The tiny state of Cross River, Nigeria, has managed to preserve large swathes of endangered rainforest despite lucrative – and often intimidating – offers from loggers and other interests. It’s also laid the groundwork for a state-wide program designed to earn international carbon credits by saving trees, thus securing its spot in an elite network of states that are moving forward as UN talks stall.
The United Nations REDD Program (UN-REDD) recently agreed to support Nigeria’s efforts to become a pilot country for UN-sanctioned projects that funnel carbon offsets to people who save endangered forestland and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
The promise of donor support for a national REDD strategy is the culmination of 15 years of environmental activism in Nigeria, centered mostly in one state: Cross River, and championed by two men: Odigha Odigha, now the chief executive of the state’s Forestry Commission, and, more recently, Governor Lionel Imoke.
Both have fought hard to preserve Cross River’s rainforest, which today accounts for 60% of Nigeria’s total, and their leadership is largely credited with Cross River’s entry into the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), a sub-national collaboration on REDD that spans 14 states and provinces from the United States, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, and now Nigeria.
For many, the GCF represents the intermediate future of REDD: a global linkage of like-minded sub-national governments that are moving ahead with a REDD infrastructure even as national governments and the United Nations struggle to forge a larger consensus. For the system to work, however, they must move ahead in a way that is compatible with whatever national and international mechanisms evolve down the road.
Ecosystem Marketplace has published a detailed account of Cross River’s long struggle to save its rainforests and its current efforts to make that struggle pay off for its rural poor. For the full story, read Nigerian State Sets REDD Pace for Entire Continent.