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Carbon Financing and Community Forestry

The following is a text of a Call for Action issued after the First Regional Forum for People and Forests: Carbon Financing and Community Forestry. The three-day event brought together key people to analyze the risks, opportunities, and constraints that carbon financing presents for Asia-Pacific’s forest-dependent people.

Deforestation and forest degradation contribute some 20 percent of global greenhouse
gas emissions. Forest-related mitigation measures are now recognized to be amongst
the most practical and cost-effective interventions to slow global warming – as well as
providing a host of other environmental products and services.

However, rural poverty, weak law enforcement, and escalating demand for food and
fuel continue to drive forest destruction at an alarming rate – in the Asia-Pacific region
alone, some 3.7 million hectares of natural forest are lost every year. This also threatens
millions of already vulnerable rural livelihoods, often undermining traditional rights to
vital forest resources.

Carbon financing may provide promising new opportunities for maintaining and even
improving the health of the world’s forests and, if designed well, to reduce rural poverty.
But if schemes such as ‘REDD’ fail to deliver tangible benefits to Asia-Pacific’s 450 million
forest-dependent people, then the social and economic impacts could be severe.

Ultimately, this increases the risk that forest-related mitigation efforts will fail.
Key country decision-makers and over 80 participants from 12 Asia-Pacific nations
considered these issues at the First Regional Forum for People and Forests: Carbon
Financing and Community Forestry, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 18 to 20 August 2009.

As forests in the Asia-Pacific region can potentially absorb a large proportion of global
carbon dioxide emissions, the need for healthy and sustainable forest ecosystems cannot
be understated nor undersold. But we must go beyond carbon to promote and ‘sell’
biodiversity, watershed conservation, and sustainable forest management as an essential
holistic package.

Local people hold the key to healthy forests in this region. They have the closest direct
stake in forest resources and will affect the outcome of any forest management strategy,
including those aimed at climate change mitigation. For carbon financing to succeed,
it must learn from three decades of community forestry experience and actively engage
and benefit local people.

Lessons from payment for environmental service (PES) schemes reveal that carbon
financing presents both risks and opportunities for local people, and also constraints to
their effective participation. Maximizing the opportunities and addressing the risks and
constraints requires early and active community involvement, especially in negotiating
roles, responsibilities, and benefits.

Deforestation for a new oil palm plantation in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

Benefits from carbon financing must be additional and expand, not replace, local
people’s existing rights and benefits. Strong grassroots institutions and clear, secure,
and fair rights to forests are critical prerequisites. Meaningful local participation, shared
decision making, and high levels of transparency and accountability must be regarded
as the ‘minimum standard.’

Intermediary organizations that will build capacity and help broker carbon financing
agreements have key roles to play in securing equity and local participation, and will
require support in carrying out these important functions.

However, until carbon ownership, benefit-sharing arrangements, financing methods
and legal issues are clarified, carbon markets will remain a risky area of investment for
both the private sector and local people.

In considering the implications of carbon financing for local people, Forum participants
called for:

National Governments to:

Civil Society to:

The First Regional Forum for People and Forests brought together
key people from government, civil society, the private sector, and
international organizations to discuss options for strengthening
the forest carbon-community connection in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Forum reached consensus on the importance of engaging
communities in any sustainable carbon financing initiatives, and
explored ways to achieve this.

Key Questions Included:

Organizers: RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, the
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and the Forest
Sector Support Partnership of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture
and Rural Development.

The full report is available by contacting RECOFTC

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