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Clearing the way for reducing emissions from tropical deforestation

Publication date:
M. Skutsch
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Carbon emissions from tropical deforestation account for about 25% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions but cannot be credited under current climate change agreements. In the discussions around the architecture of the post-2012 climate regime, the possibility of including credits for reduced emissions from deforestation arises. The paper reviews two approaches for this, compensated reductions (CR) as proposed by Santilli et al. and the Joint Research Centre proposal that combine voluntary commitments by non-Annex I countries to reduce emissions from deforestation with carbon market financing. Both approaches have the clear advantages of simplicity and the possibility of fitting to an evolving greenhouse gas emission reduction regime.The basic features common to the two approaches are:

the rewarding of interventions to reduce emissions from deforestation
the use of the carbon market as a source of finance for activities and policies which will reduce rates of deforestation
a national, sectoral approach to forestry in non-Annex I countries rather than a project approach as in CDM (although both approaches could in principle be applied at a variety of scales)
voluntary participation
the lack of penalties if deforestation rates are not reduced (carrots, not sticks)
the assessment of historic and future deforestation rates based on detectable change in forest area using remote sensing imagery
the downwards revision of baselines over time.

The authors consider the strengths and limitations of each proposal and build upon them to address several implementation challenges and options for improvement. Given the urgency of avoiding dangerous climate change, the timely development of technically sound, politically acceptable, cost-effective and practicable measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is essential. These two approaches take us a step closer to this goal, but they need to be refined rapidly to enable this goal to be realised.