Though it's likely to be lost in the bombast and disappointment around a messy framework, there may be at least one tangible result from the Copenhagen summit: REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, is essentially a mechanism to pay developing countries to keep their trees standing, thereby maintaining habitats and preventing the release of carbon that happens through deforestation. The REDD text is mostly hashed out, and got a boost yesterday when the US announced it would pour $1 billion into a $3.5 billion fund called REDD+, which aims to protect and manage tropical forests until the system begins in full.
On Wednesday night at an event to celebrate REDD+, hosted by Maya Lin and featuring speeches by a handful of African presidents, the doyenne of forest protection herself Jane Goodall shared her thoughts with me on how REDD is shaping up and what she's hoping to see come out of Copenhagen.
On her way out the door after a long day, Dame Goodall said she hopes that REDD would draw more money by the end of the conference, expressed wonder at the big commitments flowing in, and explained that people increasingly appreciate that this kind of program is one of the best ways the world can prevent intentional forest fires (and other kinds of deforestation).
Because, as the IPCC has estimated, tropical forest loss alone causes 20 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide, and deforestation generally accounts for 17.4 percent of all global GHG emissions -- more the whole global transport sector -- REDD is often cited as a "low hanging fruit" in climate policy. Every second of every day, the world loses a football field's worth of forests.
System Could Leave Us REDD-Faced
One potential landmine is the prospect that preventing deforestation in some forests will only push it to others. Part of fighting that will mean reducing demand for natural forest timber in developed countries. Organized crime is even getting in on REDD corruption. There's also the question as to how REDD abets underwrite carbon spewing in developed countries, through carbon markets (it does, but it also protects forests, and is a short-term solution before lower-carbon economies come to life). And while there's a lot more money on the table now, negotiators involved say far more will be needed eventually, over $20 billion.
Provided that an agreement is made on Friday in Copenhagen, REDD may be its biggest immediate result. If an agreement isn't made, it's unclear what the fate of REDD will be in the short term. But it's earned lots of healthy support, not least from Dame Jane.