Should We Include Avoidance of
Deforestation in the International Response to Climate Change?

Bernhard Schlamadinger, Lorenzo Ciccarese, Michael Dutschke, Philip M. Fearnside, Sandra Brown, Daniel Murdiyarso.

Pros and cons of the proposal
It may be argued that the proposal might lead to inclusion of “hot air” in the Kyoto system, to the extent that actual emissions—even without efforts to reduce them—may be less than the base-year emissions or a baseline calculated in other ways. We believe that such hot air, to a limited extent, is inevitable, and occurs in many situations under the KP. What is essential is that the proposal provides a real incentive, at the margin of the no-interference situation, to reduce deforestation. Nevertheless, efforts should be taken to calculate the baseline such that it minimizes hot air to the extent possible, while not creating too much risk of “non-compliance” of the countries concerned. Moreover, deforestation avoidance is already accounted for in the KP inventories of Annex I countries. Incentives to reduce deforestation at the margin of the current rate are not present in all cases (there is no incentive in some cases where special accounting rules have been introduced for other reasons).

Avoidance of Deforestation

However, a point can be made that deforestation avoidance in developing countries would be a much more powerful strategy to reduce global CO2 emissions, because the magnitude of emissions is so much more significant than in Annex I countries.
The proposal shows refreshing new thought. It goes into the direction of a sectoral CDM (Michaelowa et al. 2003), where policies and measures are explicitly allowed for crediting, as long as they produce measurable and verifiable results. Degradation and conversion of tropical (and non-tropical) forests to other land uses are major cause of GHG emissions, and therefore addressing them should be an integral part of the efforts to reduce global GHG emissions. After all, AR in the CDM can be seen as an effort to “fix the damage after it has occurred” in an “end-of-pipe” manner, whereas avoidance of deforestation prevents the damage in the first place. In addition, deforestation avoidance may provide other benefits such as conservation of ecosystem biological diversity, prevention of forest fragmentation, protection of watersheds, improvement of local livelihoods, and provision of additional income for developing countries. It could promote sustainable forest management in non-Annex-I countries’ forests and reduce illegal logging and associated trading of timber. Incentives to reduce deforestation can also help to reduce leakage from AR efforts both in Annex I countries and in CDM host countries. Furthermore, the newlyestablished forests in the CDM, due to low early growth rates and because areas do not come into the program immediately, but over time, may not be effective in generating carbon credits in the first or even the second commitment period of the KP. On the other hand, policies and measures to reduce deforestation can have much more immediate benefits for the carbon balance. Limiting emissions from deforestation could be a first step in the direction of “meaningful participation” of developing countries in the climate regime. It is further compatible with the proposal made by the German Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change to introduce an additional protocol on the preservation of carbon stocks, which includes the goal of “full carbon accounting” for all land uses (Graßl et al. 2003) for the second and subsequent commitment periods. However, a quantitative target in terms of absolute emissions caused by deforestation must be based on a transparent and credible baseline. It is essential that the “baseline” path of deforestation be accounted for appropriately when setting the emission limitation targets for the forest sector.

Avoidance of Deforestation

For example, rather than using an absolute amount of deforestation emissions as the baseline, one could use a percentage of the “remaining forest” as a start for calculating the baseline emissions, thus reducing the baseline emissions over time as the area of remaining forest declines. Although early proposals have called for national level baseline of deforestation emissions as reported in national communications, these estimates are often poorly done because of lack of reliable information on rates of deforestation and the corresponding carbon stocks. Also, Brown et al. (2005) have shown that depending on the method or model used to estimate rates of deforestation, baseline emissions can vary greatly from region to region within a country.

In tropical countries affected by deforestation or forest degradation and where forest governance has been largely decentralized, it could make more sense to promote a regional baseline from which the region that wishes to promote integrated ecosystem services could champion and benefit from the compensation.

Avoidance of Deforestation Avoidance of Deforestation

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Source: Proceedings of Workshop on Carbon Sequestration and Sustainable Livelihoods
Editors :
Daniel Murdiyarso
Hety Herawati


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