Essay: REDD in the red

REDD is short for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries. After developed countries highly developed their economy, global warming, forest conservation and biodiversity become the main topics they concerned about, and, a blame to poor countries in politics, which reminds me of that famous book our common future, which is full of criticizing about developing country’s environmental duties. The truth is that industrialized countries should be more responsible to global warming; equally, they should take responsibility of carbon abatement. Fortunately, scientists have worked on this field, trying to find an efficient solution instead of politician’s obscure conspiracy. This paper is a good example.

The two main functions that people think forests in tropical area can apply are carbon storage and species biodiversity keeper. Since most countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol, and the biodiversity is hard to measure, carbon market is an advisable solution. The problem is, how can we find a proper price for keeping forest as a carbon storage? I remember one scientist said that “When you educate,just tell them how to make money”. People, no matter rich or poor, as a human nature, will only do things can get benefit. So if they can earn more from palm trees, there is no reason for them to protect old forests instead of cultivating palm trees. It is easy to understand higher the money we pay for forest protecting, better the effects we get in ecosystem. But, obviously, the money we pay for forest protecting has upper limit, which could not violent obstruct economic development.

Lian Pin Koh and Rhett A.Butler, they analyze the different benefits from two opposite sides: cutting down forests to palm trees or restoration. The first one is converting forests for palm oil production. They assume that forest-to-oil palm conversion rate is 1,250 ha per year, the output range from 17 tons/ha to 20.5 tons/ha and varies as time. Consider the 21% and 5% of CPO and PK from FFB production, they use the CPO price from World Bank and assume two different scenarios. These are the profit, then the costs are things like setup costs, annual operations costs, etc. The other side is reducing deforestation and forest degradation. They assume 10,000 forest to be protected, and preserve the forest will avoid 5.46 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Two approaches, the equal allocation model and the front-weighted allocation model, have been used to arrange carbon credit allocation. And then they modeled the operating profit under five carbon pricing scenarios using forward prices of carbon derivatives traded in either voluntary or compliance markets. At last they get a conclusion quite rough, the NPV ranging from $ 3,835 to $ 9,630 per hectare over a 30-year period.

What’s more, to carry out REDD must face many problems which are hard to be solved. My first consideration is that if this prediction is too rough, how can you suppose it is useful for future land use management. We all understand that international oil market changes unpredictably, as this paper mentioned, the price they used is the average carbon price from January 2006–November 2008. Such a short period average price is not enough for 30 years long run prediction. The second question is that as a model, as Professor Rhett D. Harrison told me at BBQ night, should not only be built out then put into actual use. The definition and accuracy of a model must be tested by existing data then can be used to predict future. May this REDD model be tested by next 3 or 4 years price data then carry out. The third problem, which bothers me most, is that how to carry this REDD policy out concretely. As you take this forest area into Kyoto Market, although this certain area has been protected, local farmers will definitely cultivate another nearby forest into palm oil, which means your process is useless.

Fortunately, these uncertainties have not affected the main conclusion of this paper: to improve the long-term economic prospects of REDD, the mechanism will need to be elevated to Kyoto-sanctioned status. This is also a significant reference for us to find a solution for the likely situation of Xishuangbanna’s dramatically improving rubber plantation. China is not so interested in palm oil plantation, but rubber. As Hongmei Li showed in Demand for rubber is causing the loss of high diversity rain forest in SW China, from three image data in 1976, 1988 and 2003, the most obvious change was forest decreasing and rubber plantation’s increasing, which affects the biodiversity and ecosystem services badly. But to be honest, I don’t think REDD could run in China, because of China’s sensitive land ownership that I could not like and also can not talk about. However, the idea of trading forest as a carbon store, which is protecting forest by economic methods still needs us to learn from. And, as many ecosystem services mentioned in Impact of land use and land cover changes on ecosystem services in Menglun, Xishuangbanna, Southwest China, we could try to quantify other ecosystem services, such as soil erosion and watershed protection, instead of trading carbon store in Kyoto Market. I understand because of the Kyoto Market’s existence, trading carbon store could be possible, which means there must be a soil market or water market then trading could work. So the next step for Xishuangbanna’s land management is to measure the future rubber profit for local people, and then try to find an another quantify market for one certain of all elements in forests.

About the REDD in the red, you can download from here: REDD in the red.

This is author’s website: Dr. Lian Pin Koh.

4 thoughts on “Essay: REDD in the red

  1. yaleon

    看到月报里的REDD就觉得好像听到Lian Pin Koh念REDD的声音,过来一看,果然如此……在昆明听了Lian Pin Koh的报告,哈哈


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