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Saving forests and those living in them

The benefits of forests such as carbon storage, reduced flooding and soil erosion, and the provision of food and jobs should be protected in a new climate change treaty, researchers say.

Safeguards for these ecosystem services, which would be part of an agreement to pay countries to protect their forests, would also guarantee the rights of forest-dwellers and cut global carbon emissions, their study says.

The paper, by Dr Chuks Okereke of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and Kate Dooley, formerly of Imperial College London, says the new treaty should acknowledge the global and local benefits of forest protection.

Proposals for rewarding nations for preserving their forests will be high on the agenda at climate change talks in Copenhagen next month.

Dr Chuks Okereke said: “Saving forests is essential but we need to take the interests of the poor very seriously in deciding how we do this. If forests are protected properly, global emissions will be cut and the livelihoods of forest-dwellers will be protected too.”

Deforestation is responsible for up to 20 per cent of global emissions. Forests store carbon but logging releases it into the atmosphere. They regulate temperature and rainfall and create jobs for millions of people. Tropical forests in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Ghana also harbour a greater range of wildlife than any other habitat with deforestation causing the extinction of 100 species every day.

Rewards for saving forests were ruled out of the Kyoto deal because carbon monitoring was inaccurate. Measures of forest carbon have now improved and negotiators plan to include forest protection in a post-Kyoto deal. Kyoto expires in 2012.

Kate Dooley said: “Talks about including forests in a new climate agreement are being dominated by the same carbon trading systems that are undermining Kyoto. If industrialised nations pay to protect forests but are then allowed to keep polluting, neither the climate nor forest peoples will benefit.”

Dr Okereke said: “If the climate change regime is seen as part of the wider search for global sustainability, then proposals must be judged not only on the basis of economic efficiency, but also on their ability to promote conservation and on the needs of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

“One of the most important issues is the extent to which the rights and well-being of millions of indigenous communities who live and depend on forests are considered in the design of policy arrangements.”


Dr Chuks Okereke: 07986 757545
Kate Dooley: 07824 697376
Cath Harris, Communications Officer, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment
01865 614925 / 07917 338266.

Notes to editors:

• Principles of Justice in Proposals and Policy Approaches to Avoided Deforestation: Towards a Post-Kyoto Climate Agreement, Okereke C. and Dooley, K., to be published in Global Environmental Change, in October 2009.

• Talks on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) will be central to the Copenhagen climate meeting, which runs from December 7-18, 2009.

• The 2007 decision to include forests in the post-Kyoto deal followed a proposal to measure deforestation rates nationally.

• The 2004 World Bank report, Sustaining Forests: A Development Strategy, said an estimated 1.6 billion people relied on tropical forests for their daily needs.

• The 2002 World Atlas of Biodiversity, published by The Nature Conservancy, estimated that 100 species become extinct every day because of deforestation.

• Dr Chuks Okereke is a Smith School Research Fellow studying the links between global environmental governance and international development. He is interested in the incentives and barriers shaping climate change policies and the motivation for private sector investment in low-carbon projects in developing countries. Before joining the Smith School, Dr Okereke was a Senior Research Associate at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

• Kate Dooley has an MSc in Global Environmental Change from Imperial College London. She is now policy advisor to the environmental and social justice NGO FERN. The group is campaigning to ensure that any forest-climate agreement in Copenhagen contributes to climate protection by ruling out forest carbon trading. FERN believes that allowing carbon trading to be part of the agreement would cause emissions to increase in industrialised countries and undermine the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

• The Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment works with governments and the private and public sectors to find ways of tackling major environmental change. The feasibility of biofuels, low-carbon development in poor countries, the economics of measures to cut emissions and the transition of business from high to low-carbon dependence are amongst current research studies. The School will announce a Foresight horizon-scanning programme later this year and launched Climates of Change, its first Working Paper series, in September 2009. The School was founded in 2008 by a benefaction from the Smith Family Educational Foundation. Professor Sir David King is the School’s first Director. Sir David was the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser from 2000 to 2007 and is a strong advocate of action to tackle climate change.

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