Failing Forests: The World Bank’s flagship REDD+ programme ten years on

December 11, 2017


More than a dozen environmental NGOs have today written to the World Bank to call for the suspension of its flagship programme to reduce emissions from tropical deforestation and degradation (REDD+) on its tenth anniversary, expressing concern that the programme has not yet prevented a single gram of forest carbon from entering the atmosphere.

The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) was formally launched at the 2007 UN climate conference in Bali with the aim of establishing a market-based system for paying developing countries to prevent carbon emissions from forest loss. The governments of Norway, UK and Germany along with other donors have committed more than US$1.1 billion to the FCPF.

However, the NGOs state in the letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim that the programme cannot point to a single tree that it has saved over the past decade.

Moreover, they say that forest preservation efforts through REDD+ programmes are hitting the poorest hardest, highlighting increased reports of human rights abuses against indigenous peoples as a result of conflict over carbon rights or heavy-handed conservation enforcement.

In addition to environmental and social concerns, the NGOs state that the economic rationale for the FCPF, and of REDD+ more generally, is falling apart. This is mainly due to little interest in the carbon markets that the FCPF is meant to kick-start, as well as low carbon prices which are inadequate to incentivise the scale of forest protection required.

Despite all this, the FCPF has spent tens of millions of dollars on administration costs over the past decade that could have instead directly funded forest protection measures.

The NGOs fear that growing pressures on the FCPF to ‘show results’ could lead to the Bank and its investors pushing ahead with the generation of ‘forest carbon credits’ that could turn out to be fraudulent or implicated in the abuse of local peoples’ rights in tropical forests.

Simon Counsell, Executive Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, said:

“Rather than propping up poorly-designed and grossly inefficient REDD+ programmes such as the FCPF, the international community should instead focus its efforts on supporting indigenous peoples and other traditional forest dwellers to secure legal rights to their lands. Empowering those on the frontline is now generally accepted as the most effective forest conservation strategy”.

The full letter to the World Bank is available here.

Updated (19 Jan 2018): The World Bank has since shared a response to the above letter, available here.

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