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Most tropical developing countries are struggling to monitor and report their greenhouse gas emissions from forest loss, and will need international support to implement the UN REDD+ scheme, according to a study.  

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme aims to reverse forest cover loss and curb related carbon emissions by putting a financial value on stored carbon.

REDD+ was agreed at Cancun in 2010 and added conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancing forest carbon stocks to the REDD framework.

Countries voluntarily report back on their implementation of REDD+, but many lack the capacity to monitor forest loss and carbon emissions using key technologies such as satellite remote sensing, according to a paper in the May–June issue of Environmental Science and Policy.

The study ranked tropical developing countries according to their ability to implement REDD+, and found that few such countries had improved their monitoring capacity between 2005 and 2010, with some even losing capacity, such as Burkina Faso and Mozambique.

African countries were of most concern, as poor Internet connections and satellite coverage limit access to data. Meanwhile, mountainous countries such as Ecuador and Peru face technical challenges in analysing satellite images in areas with significant variations in altitude.

Just four of the 99 analysed countries — Argentina, China, India and Mexico — had very small capacity gaps. These countries had also managed to increase their total forest cover between 2005 and 2010, unlike countries with larger gaps, where there was a net loss of forests in the same period.

The paper recommends that the former group of countries could serve as advisors in South-South capacity building activities and regional collaboration efforts that could reduce the cost of accessing, processing and analysing remote sensing data.

The international community should invest in better access to satellite data, especially for Central African and American countries, the study further recommended. Monitoring of forest fires and vulnerable high-carbon areas, such as tropical peatland systems in South-East Asia which are being lost to oil palm and pulpwood plantations, was also identified as a priority.

Louis Verchot, a co-author of the study from the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, Indonesia, called for swift efforts to close capacity gaps.

He told SciDev.Net that investment in countries suffering such gaps could yield high returns.

"We laid out the study on a country by country basis, so this should help investors to lay out priorities and help target different types of intervention," Verchot added.

The study provides useful insights on developing a steady emission reduction scheme for REDD+, said Nirarta Samadhi from Indonesia's REDD+ Task Force. He said it highlighted important details about capability gaps that would be valuable to global supporters.

Link to abstract in Environmental Science and Policy


Environmental Science and Policy doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.01.005 (2012)