United Nations Environment Programme
environment for development Search 
News Centre
 Home News Centre
 Media Contacts
 Press Releases
 In Focus
 RSS / Podcasts

 Printable Version

Opening Remarks by Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme on 'The Role of Tropical Forests in combating climate change: a new role for the UN'

Oslo, 18 June 2009 - I am honoured to be invited to take part in this 20th anniversary celebratory conference of the Rainforest Foundation in Norway. I congratulate its founders and associates for that progressive, forward-looking and exemplary step that you took so long ago to examine issues relating to tropical forests of the world. I also would like to congratulate its 55 current partners from developing countries who have pooled their efforts together with the Foundation.

Thank you to Trudie Styler for your moving opening remarks - and Ellen for your stewardship of the Foundation.

The Norwegian Foundation has sustained the effort for the protection of tropical forests for 20 years, and contributed to bringing the significance of forests for humankind for attention and action by policy makers, including your own government. And it is clear that its significance goes way beyond its capacity to store carbon.

Obviously the value of forests is different for different societies or groups who benefit from forests, and the particular ways in which they benefit. This is explained conceptually in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, which advanced our understanding about the role of ecosystems for human well-being by putting into the literature the categories of services or benefits derived from them – namely, provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. There are complex connections among these categories, and the relative value we place on forests is influenced by the economic, ecological and cultural contexts in which forests occur.

But I believe that there is increasing commonality across societies in acknowledging the way in which forests contribute to the driving forces of climate change, the way in which forests are likely to be impacted by the force of climate change, and their potential for contributing to its mitigation. Even though there may not yet be agreement about how precisely we should respond to this complex relationship.

The United Nations has long been working to contribute to global understanding of the phenomenon of climate change. This is evident from the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation over 20 years ago – as worthy of celebration as your own initiative to establish the Rainforest Foundation. Alongside that process, the United Nations has also been active in probing the value of forests to societies, through for example, the ongoing work of several United Nations entities, the previous incarnations of the UN Forum on Forests, various global conferences such as UN Conference on Environment and Development, etc. These have been occurring in parallel with considerable efforts on the part of research organisations, such as the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR), the World Agro-Forestry Centre (ICRAF), and widespread efforts of many civic society organisations such as yourselves, the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development Foundations, as well as indigenous peoples organisations and many, many other groupings, processes, and initiatives.

We have now reached a point where the results of these two streams of effort on climate change and forests have converged. This is reflected in the intention of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to include the subject of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in the next stage of their negotiations. This convergence has generated considerable challenge to reduce the extent to which forests drive climate change, as well as unprecedented opportunity to manage forests to sustain the full range of services which they provide.

REDD has emerged as the rubric under which the world is now examining this complex but promising package of challenge and opportunity.

Why REDD?:

• The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that the forestry sector accounts for about 17% of global greenhouse emissions , mainly through deforestation. It is the second largest source of emissions after the energy sector.

• REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in standing forests, to offer incentives for developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forested lands, and the investments to follow low-carbon paths to sustainable development. One study estimates that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD could reach up to US$30 billion a year. Such significant North-South flow of resources could reward a meaningful reduction of carbon emissions. But REDD activities in developing countries must complement, not be a substitute for, deep cuts in developed countries' emissions. Both will be critical to successfully address climate change.

• REDD could at the same time also support new, pro-poor development, while helping to conserve biodiversity and secure other vital ecosystem services. Further, maintaining forest ecosystems can in turn contribute to increased resilience to climate change.

• To achieve these multiple benefits, REDD will require the full engagement and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities.

I note that my colleagues Dan Nepstad and Frances Seymour are due to present shortly on "forests in the balance as providers of ecosystem services and as source of emissions," and on "forests in the new climate agreement," so I will go directly to the role of the United Nations in this effort.

'Seal the Deal':

Under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, the UN System entities are coordinating their ongoing work towards - hopefully - a coherent and non-competitive form of support to the process of the negotiations of COP 15. This is reflected in a united campaign to which all entities are contributing to "seal the deal" on climate change.

The UN-REDD Programme:

• More specifically related to the forest agenda, the UN-REDD Programme has emerged as a collaborative partnership among FAO, UNDP and UNEP. It was created in response to, and in support of, the UNFCCC decision on REDD at COP 13 and the Bali Action Plan. And it was initiated with the financial and political support of the Government of Norway, for which I would like to acknowledge the leadership of Minister Solheim and his colleagues in his Ministries.

• The objectives of the Programme are to assist developing countries to "get ready" to participate in a future REDD mechanism and to support the development of guidance and standardised approaches.

• The Programme supports countries to develop capacity to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to build the framework for consultation, analysis and design through which could emerge the country-specifics to implement a future REDD mechanism in a post-2012 climate regime. It builds on the convening power of its participating UN agencies, their expertise and networks, and seeks to "deliver as One UN".

• The UN-REDD Programme supports nationally-driven, nationally-led REDD processes. It promotes informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD strategy-setting and preparation for implementation. The Programme promotes the view that REDD will succeed only with the full participation and ownership of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities. This is especially relevant at the local level, where land and other natural resource management decisions are ultimately made.

• With the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly in September 2007, the UN Agencies are expected to promote and support respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the implementation of the Declaration. The UN-REDD Programme reflects this commitment through formulating Guiding Principles and Operational Guidelines for engagement with them and other civil society representatives.

• In giving effect to these, the UN-REDD Programme has developed an approach that includes:

- Active representation in the governing body of the UN-REDD Programme, and in its

Global and national outreach and consultations;

- Support to the establishment of a Civil Society Advisory Group to provide independent advice and guidance to the Programme; and

- Emphasis on the principles of representation; transparency, access to information and accountability; and participation and inclusion.

• The Programme is guided by the broad principles which are supposed to guide the work of all UN System entities: a human rights-based approach; gender equality; environmental sustainability; capacity development; and results-based management.

• In addition to close collaboration between its three UN agencies, the UN-REDD Programme coordinates with other REDD actors, in particular the World Bank in the context of its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, to develop complementary approaches that do not burden countries with duplicate demands and competing methodologies.

• The UN-REDD Programme facilitates 9 (to date) pilot countries to identify ways to address their specific drivers of deforestation; develop methods and tools for measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions; facilitate the participation of national stakeholders; and access financial and technical assistance.

• At the global level, the UN-REDD Programme is contributing to consensus building, knowledge management, and development of methodology. These activities achieve some economies of scale and promote awareness and confidence-building in REDD, thereby enhancing the feasibility and options for a REDD mechanism in a post 2012 regime.

• The four specific outcomes of the UN-REDD Programme activities at the global level are:

- Improved guidance on Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) approaches,

- Increased engagement of stakeholders in the REDD agenda

- Improved analytical and technical framework for inclusion of social and environmental benefits and

- Increased confidence in REDD amongst decision makers on the feasibility of methodologies for the implementation of REDD.

• A large-scale mechanism for REDD will require advancing from current readiness activities to capacity building, institution strengthening and ultimately, to performance-based compensation on the basis of measured emissions reductions from deforestation and forest degradation.

• The UN-REDD Programme will assist developing countries respond to negotiated mechanisms on REDD. It is now vital to make real progress over the next months and years for REDD to deliver on its potential to mitigate climate change and provide the social and environmental benefits that come from sustaining forests.


• The UN-REDD Programme has been designed to respond to the urgent need for accelerated and coherent progress on REDD, specifically with Copenhagen and a post-2012 climate change agreement in mind.

• Copenhagen opens the door to this meaningful prospect for sustainable development for developing countries through enhanced funding for carbon storage in its vegetation and soils. (And I note in passing that on World Environment Day, 5 June, 2009 UNEP published an assessment of wider bio-sequestration possibilities underlining the carbon storage benefits of drylands as well as mangroves on the coast.)

• Instead of developed economies investing billions in capturing and storing carbon from power stations in the ground, the natural and nature-based assets of developing countries represented in their forests could be doing the same job, while simultaneously generating multiple benefits in terms of water supplies, biodiversity, livelihoods and conservation-related jobs, and cultural diversity.

• REDD could also advance attainment of the poverty-related Millennium Development Goals through alternative livelihoods in renewable energy and improved resource management. Copenhagen could give them real lift off if a scientifically–credible, operationally manageable, deep and decisive outcome is achieved. REDD is an integral part of the deal which the United Nations wants to have sealed.