Reversing deforestation – which accounts for up to 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is central to combatting climate change. Yet forest conservation poses a complex problem in developing countries, where governments must balance the need to protect forests with the needs of local people who rely on forest resources.
Tanzania is a prime example of this challenge. While forests cover 40% of the total land area, it is estimated that 36 million people, or 80% of all Tanzanians, live in rural areas where agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Additionally, 93% of the country’s energy is supplied by charcoal and firewood, typically for cooking and lighting. Any effort to curb deforestation must also safeguard against potential risks to these populations and their livelihoods.
REDD+ programs aim to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, while delivering co-benefits such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.
Since 2010, the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) Forestry Program has worked in collaboration with the government of Tanzania and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance to develop REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards that measure and assess the impact of REDD+ programs in developing countries. These standards are a crucial step in enhancing positive outcomes and safeguarding against potential risks of REDD+ programs – in particular towards indigenous peoples’ rights and values and fragile ecosystems.
In addition to measuring and assessing the impact of REDD+ programs, the new standards evaluate and monitor the performance of REDD+ implementation in the field. They are derived from internationally accepted principles and guidelines, but tailored to Tanzania’s specific context. To this end, they take into account national policies and laws regulating forests as well as communities’ close relationships and interests in forest resources. They appreciate that the needs and interests of forest dependent communities are many and varied, and emphasize that they must be valued and respected through any REDD+ program.
The Clinton Climate Initiative is recognized as a leader in Tanzania for working hand in hand with government and communities to develop the REDD+ national safeguards system. One recent workshop hosted by CCI in May 2012 included representatives from other countries working on developing their own REDD+ safeguards systems, including Ecuador, Nepal, Brazil, DR Congo, Guatemala, Mexico, Liberia and Indonesia. In Indonesia, for example, CCI has been active at both the national and sub-national level, working to integrate a REDD+ safeguards system that was adapted for Central Kalimantan province into a national framework. Discussions on what has or has not worked in developing safeguards in these different countries helped inform workshop participants on new approaches they could apply to their work.
As REDD+ programs continue to be developed in Tanzania, it is important that we have a system of safeguards in place to ensure that they are bringing the benefits promised. The REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards are one way to do this, and if implemented successfully, have the potential to bring about drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, while also improving the livelihoods of Tanzania’s indigenous communities and the health of its forest ecosystems.