The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has come up with a draft document on ‘Safeguards Information System for REDD+’ for public comments, a step necessary to access the financial support for REDD+.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation along with the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks collectively is known as REDD+.
It has the potential to deliver significant carbon and non-carbon benefits to the local communities, including alternative livelihoods generation and conservation of natural forests and biological diversity.
This has been an important tool for forest restoration vis-a-vis the targets as promised in India and other countries as per their individual commitments made for reducing emissions to retain the global temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-Industrial era.
The release of the draft document assumes significance at a time when India has been demanding rich nations to loosen purse strings for poorer countries. Moreover, there are less than 50 days to go for the annual climate change conference, the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held at Glasgow from October 31 this year.
Total forest and tree cover of the country is estimated to be 8,07,276 sq km which accounts for 24.56 per cent of the geographical area. The total growing stock of forest and trees outside forest is estimated to be about 5,915.76 million cum of which 4273.47 million cum lies inside the recorded forest area. Total carbon stocks in India’s forests are estimated to be 7,124.60 million tonnes, as per the Forest Survey report of 2019.
India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target for the forestry sector under the Paris Agreement is to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
The government proposes to revamp the Green India Mission to further augment the additional carbon sink in view of India’s NDC targets. India is committed to achieve land degradation neutrality and to restore 26 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030.
“In order to access the financial support for REDD+, India needs to develop the National REDD+ Strategy, Forest Reference Level, National Forest Monitoring System and Safeguards Information Systems. India has already developed the National REDD+ Strategy and Forest Reference Level. Now, ‘Safeguards Information System for REDD+’ has been developed through an extensive stakeholder consultation process,” said the draft document from the MoEF&CC, put up on the Ministry website for public hosting.
One of the important safeguards is: “The actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the actions are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivise the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits.”
India has chosen the theme of ‘sustainable management of forests’ and has accordingly been going ahead with step-by-step requirements, including the Technological Assessment report submitted in 2018.
The catch is that the UNFCCC has warned that the implementation of REDD+ activities “can pose risks on the forests, biological diversity and local communities.” And therefore, to mitigate the risks of REDD+ activities, UNFCCC has adopted a set of seven safeguards.
These safeguards need to be addressed and respected during the implementation of REDD+ activities. Termed as ‘the Cancun safeguards’, these ensure that the REDD+ actions should have a positive impact on the natural forests, biological diversity and local communities.
“As per the Cancun Agreements of UNFCCC, developing country Parties are required to develop a Safeguards Information System (SIS) to report on compliance of the safeguards while implementing REDD+ activities,” the draft document, put out in public domain on September 13, said.
The Ministry has claimed that necessary institutional arrangement has also been devised for the implementation of safeguards information system. In order to address grievances related to application of safeguards in implementation of REDD+ activities, three grievance redressal committees are proposed to be established at national, state, and local levels. Twenty indicators have been identified for collection of information/ data on how Cancun safeguards will be addressed and respected during implementation of REDD+ activities.
The State REDD+ Cells will provide necessary information/ data on REDD+ safeguards to the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India. Further, access of states wise information/ data shall be given to the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) for further compilation, analysis, and interpretation of information/ data at the national level and preparation of the summary of information on safeguards for submission to the NDE-REDD+ at MoEF&CC, Government of India.
Draft of the Safeguards Information System for REDD+ is open for public comments / consultation till October 15, 2021.