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Towards low-carbon sustainability

  • Published at 02:10 am August 20th, 2016
Towards low-carbon sustainability
REDD+ is a global initiative under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), which seeks to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, thereby reducing impacts of global warming. The term stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and, the plus stands for the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. This global effort focused on the forest sector, is due to the fact that deforestation and forest degradation account for over 10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and are the second leading causes of global warming. The REDD+ initiative of the UNFCCC is designed to provide results-based payments to developing countries for the amount of GHG emissions reduced, and the amounts removed from the atmosphere by forests against a bench mark. There are five “REDD+ activities” which can qualify for results-based payments: Reducing emissions from deforestation, reducing emissions from degradation of forests, enhancement of carbon stocks, conservation, and sustainable management of forests. The first two activities reduce carbon emissions and the rest three capture the same from the atmosphere. The Ministry of Environment and Forests realises the potential benefits to be derived from reducing emissions from the forestry sector. The 2.52 million hectares of forest land in the country is equivalent to almost 18% of the country’s total area. There are considerable forest land areas in either deforested or degraded conditions, and there are also areas with good forest cover. Hence, there is significant potential scope for REDD+ activities to reduce deforestation and degradation in Bangladesh, as well as potential areas for conservation of existing forest areas and enhancement of carbon stocks. Accordingly, Bangladesh became a member country of the UN-REDD Program in 2010.
Given that Bangladesh anticipates an average loss of 2% GDP by 2050 due to climate change, there is no better time to act than today
The UN-REDD Program is jointly implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is providing support to Bangladesh to get ready for REDD+. It will work together with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, particularly the Bangladesh Forest Department,  and other stake-holders over the next years to assist the country in meeting all the requirements and to ultimately be eligible for results-based payments. The REDD+ effort will contribute to a number of Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 13, which focuses on combating climate change; and Goal 15, which promotes sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. The REDD+ implementation will strengthen sustainable management of forests resources, and sustainably manage forests, enhance the resilience of ecosystems and societies, and secure livelihoods of forest-dependent people. With REDD+ focusing on strengthening forest governance and ensuring participation of different stake-holders to manage forests sustainably, streams of benefits can be ensured for generations to come. The REDD+ program also ensures that non-tangible ecosystem services are maintained such as water regulation, soil protection, climate regulation, and bio-diversity conservation. The implementation of the REDD+ mechanism follows three phases: Phase 1 involves the development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures, and capacity-building. Phase 2 is the implementation of these plans, policies, and measures, ie piloting and bringing necessary changes. Phase 3 being results-based actions, ie emission reductions or carbon enhancements are measured, reported, and verified against benchmark, and payment is made if found successful. The UN-REDD Bangladesh National Program is in its first phase of implementation, where a total of $2.3 million is allocated. The UN-REDD Program Fund was established in 2008 to assist countries with REDD+ readiness. The fund has grown steadily since its establishment. The net funded amount increased from $15.8m in 2009 to $238.7m in 2015. In Bangladesh, the implementation of the REDD+ mechanism could be hindered by several challenges. Implementation of policy, and measures to address the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation are some of the key challenges. Another important challenge is the resolution of land disputes for the demarcation of forest boundary. Co-ordination among the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Land and its departments is therefore necessary to resolve the problem. Building a solid governance structure is fundamental for REDD+, which is also a challenging task. REDD+ mechanism will facilitate creation of a multi-stake-holders platform to ensure informed and meaningful involvement of all stake-holders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities. Complying with all the four elements of UNFCCC Warsaw Framework for REDD+ is another vital challenge for Bangladesh, which could be overcome through the capacity-building efforts of the project. REDD+ supports a move towards a low-carbon sustainable economy. It will also ensure that Bangladesh’s forests meet demands for timber and other forest products, support rural livelihoods, contribute to the national economy, increase resilience, and, at the same time, contribute to global climate change mitigation efforts. Given that Bangladesh anticipates an average loss of 2% GDP by 2050 due to climate change, there is no better time to act than today.     Md Rakibul Hasan Mukul is Assistant Chief Conservator of Forest, Development Planning Unit and National Project Director, UN-REDD Bangladesh National Program.