Site icon Conservation news

Peru’s REDD+ conservation efforts paying off

Mountains near Machu Picchu in Peru. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Mountains near Machu Picchu in Peru. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

  • REDD+ conservation efforts generated almost $34 million for Peru between 2013 to 2015.
  • Around one-eighth of Peru’s protected forests are involved in REDD+ programs
  • In 2014, Peru signed a $225 million deal with Norway to bring net deforestation to zero by 2021

Peru is home to around one tenth of the Amazon rainforest, the second largest block after Brazil. It’s also the best carbon mapped nation in the world thanks to the work of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory which found that Peru’s forests’ store more carbon than the United States emitted in 2014.

Sixty percent of Peruvian territory is Amazon rainforest, around 73 million hectares of jungle. It has the ideal conditions to implement programs for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD+ and benefit from the carbon market, say scientists. REDD+ creates financial value for the carbon stored in forests and compensates developing countries who meet targets in reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

REDD+ conservation efforts between 2013 and 2015 generated nearly $34 million for Peru through the United Nations-backed reward scheme.

Peru forest and tree cover. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Deforestation, agriculture and land-use change account for 61 percent of Peru’s carbon emissions, according to the World Bank Group’s Climate Investment Funds.

Jose Luis Capella, forestry program chief for the Peruvian Environmental Law Society, said Peru’s recent approval of a National Forests and Climate Change strategy  was an important step forward in combating the causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

But its implementation presented challenges faced with “gaps and barriers in the rule of law, the lack of transparency, the efficacy of institutions and illicit economies,” said Capella.

He added that a connection with forest-dependent populations is crucial.

“REDD+ needs to have real incentives so that the people who live in the forests can decide to keep them standing,” he said.

Land titling issues

Other experts concur that problems with governance, forest management and a lack of indigenous land-titling are proving major obstacles to Peru reaching its carbon sequestration potential and becoming a fuller beneficiary of the United Nation’s REDD program.

Land titling for the more than 300,000 indigenous peoples living in Peru’s Amazon is widely seen as insufficient. AIDESEP, Peru’s largest federation of indigenous Amazon communities, succeeded in seeing a land titling scheme backed by the International Development Bank suspended in August. It says the project represented a serious risk to approximately 20 million hectares of untitled indigenous lands, including areas where more than 1,200 communities have outstanding land rights applications.

“Indigenous land titling is crucial to forest resource protection, not just for carbon sequestration, but also for water provisioning and climate regulation far down stream or ‘downwind’ of indigenous territories,” said Gregory Asner, of the Carnegie Institute for Science. Asner led the pioneering research which carbon-mapped Peru and other nations with tropical forest.

There is an increasing body of evidence which links community forest rights with lower carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and degradation.

“For the indigenous movement in Peru, land titling and land tenure should be the point of departure,” Peter Cronkleton, a senior scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research, told Mongabay.

But he added that land titling is not a solution in and of itself to the poor application of REDD+ programs when there is a lack of an “entire suite of institutional frameworks.” Cronkleton said that the process should start with a “court system and basic law enforcement which would allow people to take advantage of the rights that are being formalized.”

William Llactayo, a specialist in the office of land regulation at Peru’s environment ministry agrees, and goes one step further. Llactayo believes that the “cumbersome and slow” process of land titling is holding up the implementation of REDD+.

“There are many native communities which are recognized but very few are have land titles which is a requisite for the REDD+ compensation,” said Llactayo. “That’s a big obstacle to any implementation.”

At the UN Climate Change summit in September 2014, Peru signed a deal worth nearly $225 million with Norway to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2021. The aim is to cut greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation. Peru committed to increase by five million hectares the land titled to indigenous people and to respect their territorial rights guaranteed in the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 169.

Norway agreed to pay the majority of the funds once reduction targets are met. According to Roxana Ramos of WWF Peru, the first payment of around $6.2 million is expected to be paid out in the first project in the coming weeks. Peru aims to have no emissions from deforestation or changes in land usage by 2021.

REDD+ goes beyond simply deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, according to the UN-Redd website.

Dissatisfaction despite success

Around one-eighth of Peru’s protected forests – approximately two out of sixteen million hectares of National Protected Areas – are involved in REDD+ programs, which offer pay by performance and use a strict verification system including community consultations, satellite imagery and field inspections.

The four conservation projects are The Cordillera Azul National Park, Bahuaja Sonene National Park, Alto Mayo Protected Forest and the Tambopata National Reserve.

But people have become “disillusioned” with the slow implementation of REDD+, says Cronkleton, which has not helped it provide a sustainable alternative livelihood faced with exploitative economic activities such illegal logging, mining and slash and burn agriculture.

Taking advantage of carbon markets has been stymied by Peru’s governance issues, he said.

“Monetizing forests and forests carbon would simply exacerbate many of the problems where political and economically weak people depending on forest would be subjected to mechanisms that are developing capital in other places,” Cronkleton concluded.

But Asner says REDD+ is only one approach to forest carbon.

“A portfolio of programs, some market based and others compliance based, are both needed and actively evolving to meet the challenge of fostering increased forest carbon sequestration,” he told Mongabay.

He added that he sees it as part of a larger picture.

“I think of REDD+ as one component of a large suite of approaches,” he said.