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Forests at the frontline

Nepal supports a global agreement to help protect the climate by leaving the country’s forests intact. Bhimsen Thapaliya investigates the politics of such a deal.

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Nepal has lobbied in favour of a global pact that will convert its community-managed forests into cash, without cutting down a single tree. With less than 60 days left before the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Nepal is raising its voice to call for a framework agreement that ensures judicious payments for carbon-absorbing forests – and their enhancement – achieved through local-level management. 

Regenerating forests by checking potential deforestation can act as “green servant”, cleaning up the carbon mess created by big polluters in the developed world. One of the key negotiating points for Nepal, which has 1.25 million hectares (12,500 square kilometres) of forests under community guardianship, is that these carbon mopping and management services should be duly compensated. 

The rich polluters should pay not only for the carbon our trees absorb, but also for the managerial and forest enhancement efforts put by the communities, said Jagadish Chandra Baral, head of the REDD-Forestry and Climate Change Cell, which is under Nepal’s ministry of forest and soil conservation. 

Voices for new pact have already been raised and will intensify in Bangkok this week, and in the Barcelona meeting, leading up to the Copenhagen summit in December, Baral said. Nepal has an impressive track record in community-involved forestry management, which was started to save forests from the critical point of deforestation in the mid- to late-1970s. However, deforestation still continues at the rate of nearly 2% every year. 

“We are seeking a global framework pact in Copenhagen that recognises the role of our forests in carbon absorption, biodiversity conservation and other ecological services,” said Bhola Bhattarai, general secretary of the Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal (FECOFUN). Bhattarai is part of a readiness action group for the proposed forest conservation and payment mechanism, which is known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). 

The REDD scheme, which is still a hot topic of debate, seeks recognition of the role of deforestation control measures in reducing carbon emissions – an issue overlooked by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas causing global warming and climate change. If the proposed REDD plan comes into force, Nepal’s community forests can claim payments in the global carbon market for checking potential deforestation. 

But the issue does not end there. The proposed REDD scheme has now evolved into more inclusive programme called “REDD-plus”, which seeks to cover additional components, such as compensation for forest management, improved livelihood and enriching he ecology. 

“Community forestry is not only about checking the dangerous trend of deforestation and forest degradation,” said FECOFUN’s Bhattarai. “We have also accumulated a vast storehouse of conservation knowledge over the decades. We are going to claim payments for this as well.” 

If things proceed as envisioned by the REDD-plus proposal, Nepal is set to convert its forests into cash, turning the saying Hariyo ban Nepal ko dhan (“Green forests are Nepal’s money earner”) into a reality. But significantly, these earnings will come without losing any trees. 

As Nepal continues works on REDD in readiness for the Copenhagen climate jamboree, it is seeking the commitment of developed nations to abide by specific emissions reduction targets and ensure payments to services rendered by anti-deforestation measures. “We want payment commitments from developed nations for all the services our forests have rendered to the environment and communities. They cannot leave us alone in the carbon market controlled by private sector,” said Bhattarai. 

The Kyoto Protocol has made emissions reduction legally binding for developed countries, but offers flexible arrangement under which they can offset their excess emissions by purchasing carbon credits from “clean” projects. 

“At the climate summit, we will be seeking commitments from the developed nations to cut their emissions by 45% on 1990 levels by 2020,” said Purushottam Ghimire, a key climate change official at Nepal’s ministry of environment, science and technology, speaking at a recent consultative meeting. 

REDD-plus is a scheme that will bring benefits to Nepal, but it should also not come in such a form that infringes upon the livelihood rights of forest-dependent indigenous peoples, said Nima Lama, secretary of the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). Lama said that the global caucus of indigenous peoples has demanded that clear distinction be made between local communities and indigenous peoples and no REDD project should come into operation without their consent. 


This article first appeared in Gorkhapatra/The Rising Nepal. It is translated and reproduced here with permission.

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

反响有多大

我们不知道国际社会对于尼泊尔的提议是如何反应的,那些发达国家对此持有什么样的态度,如果应者寥寥的话,这个小国家的想法很难成为现实。

How big are the repercussions?

We don't know how to respond to the suggestions given by the international society concerning Nepal, and we don't know what kind of attitudes the developed countries have. If very few people respond, then it will be hard for this small country to realize its goals. (Translated by Michelle Deeter)

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

尼泊尔的森林是尼泊尔的摇钱树

这句话很好,尼泊尔的森林资源丰富,保护这些森林而做的努力应该被转化为有形的价值补偿。

Nepal's forests are a source of easy money

This is a good point, Nepal's forests do have abundant resources. Striving hard to protect these forests would definitely be worth the effort. (Translated by Michelle Deeter)

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

尼泊尔是REDD的受惠国

尼泊尔已经在世界银行资助下开展了REDD国家战略的制定,作为高森林覆盖,高毁林国家,尼泊尔可以从REDD中获取一定的收益,1990年至2000年,尼泊尔的森林林地年减少2.1%。根据此基线,尼泊尔如果确实保护森林,能够获得收益,而且尼泊尔的社区林业有很长的历史,如果REDD能成为社区林业的另一推动力量,不失为一两全其美之策.

Nepal is the benificiary state of REDD

Nepal has begun to make national plans for REDD under the financial aid of World Bank. As a state of high forest cover rate and high deforestation rate, Nepal can benefit from REDD. From 1990 to 2000, forest cover rate in Nepal has reduced by 2.1%. According to this situation, Nepal can really protect forest and get its share of benefit. Besides, the forestry community in Nepal has a long history. If REDD can be another force to push forestry community, it can be a perfect strategy.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

生态经济学

说到保护尼泊尔的森林,我们应当从生态经济的角度来审视当地的资源,而非从自由竞争市场经济的角度,这一点相当重要。生态经济学家能够看到保护尼泊尔森林资源的价值。我相信如果普通人能得到关于森林资源价值方面的信息,他们会更有动力来保护森林。这比气候变化的范围广得多,保护森林涉及到保护自然栖息地,流域生态以及维持生物多样性。
-Translated by Guo Chen

Ecological Economics

In terms of protecting Nepal's forests, it is important to examine resources from the viewpoint of ecological economics rather than that of free-market economics. Ecological economists can put a face value on the preservation of forest resources in Nepal. I believe that if the common people were able to have access to such information then they would have a stronger incentive to protect the forest. This is about much more than climate change, it is about preserving natural habitats, protecting watersheds and maintaining biodiversity.

-3li4s