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REDD ++ and mass amnesia?

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Issue date: 
June 01, 2011
Publisher Name: 
Kees Stigter and Mohan Reddy Vishwavaram
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Dear colleagues,

Kees Stigter and Mohan Reddy Vishwavaram make a fair point in their article "A Plea for a REDD++ approach". Having said that it seems we, the environmentally conscious community-of-practice are either suffering from mass amnesia, or are determined to remain on the fringe of global development/environmental discourse or we are simply talking past one another.

Many, including this observer believe the world went seriously wrong after Rio '92. Our current discourses and paths to sustainability are clearly contradictory to the hopes and conclusions of that watershed conference ---that
some believe [including me] was the best and most visionary, ever.

Let me start with two countries that Kees & Mohan site; Indonesia and India. I add to these Brazil and China. When these four countries are mentioned in development discourses anywhere today--the reaction is awe and admiration---right? Take another three countries the Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea and Guyana (Br). When these latter three are talked about the reaction is consternation and Hmmm..why is that?

It is public record that, a direct positive correlation exists between GHG emissions and industrialization. Indonesia, India, China and Brazil are running some of highest rates of GHG emissions since records began. This balance sheets are equally driving the fastest growth of GDP ever recorded. How come that, the 'intelligent' world views this manner of economic growth with unadulterated admiration, yet appear negative when talking about Reducing GHG Emissions---the by-products of their own admiration and reviews of encouragement?

The Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], Papua New Guinea [PNG] and Guyana (Br) are all exporters of vast quantities of natural resources. It is public record that PNG has failed to get a fair price for its petroleum from Australia; the DRC on the other hand even lacks the capacity and infrastructure to market its vast resources by herself, and is therefore forced to leave matters in the hands of the industrializing country that needs the natural resources. It is thus anybody's guess at what price these rapid industrializing countries are getting these resources!

If we are truly serious about using market mechanisms to regulate climate, is it not critical to address the direct inverse relationship between the price of natural resources and the amount of GHG emissions? After all, the cheaper the natural resources from economically stagnant countries, the lower the cost of production, the more Europe, North America, India, China, and others can produce GHG emissions?

Therefore, put simple, cheap raw materials and failure of poorer countries to regulate these industrial inputs/exports is actually driving global warming much faster than deforestation and degradation?

In its idealized conception, REDD is a market mechanism, by which in the event of global brokerage [say]for forest carbon, payments may become an incentive for natural methods of mitigating accelerated global warming. By all estimates so far, there is no way the market price for a t/ha C02 equivalent can rival the returns to Oil Palm for instance, or soybean, beef, cereals. Therefore, there is likelihood that a successful REDD may only come into being under perhaps conditions of orchestrated market failure.

The world applauds polluters, exalts their 7-10% economic growth performance, give them the 'feel-good-factor'; we say the path to the 'good-life' is economic growth;--even the US many times richer than China still seeks even greater economic growth. After-all, the current globally accepted model of wellbeing is 'economic growth'. Those that have it are exalted, those that don't are derided; although it is common knowledge that the fastest growing economies are the biggest emitters of GHGs? Is it not time to revisit Rio 92? To change the discourse so we can actually address the cause of climate instability?

We should revisit the conclusions of Rio 92, we must not lose our memory. We must cure ourselves from this mass amnesia. Let us revisit the Bruntland Report, let us re-apply E.F. Schumacher's definition of development. Let all countries re-emphasize their local Agenda 21s. We should talk about 'our common future' instead. It is our consumerist lifestyles and mindsets that are the problem. If the global model of economic growth, perception of wellbeing does not change we cannot slow down global warming. Tropical forests contribute approximately 10-12 % of GHG emissions, and that is at confidence levels certainly lower than the 95% level.

We cannot create new problems as an excuse for not dealing with the real ones, that---the of manner pursuit by India, China, Brazil, Indonesia and others of the 'economic growth' model of development is simply not sustainable. It is a path to global ruin. Worse, it is contagious and addictive. Industrialization remains the only proven path to prosperity for all nations; to food security and to supporting population growth that comes with better health standards and education.

Agro forestry, forest restoration and Green Agriculture are all fine, are developing spontaneously and must be encouraged. They aren't broke so let's not create new problems on the excuse that we want to fix them. Let us focus on the real causes of instabilities in global climate. Let each country first analyze its witting or unwitting contribution to this real problem and aggressively seek first, [according to Schumacher, endogenous solutions, collaborating with partners sharing these aspirations, before engaging with markets]---the alternative can be unforgiving and can be brutal.

Proposed market mechanisms like REDD, REDD+ and even REDD++ are fine. But first let us start by reducing the supply of cheap, raw material from poor, resource rich countries by ensuring that it cost more to pollute in richer, resource poor countries. This is net redistribution of wealth, without the BAND AID connotation--only countries themselves and their people can do this. At higher inputs costs, richer countries will tighten their belts, as they should. Wasteful consumerism will not drop, become more selective, healthier lifestyles will become more popular, even in vogue.

India, China, Brazil. Indonesia and others lining up on this path to global ruin will re-think their industrialization and manner of economic growth models---to be what it should be---the wellbeing of their populations, rather in terms of
volume/value of the GDP. This is the beginning of the solution--global wisdom--and a return to Rio, our common future.

Let us commit innovative effort to dealing with the 88% of global GHG emissions from industrialized countries, and Yes strengthen our capability in ensuring that the rate of growth in the 10-12% becomes manageable --and Yes too support regeneration of forests, woodlands---but do so without creating new and insurmountable problems.

Thanks for reading.

Peter Mbile, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute; peter.mbile@wri.org


Extpub | by Dr. Radut