Rights, environment groups urge REDD rethink

Human rights and environment groups have called for a radical rethink of the United Nations scheme, known as REDD (Reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) after it emerged that some countries were trying to cheat the system, the UK Observer reported yesterday.

The environment groups, which include Global Witness, Greenpeace International, Fern and Rainforest Foundation, also fear that REDD is being used by governments to victimise and steal the carbon rights of people who live and depend on the forests, the newspaper reported.

Guyana, along with 36 other developing countries, is participating in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a fund overseen by the World Bank that could see these forest countries being paid billions of dollars a year to stop felling trees. This is the best way to stop logging and save the planet from climate change, according to wealthy countries and conservationists. However, the Observer reported that documents seen by the newspaper show the plan is actually leading to corruption and possibly more logging.

Analysis of the 16 forestry reform plans so far submitted by REDD countries to the World Bank shows that many intend to abuse the system in order to collect the money while carrying on logging as usual. Documents seen by the Observer show that the Democratic Republic of Congo wants to open up 10 million hectares (25m acres) of new logging concessions as part of its plan. The country, which is ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world, argues that it will reduce emissions by planting more trees elsewhere.

Guyana intends to use some of its REDD money to pay a property dealer from Florida to build a road and a major hydroelectric plant in some of its most densely forested areas, the Observer report said. Other countries are setting the present rate of deforestation deliberately high or are ignoring all present logging, so that they can be paid to do nothing, it said.

Peter Younger, Interpol environment crimes specialist and author of a report for the World Bank on illegal forestry, said: “Alarm bells are ringing. REDD is simply too big to monitor. The potential for criminality is vast and has not been taken into account.”

Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation, said: “REDD has been touted as the quickest and cheapest way of preventing climate change, but what we are seeing are expensive and ill-conceived plans that fail to address the underlying causes of deforestation, and might make things worse. REDD needs to be taken out of the hands of the World Bank, and a new global institution [must be] established to rigorously oversee payments to tropical countries on the basis of the actual amount of logging or deforestation that is averted.”

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