One of the few positive things to emerge from the recent climate change talks in Cancún was an agreement on an enhancement of an earlier system to reward countries for lowering (or not raising) their rates of deforestation, to be called REDD+.
This new adaptation framework is designed to make dealing with the effects of climate change a bigger part of the UN process. It includes safeguards meant to ensure the fair treatment of indigenous people, and a final element, a deal on technology transfer.
One of the very first experiments in this REDD process was here in sparsely populated Oddar Meanchey Province, located in the northwest corner of Cambodia on the border with Thailand. The project was designed to demonstrate a carbon finance mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contribute to economic and social development, and conserve biodiversity over the next thirty years.
Cambodia was selected as a REDD pilot project site because of the recent formulation of a national community forestry program, with supporting legislation allowing rural communities and the Forestry Administration to legalize management agreements. This political support was required to defend the project area from claims by other groups, especially commercial interests.
In a scenario without REDD, with no carbon credits to act as a financial incentive, the latter forces would likely prevail, resulting in rapid deforestation, biodiversity loss, and social marginalization of rural peoples.
Between 1995 and 2006, Oddar Meanchey Province was recognized as a “hot spot” of deforestation, with a rate over three times Cambodia’s national average of 0.6percent.
By establishing legally binding forest management agreements, project communities will secured management rights – seen as an essential step in stabilizing forest ecosystems as well as addressing global warming.
The 67,783 hectare project involves 13 community forestry groups comprised of 58 villages and aims to mobilize fifty-eight local communities in thirteen project areas to avoid further deforestation and degradation, as well as facilitate the natural regeneration of some of mainland Southeast Asia’s last lowland evergreen forests. The project is expected to sequester 7.1 million metric tons of CO2.
The hope is that the establishment of a Cambodian national carbon accounting system, based on remotely sensed data, would enhance national civil society awareness regarding the importance of forest conservation, as well as create a framework for monitoring land-use change. Such a monitoring system could also increase transparency in the current economic land concession process.
The Economist reports that new tools developed by the Planetary Skin Institute (PSI), a not-for-profit organisation computing facility developed by Cisco Systems, and America’s space agency, NASA, could considerably reduce the costs of this process.
The PSI’s Automated Land-change Evaluation, Reporting and Tracking System, ALERTS, is one of several tools that should make the implementation of a deal on reducing deforestation agreed on at the Cancún climate change conference on December 11th, easier to monitor.
ALERTS uses data from NASA’s MODIS cameras (two of which are currently in orbit) and data-mining algorithms developed at the University of Minnesota combined with extensive capacity of Cisco’s “cloud” of machines to spot places where land use has changed.
These new methods for combining data hold a lot of promise. Add a few new instruments in orbit, and the practical and fiduciary interest in the matter spurred by anti-deforestation deals like REDD+, and you can expect far better estimates of how much carbon is really locked up in forests and other habitats. With luck, greater transparency will leave less room for obfuscation or, for that matter, fraud.
Category: Uncategorized | Tags: biodiversity loss, Cambodia, cancun, carbon credits, carbon fiance mechanism, climate change, climate change talks, conserve biodiversity, economic and social development, foreign administration, greenhouse gas emissions, indigenous people, national community forestry program, oddar meanchey, Phnom Penh, rapid deforestation, redd better than dead, redd+, social marginalization of rural peoples, sparsely populated oddar meanchey province, thailand Comment »