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With climate change, nothing is better than a tree, ICRAF director tells UN REDD+ meeting

On 24 September 2014 the UN saw a high powered event on the “Transformative Potential of REDD+: a Global Legacy in the Making”. Keynote speakers included the President of Indonesia, HE Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Source: ICRAF

Indonesia embarked on implementing REDD+ in 2010 supported by $1 billion from Norway. Minister Tine Sundtoft, standing in for Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said “Indonesia has reduced its emissions and shown that it can combine forest protection with solid economic growth. Indonesia has written the recipe for REDD+.”

Key to some of the successes were Indonesia’s “One map” initiative, a moratorium on new licences to clear primary forest and peatland, a bill to protected indigenous groups, and monitoring of fires.

However, said President Yudhoyono, challenges remain – including population growth, which will create demand and places pressure on forests.

Speaking about Indonesia’s REDD+ experience, ICRAF’s Director General Tony Simons made the following statement:

“What we have before us is an inspirational demonstration and, not just in reversing deforestation, but in addressing social and equity rights and sustainable land management. It is also an inspirational example of international cooperation.

“Interestingly, this cooperation is between two countries where one country – Norway — has 20 species of tree in total and the other – Indonesia — has 400 species of trees that are threatened and 7,000 species of trees in total. Reconciling these issues of scale, both in space and time, is really what the REDD+ partnership is doing.

“Sadly, time is not on our side. Three hundred and fifty million years ago, when trees evolved, our world was ten degrees hotter and CO2 concentrations were ten times what they are today. Two hundred and twenty million years ago, when rainforests emerged in London, New York City and Oslo, trees are what made earth habitable for humans. And their destruction will lead to the destruction of humans as well.

“Trees are the dinosaurs of the plant kingdom. We’ve lost the dinosaurs of the animal kingdom but we can do something about the dinosaurs of the plant kingdom.

“We look forward to the next evolution beyond REDD+ where land uses and emissions are considered because these are often as much, if not even more, than forest-based emissions. Globally, we have 30 gigatonnes of carbon locked up in trees on farms. And in the next 15 years we believe we can add an additional 30 gigatonnes to that through agroforestry systems. Because with climate change on the horizon, nothing is better than a tree at sequestering carbon, at adding soil organic carbon, at bringing water up from depths or at providing that ecological backbone for biodiversity to flourish.

“We also look forward to full valuation of environmental services that forests provide – the biodiversity, the water, the carbon. Because we know that carbon is the most variably priced commodity. We used to have a range of $50 a tonne for firewood to $100 billion a tonne for diamond. But we weren’t satisfied with that and decided to push the lower boundary to $5 a tonne for atmospheric carbon, which is absolute nonsense.

“We also look forward to the recognition that Norway has shown that developing countries are the ones doing the heavy lifting, countries such as Indonesia. Indonesia probably does not need 55% forest cover, but the world does. And therefore the world need to stands with you, Indonesia, and we need to replicate and expand and celebrate the Indonesia REDD+ example.”

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that the world was witnessing the maturing of the climate change agenda. “You do not stop climate change by only combatting climate change. You build another type of economy. He said that ICRAF and CIFOR had built the scientific underpinnings for REDD+ in Indonesia.

Satya Tripathi, the UN director for REDD+ in Indonesia said the “UN does best where governments lead”, which has been the case in that country.

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