NAPA to the UNFCCC?

Institutional arrangements

Is there a national-level committee addressing both M+A

 

Is there an implementing body (institution/agency/department/unit) addressing M+A together?

Financing (Funds)

Is there a climate fund for both M+A?

Programs and projects

Is there a joint program addressing M+A?

 

Are there subnational projects addressing both M+A

 

 

Available on open access

Duguma, L. A., Wambugu, S. W., Minang, P. A., van Noordwijk, M. (2014) A systematic analysis of enabling conditions for synergy between climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries.Environmental Science & Policy 42 (2014) 138-148.

 

Dragging a knowledge chain through the peat

Lack of understanding of peat is not the weakest link in the chain, say Meine van Noordwijk and colleagues

By Amy C. Cruz

The high emissions of greenhouse gases from tropical peatlands caused by changing their land use have become a problem for policymakers that they can no longer deny, as their own scientists have now confirmed what external critics told before.

Researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre Indonesia are assessing the viability of rubber agroforestry on peat. Photo: World Agroforestry CentreThe emissions need to be reduced to mitigate the effects of climate change but because of the complex issues involved, governments, societies and private businesses are still ‘muddling along’ when it comes to conserving peatlands. The peat models we have so far are as clear as mud.

Given the urgency and political sensitivity, peat and peatlands have become an interesting test ground for understanding the chain that links knowledge with action. Who needs to know, who can act and where is knowledge the weakest link in the chain's limiting action?

Such a ‘knowledge value-chain for peatland conservation’ can trace steps from fundamental understanding of peatlands all the way to multilevel actions towards conservation and reduction of emissions.

‘We found that there are four separate parts of an overall knowledge value-chain concept that links fundamental understanding to action’, said Meine van Noordwijk,  leading a team of authors in a recent publication in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, ‘and there are several weak links that need to be strengthened in a complex chain. Coordinated research and action is needed to achieve positive policy actions and behaviour changes.”

The research team had looked at how people’s understanding, willingness, ability and actions towards peatland conservation have progressed over time. Understanding peat and its processes was the first section in the value chain, including the fundamental point of agreeing on the definitions of ‘peat’ and ‘peatland’ so that they can be correctly identified and assigned more attention, if necessary.

Towards this, different studies had been carried out to develop more accurate ways of quantifying and attributing emissions from peatlands and yet there was still room for improvement, especially because peatlands are variable by nature, making it hard to ensure accurate measurements. In addition, different land uses on peat also result in differences in emissions.

‘Hard science may seem easy compared to what it takes to get a globally agreed set of default values that can be used for transparent emissions’ accounting’, said Dr van Noordwijk.

The second section of the chain is the willingness to act to reduce emissions. For example, in the past, policymakers could not ignore the problem of smoke haze caused by peatland conversion because its effect on visibility was too obvious. Conversion without use of fire seemed an acceptable alternative. The invisible carbon emissions from the conversion and drainage itself could be ignored. However, when emission estimates, mostly from peat drainage and fires, identified Indonesia as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases there were hardly any Indonesian scientists who had experience and data to challenge or corroborate the claims.

‘Now that weak link has been strengthened, as is evident by the four papers by Indonesian scientists in the REDD-ALERT special issue. Indonesian policymakersnow acknowledge the importance of reducing emissions from peatland as part of the broader debate’, said Dr van Noordwijk.

But willingness to act is not enough. Third, relevant authorities need to be able to influence companies and people to actually reduce emissions. While peatland conversion appeared to be attractive to companies because it brought less conflict with local people and their land-right claims than conversion elsewhere, peatland use now gives oil-palm companies a bad name internationally and potentially affects their sales. Where the long process of issuing permits has already started, however, it is not easy for a local government to stop the conversion and reverse permits. Players at this level need to be aware of how emission reductions are calculated and valued. Local governments need to secure jobs and revenue, so alternative scenarios need to meet their expectations.

The fourth section of the chain is formed by farmers and their communities living in or near peatlands. Slowing current conversion and redirecting land-use changes without alternatives that provide improved livelihoods for local people is not attractive for any policymaker.

‘There are not yet sufficiently viable, alternative uses of peatlands that do not contribute to higher emissions but provide for local incomes and livelihoods’, said Dr van Noordwijk. ‘Thus, the primary focus for this section of the chain needs to be on testing and improving the various locally developed solutions, such as agroforestry involving locally adapted trees for which a market exists’.

Looking over the whole length of the knowledge chain, Dr van Noordwijk and colleagues conclude that progress has been made in the first three sections but peatland countries, such as Indonesia, and international supporters now have to focus on improving the fourth section. 

‘If good science, accurate numbers, a willingness and ability to act on emission estimates are not accompanied by viable alternatives for local livelihoods then the ultimate goal of reducing emissions cannot be achieved,’ conclude Dr van Noordwijk and the research team.

Read the article

Van Noordwijk M, Matthews R, Agus F, Farmer J, Verchot L, Hergoualc’h K, Persch S, Tata HL, Khasanah N, Widayati A, Dewi S. 2014. Mud, muddle and models in the knowledge value-chain to action on tropical peatland conservation. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 19(6).

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

 

 

 

 

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