The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


REDD: Beyond Carbon

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters by NTSblog on December 6, 2010
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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a programme designed to mitigate carbon emissions by allowing industrialised countries to mobilise funds to forest-rich developing countries to protect their natural forests. REDD also allows developed countries to offset their carbon emissions and earn carbon credits to trade in international carbon markets. However, REDD is not merely a tool to reduce emissions, it also has the potential to reduce poverty, improve forest governance and conserve biodiversity.

Photo Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos Pictures / Department for International Development (DFID)

For some people, making progress on REDD is the only realisable goal for the ongoing climate change negotiations in Cancun. In reality, there has not been any agreement on REDD architecture under UNFCCC, yet there is a large number of REDD projects undertaken on the ground. There appear to be positive responses in particular from opportunistic carbon trading companies that have recently mushroomed. Their existence is clearly subject to the demands of industrial countries and carbon emitting businesses that seek a quick escape from their responsibility to reduce emissions. For example, the Government of Aceh has voluntarily signed an agreement with Carbon Conservation, an Australian carbon trading company, to protect the forest in Ulu Masen, Aceh. The carbon credits earned from this project will be sold to Rio Tinto Aluminum.

Compared  with the tremendous efforts and struggle by forest conservationists to protect the forest and its biodiversity for years, REDD has forgathered the world’s attention to the issue of saving the world’s forests in a short period of time. In fact, many suggest that REDD can be a fundamental framework for a more effective forest protection efforts.

However, beyond carbon and the trees, there is another element of forestry that is more directly related to non-traditional security (NTS) issues, that is the security of indigenous communities and forest people who live in the forest and in the adjoining areas and whose lives depend on forest resources. For them, forests are not only a natural landscape, but also a cultural landscape. They are reliant on forest resources not only for livelihoods but also for their cultural identity. Thus, any decisions made on the forest might have serious impacts on their identity and well-being.

The prevailing concern is that REDD will keep the forest away from the indigenous people who have, in fact, contributed to forest preservation. They are at risk of being evicted from their land and denied access to the forests as REDD adds more value to the forests. However, the real sources of deforestation are illegal logging and land-based businesses namely pulp and paper, mining, and plantation industries, in addition to other exacerbating issues such as corruption and poor spatial planning.

Reducing carbon emissions to address global warming is indeed an attempt to protect humankind. Although, the challenge remains as to how it can be done without sacrificing the livelihoods of certain groups of people.  In line with NTS framework, a multiple stakeholder engagement in the REDD architecture is crucial and can be achieved through a deep and substantial involvement of the indigenous and forest people.

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