REDD

REDD

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ISIS, terrorism, corruption, energy shortages, inflation… And yet, from the cracks seeps through the burning issue of our time. Is it the threat of nuclearisation? Or the theatrics of the ongoing Gulf crisis? Negative. Rather, it is the faltering and waning condition of our planet Earth. And it is high time for the space junkies to realize that aspirations of Elon Muska, who dreamed of a colonized Mars, would not be realised any time soon.

Environmental protection has emerged as the foremost priority on the global agenda. The collective nature of the job necessitates cooperation among the nations of the world in order to nip this evil in the bud. An innovative mechanism that has emerged in this regard is the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Climate change and the ensuing damage to environment poses a humungous threat to the survival of life on earth. The threat that we have to contend with is far more serious than the reports and media lead us to believe. Therefore, a quick reaction is pertinent as it is the inexorable imperative of nature for us to either adapt in response to change or perish in the process. Environmental protection has emerged as the foremost priority on the global agenda. The collective nature of the job necessitates cooperation among the nations of the world in order to nip this evil in the bud. An innovative mechanism that has emerged in this regard is the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

John Muir states that “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” And while there are many factors that contribute to the degradation of environment, the lack of trees due to deforestation is the thread that runs through all of them.

What is REDD?

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a program introduced by the United Nations. Beginning in 2007 during the 13th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, various agencies within the United Nations were looking to work together in order to aid the developing countries in their bid to counter and diminish climate change and associated evils.

Similarly, the REDD+ is a policy initiative under the UN-REDD which is based on the principle of compensation. It was created in 2010 at the COP-16 courtesy of the Cancun Agreements. The additional “plus” with REDD refers to the goals that are related to sustainable development such as poverty reduction, better governance and such. This program focuses on five key areas in the context of environmental protection. These five goals are:

  1. Reduction in emissions resulting from deforestation;
  2. To reduce the emissions caused due to the degradation of forests;
  3. To conserve the stocks of forest carbon;
  4. To enhance the stocks of forest carbon;
  5. To manage forests in a sustainable manner;

A Timeline of REDD

 

Why REDD?

Nature has created its own system for keeping the environment clean. Forests play a vital role in this regard. The carbon mitigation is done by the forests in two ways: the trees act as a storage for carbon just like a basin and on the contrary, they can act as emitters of Green House Gasses (GHG) too. It is estimated that forests have the capacity to store approximately 638 Giga tons of Carbon which is many times greater than the quantity of Carbon in the atmosphere. However, deforestation contributes to the release of 5.8 Giga tons of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere per year. Reducing the degradation of forests and deforestation should thus be the foremost priority for world Governments. Initiatives like the REDD program contribute significantly in this regard.

 

The REDD plus program depends a lot on the cooperation among the nations of the world. The developed countries have two responsibilities: reducing their own emissions of greenhouse gasses and paying the developing countries to preserve their forests stock and decrease deforestation. All countries that comply with these terms and continue to use their forest reserves in a sustainable manner are paid by the REDD plus programme.

Phases of REDD

The REDD plus program is implemented in three stages so that the countries are given time to incorporate REDD plus programme in the national policy framework. The majority of the countries are still in the Phase 1 of the REDD project. This is called the readiness phase in which the countries involve themselves in capacity building and develop their national plans and strategies in line with the REDD project. The second phase is when the implementation process starts. It is also called the piloting phase whereby there is considerable advancement in technology and more emphasis on capacity building. The last stage is known as the results based payments when the emissions along with the removals are measured and reported.

REDD in the national context

The rate of forest degradation and deforestation has steadily increased in Pakistan over the last couple of decades. This is especially evident in the northern areas of Pakistan including Gilgit-Baltistan. The figure below illustrates the forest cover map of Pakistan during 1992.

It is estimated by the FAO that between 1990 and 2010, a total of 840,000 hectares of forest cover has been lost in the country. This amounts to a 42,000 hectares of loss per year.

Today, there are no reliable stats regarding the amount of forest cover in Pakistan. The figure reported by the Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI) is roughly 5.02%. These forests contain approximately 213 million tonnes of carbon in their living biomass. Population increase and the resulting rise in the demand of wood has accelerated the process of forest degradation and deforestation. It is estimated by the FAO that between 1990 and 2010, a total of 840,000 hectares of forest cover has been lost in the country. This amounts to a 42,000 hectares of loss per year. Meanwhile, many other studies reveal that there has been a reduction of 10,022.4 hectares of tree cover in Pakistan while the gain has only been a mere 847.3 hectares. The following table shows the change in forest resources of Pakistan from 1990 to 2005.

VARIABLE YEAR UNIT PAKISTAN
Forest Area 1990
2005
1000 ha

1000 ha

2527

1902

Change in Forest Area 1990-2005 1000 ha

%

-625

-24.7

Change in Growing Stock 1990-2005 1000 m3/year -10,200
Carbon Stock in Living Biomass 1990

2005

Million tons

Million tons

330

243

Change in total Carbon stock in living biomass 1990-2005 Million tons -87

These figures paint an ominous picture. They are an ugly reflection of Pakistan’s weak policy structure and its inability to check deforestation. It is also evident from these figures that REDD has a lot to offer to Pakistan since it will enable the country to not only to keep hold of its forest stock, but draw monetary dividends from the program as well. These results-based program can turn out to be very beneficial for Pakistan due to the following reasons:

  • Assisting Pakistan in its bid to protect and conserve its dwindling forest resources;
  • Provision of incentives to the communities who depend on forests to avoid cutting trees within their domain;
  • To educate the public regarding the benefits of sustainable forest conservation methods.

Pakistan is currently in the Readiness phase of REDD+. According to the National REDD coordinator Dr. Ghulam Akber, Phase 1 for Pakistan is from 2015 to 2018. The country has received $3.8 million worth of funds from the World Bank. Another report for an additional $5 million was recently submitted to the World Bank in April.

According to Muhammad Afrasiyab, a GIS expert, deforestation and the degradation of forests contribute 20% of the annual emissions of greenhouse gasses worldwide. Such a stake in the climate change phenomenon cannot be ignored. Hence, addressing deforestation needs to be a priority on the national agenda.

National Policy

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of seventeen goals that are to be achieved by 2030. These goals include eliminating poverty, reducing inequalities, provision of justice etc. The goal of interest, in our context, is number thirteen: taking action against climate change. Pakistan is a committed member of the United Nations and therefore, it is trying its best to achieve these goals to the best of its ability. With reference to goal number thirteen, Islamabad has already passed the National Climate Change policy. A Forest Policy has also been drafted which is in line with the REDD plus objectives.

 

 

However, much of what has been done to protect the environment is not of much credence. A reason for this is the increased focus on resurrecting the economy and improving national security. Much of the attention in the nation was diverted towards the Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan. And when this was all done with, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad took over the spotlight. Meanwhile, the multi-billion dollar project of CPEC was signed between China and Pakistan. The project will bring with it modern infrastructure, improved technology and multiple coal-powered power plants. Gwadar is also to be linked with the Xinjiang province of China. Further projects include 1100 km motorway between Lahore and Karachi, extension and renovation of the railways and much more. And although this may lead to economic growth, the ramifications for the environment are severe. With all of this going on, the protection of the environment sadly takes the backseat and the implementation of the policies get dwarfed by higher priorities.

Progress of REDD+ in Pakistan

REDD plus began in Pakistan in the year 2010 when the national Climate Change Policy was concluded. A National REDD+ Steering Committee was also formed in the same year and the focal persons from the forest departments in the provinces were designated.

Pakistan also joined the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in 2013. A REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (RPP) was submitted by the Pakistani representatives during the meeting. This proposal to the FCPF was approved in December 2013 due to which, Pakistan was granted $ 3.8 million for the following five years.

Pakistan formally joined the UN-REDD programme as a partner in the year 2011. The basic purpose of this was to operationalize and mainstream REDD plus in the national policies regarding forest management. Pakistan also joined the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in 2013. A REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (RPP) was submitted by the Pakistani representatives during the meeting. This proposal to the FCPF was approved in December 2013 due to which, Pakistan was granted $ 3.8 million for the following five years.

Pakistan also joined the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in 2013. A REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (RPP) was submitted by the Pakistani representatives during the meeting. This proposal to the FCPF was approved in December 2013 due to which, Pakistan was granted $ 3.8 million for the following five years.

In 2012, a joint project was implemented by the ,  International  Centre  for  Integrated Mountain  Development  and  Worldwide  Fund  for  Nature-Pakistan  (WWF-Pakistan)  on the REDD plus Preparedness Phase in Pakistan. Its objective was to build capacity, aid in developing a guide for a REDD+ strategy for Pakistan and to develop a project proposal for Pakistan’s REDD+ initiative. Furthermore, technical and financial aid was granted for the development of REDD+ Roadmap proposal by the United Nations in 2013. The aid also covered the preparation of a National  Forest Monitoring  System  Action  Plan  and  capacity  building  in  Satellite  Land  Monitoring  System  and Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

REDD+ Related Projects in Pakistan

The following projects have been undertaken by Pakistan that involves REDD+ and which in the future could result in REDD+ credits.

Punjab

In 2013, a thirty-six month protracted project of mapping the major forests of Punjab via satellites for REDD+ was introduced. Geographic information system (GIS) technology was used which is an IT facility for  capturing,  storing,  inspecting  and  displaying  data  related  to  locations  on  the Earth’s surface

  1. The budget for the project was PKR 84.930 million and was executed by the Punjab Forest Department.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK)

The  current  political  Government  in  KPK  has  recently  launched  the  ‘Billion  Tree  Tsunami Afforestation Project’. As the name of the project suggests, the plan is to plant a billion trees in KPK from the time period of 2014-2018 with a budget of PKR 12 billion to be executed by the KPK Forest Department. “The Billion Tree Tsunami Project is driven by current Government’s vision of green  growth  which  ties  in  the  needs  for  sustainable  forestry  development  in  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, generating green jobs, gender empowerment, preserving Pakistan’s natural  capital while also addressing the global issue of climate change,” according to sources.

Also, in 2013 the Government of KPK initiated a project for the development of the forest carbon stock evaluation for REDD+ with a budget of PKR 40 million to be executed under the KPK Forest Department. In addition, the Government also introduced a two year plan to gauge the carbon stocks of forests in KPK with a budget of PKR 25.8 million to be executed under the Pakistan Forest Institute Gilgit-Baltistan.

Willingness to work under REDD+ began in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2013 with a budget of PKR 30 million. The executing organization was the Gilgit-Baltistan Forest Department. The Government also introduced a revised working plan for private forests in Diamer District. This is being carried out under the sponsorship of the Forest Department from the year 2015 to 2016 with a budget of PKR 10.5 million.

Azad Jammu & Kashmir 

The Government of AJK in 2009 sanctioned PKR 176 million for the groundwork of scientific forest management plans in the area to be executed under the AJK Forest Department.

It is said that the best time to plant trees is 20 years ago while the second best time to plant them is NOW. Trees contribute significantly in cleaning the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change. REDD plus program is a positive step in this regard.

It is said that the best time to plant trees is 20 years ago while the second best time to plant them is NOW. Trees contribute significantly in cleaning the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change. REDD plus program is a positive step in this regard. Not only does this program help in the reduction of forest degradation and deforestation, it also provides countries incentives to promote a green and clean culture domestically.

It is pertinent for Pakistan to inject REDD+ completely into Pakistan’s legal system so that it can have some grass root level application. To put it simply, this project can only be labelled a success if it benefits the common man. Hence, the trickle-down effect of REDD+ benefits and its implementation must be institutionalized. In this context, the Climate Change of Act of 2017 has institutionalized REDD plus to an extent. The purpose of this act is to aid the national policy makers in coming up with comprehensive policy measures that can help mitigate the effects of climate change. What we can do now is raise public awareness and provide a sound legal and financial backing to this project so that its benefits could be reaped to its fullest.

Muhammad Saad
is a graduate of School of Economics of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He has specialized in the field of development and political economics with additional non-credit courses of Environmental Economics and Monetary Policy. Currently, he works at the CSCR.

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