Forest deal at Copenhagen must avoid creating 'carbon refugees'

Dec 03, 2009

Forest dwellers must be included in the design of the upcoming forest deal at Copenhagen in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis, according to a scientist at the University of Leeds.

Writing today in Nature, Dr Simon Lewis argues that at least 50% of the carbon credit payments to be agreed at Copenhagen, known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from and Degredation), should be made to forest dwellers directly, and their property rights assured.

"There is the potential here for humanitarian crisis if REDD is not done properly," said Dr Simon Lewis from the & Biosphere Institute at the University of Leeds.

"Without careful planning REDD stands to create large numbers of 'carbon refugees' as governments curb financially unrewarding deforesting activities such as those of small-scale agriculturalist and fuel-wood harvesters who mostly pay no taxes on the products they produce. Forest dwellers could be excluded from their means of subsistence to preserve carbon."

New research also published this week supports the view that people living in forest-dependent communities are a part of the solution to preserving forests, not a part of the problem.

The study, which appeared in Geophysical Research Letters today, shows that accurate monitoring of the carbon stored in drier tropical forests can be achieved only if data from satellites is combined with on the ground measurements involving local communities.

While drier and more open tropical forests don't store as much carbon and don't have the iconic conservation status as the great forests of the Congo and Amazon, they cover 300 million hectares in Africa alone, and are home to more people than dense rainforests.

Edward Mitchard, from the University of Edinburgh and lead author of the study said, "The use of satellite radar data represents a considerable advance, which together with ground surveys, allows accurate and low-cost independent assessments of carbon stocks and how they change over time."

The use of ALOS (Advanced Land Observing Satellite) radar allows the biomass of forests with lower carbon stocks to be successfully mapped and monitored because the radar responds mostly to the size and density of trunks and branches, which hold the majority of the .

Dr Simon Lewis, who is also a co-author on this paper, said: "By using data satellite data and measuring forests with local communities on the ground in Cameroon, Mozambique and Uganda the research shows how drier forests can be accurately monitored and should therefore be included in the REDD scheme."

More information:

• 'Carbon trading: don't victimise the poorest forest dwellers', in Nature.
• 'Using satellite radar backscatter to predict above-ground woody biomass: A consistent relationship across four different African landscapes', in Geophysical Research Letters.

Source: University of Leeds (news : web)

Explore further: Priorities for research on pharmaceutical and personal care products in the environment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New climate treaty could put species at risk

Nov 16, 2009

Plans to be discussed at the forthcoming UN climate conference in Copenhagen to cut deforestation in developing countries could save some species from extinction but inadvertently increase the risk to others, scientists believe.

New approach to measuring carbon in forests

Mar 26, 2008

CSIRO is collaborating in a NASA-funded project, using a CSIRO-designed instrument, to help develop new methods of measuring forest carbon stores on a large scale.

Recommended for you

Big changes in the Sargasso Sea

1 hour ago

Over one thousand miles wide and three thousand miles long, the Sargasso Sea occupies almost two thirds of the North Atlantic Ocean. Within the sea, circling ocean currents accumulate mats of Sargassum seawee ...

Water-quality trading can reduce river pollution

1 hour ago

Allowing polluters to buy, sell or trade water-quality credits could significantly reduce pollution in river basins and estuaries faster and at lower cost than requiring the facilities to meet compliance costs on their own, ...

Managing land into the future

5 hours ago

Food production is the backbone of New Zealand's economy—and a computer modelling programme designed by a Victoria University of Wellington academic is helping ensure that farming practices here and overseas ...

Is TV coverage of climate change too focused on disaster?

5 hours ago

TV news bulletins also gave much less air time to other potential focuses – the uncertainty surrounding climate change, the opportunities it presents and the explicit risks it presents, says the study published ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
Dec 03, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
defunctdiety
1 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2009
It's important that people keep in mind that just because AGW is a fraud doesn't mean that there aren't very real environmental problems threatening us.

Deforestation (habitat destruction) is one of the real ones. For no reason related to climate.

And while I'd never want a Nation to not plow under forest land if it meant the difference between feeding their people and not, ecologically unsustainable management practices -like destroying forest when there may be other options- are ultimately bad for the human race.

It's a tragedy that so much of science has associated itself with climate change. The death of AGW, and the exposure of the corrupt CRU, will probably do tremendous damage to scientific progress in general.
dtxx
Dec 03, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.