Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries: A cautionary tale from Australia

by Andrew Macintosh

If a binding agreement can be reached on a post-2012 international climate regime, it is likely to include a market-based instrument for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and enhancing forest sinks in developing countries (collectively known as ‘REDD-plus’). Under such a scheme, countries that reduce net REDD emissions below a pre-set baseline would receive credits that could be sold in carbon markets and used by purchasing nations to meet their international mitigation obligations. This paper draws on the Australian experience with deforestation to identify some of the issues that might obstruct progress on REDD. For the past 20 years, Australia has had the highest rate of deforestation in the developed world””370,000 ha of ‘Kyoto forests’ were cleared annually between 1990 and 2007, resulting in the emission of ~80 MtCO2-e/yr. It is also the only developed country that will rely on reduced deforestation emissions as the primary way of meeting its quantified emission reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol. Australia’s approach to deforestation issues, both domestically and internationally, provides valuable insights into the difficulties a REDD-plus scheme might encounter in the future.

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