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Remarks by UNEP Spokesperson Nick Nuttall at Durban Media Workshop on Climate Change

Remarks by Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Acting Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information

Media Workshop on Climate Change in the Lead-Up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's COP17/CMP7 Meeting in Durban, South Africa

Pretoria/Durban, 26-28 October 2011—Ladies and gentlemen of the media.

I have been asked to give you a glimpse into the issue of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation known as REDD or REDD+.

You may be aware that some countries have been looking into carbon capture and storage of carbon emissions coming from power stations—essentially fitting high tech gadgets to collect greenhouse gases and then bury them in the ground.

But there is a tried and tested and indeed lower cost method that has been operating on this planet for millennia—and that is happening in our forests and would continue nice and smoothly if only humans didn't keep chopping them down.

REDD+ might be the answer.

It has for sure become a hot topic as part of the climate negotiations but also as part of the wider discourse on how to transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.

Perhaps I can provide some fundamental facts on REDD+

*Explain what is happening in terms of preparing countries to take part in this potentially exciting new avenue for more sustainably managing the world's forests-especially since 2008

*Outline likely benefits in terms of the ambition of both developed and developing countries to counter climate change while at the same time tackling other key challenges from loss of biodiversity and wildlife species to securing water supplies and generating decent green jobs

*Then briefly touch on how REDD+ could set the stage for more intelligently managing and investing in other ecosystems such as farmlands and tidal marshes that also soak up greenhouse gases again with multiple benefits for communities and countries.

*And finally, perhaps give some perspectives on what it might mean to South Africa.

It has been known for a long time that cutting trees down release emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Forests store carbon as they grow and also put a lot of carbon into the soils, peatlands, marshlands and other places where they stand.

Humans have been cutting down trees for timber and fuel and clearing them for agriculture and cities and causing degradation through activities such as mining since the dawn of time.

But that deforestation and degradation of forests has accelerated markedly in the last century or so as populations have exploded—in 1900 there were 1.5 billion of us, in 1992 when at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 the climate convention was agreed there were 5.5 billion people.

And sometime next week the seventh billion baby will be born.

While in some parts of the world deforestation is slowing and in the case of North America and Europe, is being to some extent reversed, it is still proceeding at a worrisome rate in Africa and Latin America and in many countries of Asia.

13 million hectares per year of forests are roughly been lost—an area the size of Greece or Nicaragua

South Africa's land area is 122 million hectares—so by my calculation, and please understand that mathematics may not be my strong point, an area the size of South Africa is roughly being lost over ten years.

Scientists calculate that that deforestation amounts to around 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere annually—about 17 per cent of current greenhouse gas emissions.

So the idea emerged—why not pay developing countries to effectively not chop their trees down?

And in doing so provide a financial incentive that might tip the balance in favour of conservation rather than deforestation.

And that was the plan formally put on the table in 2005 by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica.

Developed countries could, through such financial transfers, count those emissions saved against their own greenhouse gas emissions.

So in 2008, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, launched the UN-Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation or UN-REDD and there are other complimentary initiatives such as one spearheaded by the World Bank.

The initiative has been a preparation or perhaps a pilot for the countries involved with a view to nations under the UN climate convention backing a REDD fund or perhaps even a market mechanism.

REDD+ State of Play

To date 14 countries are being supported under UN-REDD ranging from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia in Africa with Nigeria this month coming on board to countries such as Bolivia and Panama in Latin America and Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam in Asia.

Close to $60 million worth of funding has been approved –and the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Fund about $36 million-to assist in areas such as building monitoring, reporting and verification systems—in other words ensuring that if a nation says it is not chopping its forests down, this can be proven to the developed countries supporting the projects and the wider international community.

The money is also assisting in building for example community outreach to involve local and indigenous people—crucial to the success of REDD or should I say REDD+, because it covers not only paying to support standing forests but also includes support to forest land that once had forests or land that has not in recent history held forests.

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