The REDD+ cover
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) agreed at the UNFCCC is an option to implement Sustainable Forest Management in India. But we need to take forest-dependent communities along with us, while laying strong monitoring mechanisms and enforcement of regulatory provisions.
There is a lack of political commitment, inadequate finance, inadequate capacity and technology for the implementation of sustainable forest management initiatives in developing countries. Forests are a national resource and of global concern. The global concern is the carbon sequestration and emissions of Co2 by forests. Forests are source and sink of greenhouse gases (GHG). Annually, around 13 million hectares of deforestation takes place at the global level. They also contribute around 17 per cent of the total GHG emissions. Developing countries need finance for their development and regeneration. Many forest rich countries such as Papua New Guinea*, Brazil, Indonesia and many more countries are contributing towards deforestation and have to deal with this problem. In this context, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (RED) was agreed in 2005 under the UNFCCC umbrella. In 2006, the scope of RED was expanded to include forest â€˜Degradationâ€™ (REDD). Though the scope of RED was limited to only change from forests to no-forests* land cover type, with the inclusion of forest degradation in REDD, the scope has increased to include the change in forest cover also -- from higher to lower carbon stock densities. In 2009, RED plus was proposed by India and added to REDD, thus becoming REDD+. The plus signifies the importance of conservation of forests.
The scope of REDD+
REDD+ is a financial incentive mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, plus signifying positive elements of conservation, social forest management and enhancing carbon stock through afforestation and reforestation. This has the potential to sustain livelihoods of Forest Dependent Communities (FDCs), maintenance of ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation with safeguards for people living in and around forests (their rights, governance, and sustainable livelihood). During CoP-19 in 2013, result-based finance for REDD+ projects were agreed, provided drivers of forest degradation were addressed and national monitoring systems were put in place.
Many more issues still remain unresolved, such as who will provide the funds and what will be the institutional mechanisms. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established under the UNFCCC and US$ 100 billion was envisaged annually by 2020. But the reality is that the GCF has today only less than one per cent of the envisaged funds. REDD+ alone requires more than US $30 billion annually. So where will the funds to implement the initiative come from?
Nuances of forest management
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has organized many National level, Regional and State Level Consultations with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and has come out with many policy documents on Forest Governance, Methodology for Carbon Assessment, International Architecture on REDD+ and Institutional Mechanism on REDD+. The Ministry has also drafted the National Policy on REDD+. The forestry wing of the Ministry is making all efforts to initiate action under the concept of REDD+. The National Policy on REDD+ was drafted a year ago. The comments from various stakeholders were also addressed. But the policy has not seen the light of day. The Ministry has kept the policy in the cold storage. The REDD+ and Sustainable Forest Management concepts are the same. In India, the role of the Central Government is to formulate policy and planning processes, while the implementation rests with the State Governments.
The Indian delegation takes part in negotiations every year, but is unable to translate decisions into actions, particularly in the case of REDD+. Though the role Indian delegation is taking part in in the negotiations, detailed discussions are required with the State Forest Departments. This is not happening. Decisions taken in the past are not reflecting the ground reality. For example, the National Level project will not suit India. Instead, the focus should be on small-scale projects, projects at the village or Joint Forest Management (JFM) or Community Forest Management (CFM) levels.
If we see the State of Forest Report 2013, more than 325 million cubic meters of the growing stock of the forests in India has decreased resulting in forest degradation. We have to address this at the earliest. The major driver of forest degradation is the unsustainable harvest of forest produce, particularly the minor forest produce, including fuelwood. More than 300 million people are either directly or indirectly dependent for their livelihood on the forests. Forests, however, cannot sustain the livelihoods of such large populations.
Though the activities of the Green India Mission (GIM) are to strengthen livelihoods and reduce dependence on forests, their implementation remains weak. It has become more of an ego issue who will deal it in the Ministry. Earlier, the GIM was with the Forestry wing of the Ministry, but now it is with the Environment wing of the Ministry. Another reason for the failure of such schemes in the past is lack of monitoring. We should have baseline data before implementing the scheme so that impact of the scheme can be assessed. The implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) has strengthened the concept of community-based forest governance on one hand, but has led to deforestation on other, due to the recognition of the forest rights against the provisions of FRA. For instance, in Maharashtra, 14,668 hectares of forest land has been recognized under FRA against its provisions. The situation will become worse when assessments will be conducted in other states. What is the way out? We have to take forest-dependent communities along with us for the conservation of forests with strong monitoring mechanisms and enforcement of regulatory provisions. The REDD+ concept will provide us the fruits in the form of Sustainable Forest Management, provided we have appropriate policies in place and strong monitoring mechanisms. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change must address the concerns of all stakeholders, including State Forest departments before finalization of policies as well as to strengthen the country’s position during future negotiations.