Public Policy and Economics
UNFCCC COP15 Drew Upon Many Facets of Center Research Initiatives
Central to the mission of the Woods Hole Research Center is the provision of sound scientific research and analysis to policymakers and stakeholders on the many aspects and issues related to global climate change. At the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2009, decision-makers will work towards attaining a comprehensive policy framework for responding to climate change on a global scale. The Center has been involved in the UNFCCC process since its inception and continues to engage in multiple facets of the climate change policy discussion; for the last several years the Center has taken a leading role in the development of a potential mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) under the Convention.
The Woods Hole Research Center is engaged in efforts around the world to understand the complex interactions between natural systems and human populations and to determine practical approaches to achieving sustainable outcomes for the planet. Many of these projects and programs are linked not only to a future REDD mechanism but also to livelihoods, sustainable development, and the provision of ecosystem services, all of which are critical to mitigating climate change and its impacts. Efforts at the Center range from modeling exercises to determine the drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon to collaborative forest mapping efforts in Southeast Asia to the design and implementation of national and state-level REDD policies. The documents and products found in the COP 15 section of this website highlight the work being done by scientists and researchers at the Center and their partners that contributes to global readiness for an effective international climate agreement.
Below are links to Center projects prepared for the meetings leading up to and at COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Short descriptions of each are immediately below the link, to provide an overview of what the project entails.
If the world is to diminish its acceleration into a dangerous disruption of the global climate system, steep reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will be needed over the next decade. The reduction of emissions from tropical forest clearing and degradation is an important piece of the global solution to the climatic disruption for at least three reasons. First, these emissions will be less expensive to reduce than many sources of emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Second, a robust international framework is likely to become part of the post-2012 United Nations climate treaty framework currently under negotiation through a mechanism called REDD. And, third, some countries are demonstrating that large reductions in these emissions are feasible. This document provides an overview of these issues, in context of the work of The Woods Hole Research Center.
An Overview of Readiness for REDD: A compilation of readiness activities prepared on behalf of the Forum on Readiness for REDD
The Woods Hole Research Center, acting as the secretariat for the Forum, agreed to collect information on readiness activities taking place in developing countries and assemble a background document that would allow interested stakeholders to get a snapshot of readiness activities taking place both globally and in their country or region, as a way to highlight potential gaps and synergies and encourage collaboration and partnerships in all facets of readiness efforts. This background document aims to provide a snapshot view of readiness activities around the world.
An article in the December 4 issue of Science addresses how the combined efforts of government commitments and market transition could save forest and reduce carbon emissions in Brazil. The Policy Forum brief, entitled “The End of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon” was authored by contributors from the Woods Hole Research Center, Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM), Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Aliança da Terra, Environmental Defense Fund, University of Florida, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and the Universidade Federal do Pará.
REDD in the Real World – A Film Introducing REDD
As the elements of REDD take shape in the policy arena, the number and diversity of stakeholders that need to be engaged in REDD readiness is rapidly increasing. In response, the Forum on Readiness for REDD , for which the WHRC serves as Secretariat, has partnered with the International Conservation and Education Fund to produce a short film, that introduces the basic concepts of climate change, forest carbon and REDD. Please email to obtain a copy of this DVD.
Tropical forest loss accounts for an estimated 17% of global emissions of carbon dioxide. As part of a strategy to reduce these greenhouse gas fluxes to the atmosphere, the UNFCCC's Conference of the Parties 15 in Copenhagen is working to adopt a strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the post-Kyoto climate treaty. For tropical nations to be effective in tracking and reporting their emissions reductions from forest management and conservation, baseline data sets enabling wall-to-wall forest mapping and monitoring are invaluable.
The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) has initiated a three-year project focused on producing spatially consistent pan-tropical data sets to support the monitoring of forest cover and associated carbon stocks stored in above-ground forest biomass. A circa-2007 high-resolution, cloud-free radar data set from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) ALOS/PALSAR sensor is the cornerstone of the pan-tropical forest cover mapping effort. A circa-2005 500-meter biomass product is being produced through the fusion of optical (MODIS) and lidar (ICESat/GLAS) data provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Pantropical mosaics of ALOS/PALSAR and MODIS data are now complete and can be viewed for the first time on Google Earth. This work is a partnership project of the Woods Hole Research Center, JAXA's Kyoto and Carbon Initiative, NASA, the Alaska Satellite Facility, SARMAP, Boston University, and SpotImage PlanetAction. Funding for this work has been provided by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Google.org, and NASA.
The ability to estimate the distribution and total amount of carbon stored in woody biomass across the tropics is important for compensation mechanisms for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Errors in biomass estimation of tropical forests are, however, large due to of a paucity of systematic surveys, together with large spatial variability and diversity of tree species (Clark et al. 2001). Because systematic surveys are sparse, plot-level measurements of biomass density (thus carbon) are extended to large areas using a variety of methods including (i) classification of land cover types, each assigned an estimated average value of biomass density based on estimates from the literature or forestry surveys, (ii) calculation of biomass density from regressions based on gridded environmental variables such as mean annual temperature and precipitation, (iii) determination of relationships between in situ biomass density and remote sensing characteristics that can be consistently mapped over large regions. Maps derived using the latter approach are a substantial departure from the other more traditional methods, and have the advantage of providing robust, spatially consistent and continuous values of the magnitude (amount) of carbon stock at any given location (Baccini et al. 2008, Houghton et al. 2009). They thereby also provide a basis for monitoring stock changes through time (Goetz et al. 2009).
This brief clarifies possible interpretations of equity surrounding REDD in the international arena, and then uses an open source model to examine how different REDD design options compare in terms of equity measures. Here only South-South equity is discussed, where funds are distributed among tropical forest countries, as opposed to broader issues of burden-sharing or inter-generational equity in climate change policy, which have been addressed elsewhere.
A “StockFlow with Targets” Mechanism for Distributing Incentive Payments to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation
This policy brief refines the stock-flow approach submitted jointly by the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and by the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research (IPAM) to the UNFCCC in August 2008 on how to distribute across countries the potential incentive payments to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). We provide an overview of the stock-flow approach, extend it using targets, and then present simulation results on how it performs in terms of environmental effectiveness, economic efficiency, and equity of REDD payments relative to opportunity costs of participation.
This brief is presented in an FAQ format, touching upon many of the key issues of the REDD mechanism discussion.
Deforestation and forest degradation result in a complex set of changes to local and regional climate and water resources. When forests are removed, the new vegetation, which generally has fewer leaves and shallower roots, uses less water than the forest it replaces. Therefore, less water evaporates from the land surface and is returned to the atmosphere, more water runs off of the land, and stream flow is increased. These changes occur at the local scale, but rivers of all sizes are affected when deforestation is extensive. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that when large-scale deforestation occurs in the tropics, the decreased cycling of water from the land to atmosphere can result in decreased rainfall. Taken together, these two changes – a local decrease in evaporation and a large-scale decrease in rainfall may have profound effects on human and environmental needs, such as agriculture, hydropower, drinking water, aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, and fisheries.
Policy briefs addressing aspects of REDD policy
The push towards obtaining an agreement on an international mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) continued in October 2009 with negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bangkok, Thailand. In order to facilitate discussions with both Party negotiators and civil society, the WHRC, together with partners Amazon Environmental Research Institute, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, and The Nature Conservancy, produced five policy briefs on aspects of REDD policy. These briefs describe our shared positions on the scope, scale, and financing arrangements of an international REDD framework, as well as on the critical issues of the participation and rights of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities and the potential ecological co-benefits of REDD activities.
Joint Position on Financing Options for REDD
Joint Position on the Scale of REDD
Joint Position on Scope of REDD
Joint Position on Ecological Co-Benefits of REDD
Joint Position on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities and REDD
Issued by The Woods Hole Research Center and signed onto by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Forest Trends, and Rainforest Alliance, the document discusses the conditions necessary for responsible forestry as part of REDD. The reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation must include multiple approaches, including protecting intact natural forest, restoring degraded forest, and improving forestry practices where logging is expected to occur.
River systems, such as the Amazon, are closely interdependent with riparian and upland forests, making them vulnerable to changes in forest cover and land use. By reducing deforestation and forest degradation REDD can contribute significantly to maintaining the stability of flow regimes and the overall resilience of the aquatic system. However, REDD by itself will have little or no direct effect on the impacts of other important drivers of river degradation, such as dams, urban and mining pollution and over-fishing. Mitigation of the impacts of these drivers depends on integrating REDD into a more comprehensive management framework such as that of integrated river basin management. Such integration would not only better capture the co-benefits REDD provides to the aquatic system, it also would be more effective in creating regional environmental conditions conducive to forest conservation. Furthermore, by linking forest and water conservation, the local non-cash benefits of REDD are made more concrete for local populations.
REDD discussions with regard to forest peoples are based on an implicit policy of command and control that combines investments in government monitoring and enforcement capacity with direct economic incentives to forest stakeholders. There is relatively little emphasis on addressing the structural problems that lead smallholders to adopt strategies that result in deforestation and forest degradation. Rather than conceive REDD as a program to compensate smallholders for not deforesting, REDD should be seen as the basis of a longterm strategy for the sustainable development of tropical forest regions. We propose a three part, performance-based REDD smallholder development strategy that: 1) consolidates user-based forest governance institutions to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, 2) once initial deforestation targets have been achieved, provides funds to develop economic activities that conserve forests and improve household incomes, and 3) implements REDD payment schemes that enable smallholders to make the transition to sustainable household economic strategies.
This brief explores how significant emissions reductions on private lands in the upper Xingu River basin on the Amazon agro-industrial frontier could be achieved for a per-ton carbon price that is in the range of current market prices (~24 USD tCO2e-1). Under the Mato Grosso state zoning plan, incentives tied to carbon stock maintenance and enhancement could achieve emissions reductions of 560 million tCO2e while allowing for reasonable areas of land to be made available for agricultural production. The zoning plan could also foster improved watershed function, and increase habitat quality and quantity.
This letter, signed by George M. Woodwell, Founder and Director Emeritus; R. A. Houghton, Acting Director; Eric Davidson, Senior Scientist; and Daniel Nepstad, Senior Scientist, emphasizes the scientific basis needed for the negotiations in Copenhagen.
This document contains the 2008 and 2009 publications, both peer-reviewed and Center-issued, relevant to the REDD discussions of COP15.