January 29, 2013

California Debates Implementing Deforestation Partnership for Carbon Offsets

Statement by Doug Boucher

WASHINGTON (January 29, 2013) – Part of California’s statewide cap-and-trade program includes an option for international offsets. One option California is considering is the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation plus pro-forest activities (REDD+) program, which would allow polluters in California to pay for reducing tropical deforestation in developing country provinces. As experts on REDD+, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) offers questions and concerns for California to consider before moving forward with a REDD+ partnership.

The REDD Offset Working Group recently released a report, titled “California, Acre and Chiapas: Partnering to Reduce Emissions from Tropical Deforestation,” that provides a blueprint for what stakeholders would expect REDD+ to look like for California.

Doug Boucher, UCS’s director of Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative and director of climate research and analysis, has been involved with REDD+ policy since it was introduced at the United Nations climate meeting in Bali in 2007. Below is a statement by Boucher:

“As a general concept, REDD+ can reduce emissions. But California must first consider how well-suited a REDD+ program might be in meeting the state’s policy goals to reduce emissions, including economic and pollution reduction co-benefits, and whether such a program is really in the best interests of the state as a whole.

“However, should California proceed with a REDD+ program, the devil is in the details. It is crucial to consider how California could effectively monitor the reduction of deforestation in another country or enforce the terms of the agreement. Sorting out these details is necessary for determining whether the Californian cap-and-trade system can truly reduce carbon emissions.

“It’s also important to consider the risks associated with implementing REDD+ at a state level. One of the biggest risks for California is leakage—meaning that while deforestation emissions are reduced in the international province that California signs a deal with, weak enforcement could allow deforestation operations to move into a neighboring region. Leakage is a problem because the overall emissions aren’t reduced. This problem then brings up questions about governmental enforcement and corruption when choosing a province in another country to partner with and in preventing the spread of deforestation.

“Finally, California should consider the technical issues, such as funding levels, carbon accounting, and measuring the effects of REDD+. These issues will influence the quality of REDD+ offsets.

“Deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of all climate change emission, and thanks to national REDD+ programs in Brazil, Indonesia, and other tropical countries, we’re seeing a decrease in deforestation. It would be great if California could reduce emissions by saving tropical forests—but only if the reductions are real. And there are a number of considerations which must be addressed to ensure that the emissions reductions count.”