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Research Report

Forest Carbon and Local Livelihoods:: Assessment of Opportunities and Policy Recommendations

Joyotee Smith
Sara J. Scherr
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2002
Pages: 56
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. vii-vii)
    Michael Jenkins and David Kaimowitz
  2. (pp. 1-2)

    Some economists have argued that the conservation of tropical forests will be difficult unless people who use these forests are compensated for the environmental services their forests provide to the world community (Pearce 1996). Such compensation could soon become a reality with agreement being reached on the core elements of the Kyoto Protocol at Marrakesh in November 2001. In 1992, Convention on Climate Change was agreed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, to stabilise greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, at a level that would prevent dangerous changes to the climate. To operationalize the convention, a protocol...

  3. (pp. 2-3)

    Natural and planted forest resources are an integral part of the habitat and socio-cultural framework of rural communities (Byron and Arnold 1999). Almost all tropical forests have people living in and around them. By influencing where forests exist, which types of forests exist and who benefits from them, CDM forestry could profoundly impact livelihood strategies.

    The relevance of livelihood issues has a basis in Article 12.2 of the Kyoto Protocol, which specifies that CDM projects should assist host countries in achieving sustainable development (Kyoto Protocol 1997). Although the Kyoto Protocol does not define sustainable development, a basic understanding of the...

  4. (pp. 3-14)

    Diverse types of forest carbon projects (Table 2) could potentially contribute to mitigate climate change through two major strategies. The first major strategy, afforestation and reforestation (AR), helps to mitigate climate change by establishing additional forest cover that sequesters carbon as trees grow, and then stores carbon for the life of the standing trees. The exact definition of AR activities in the CDM for the first commitment period is to be recommended by SBSTA. For the purpose of this paper we assume that the definition for AR agreed in industrial countries presents a plausible indication of the definition that may...

  5. (pp. 14-21)

    In addition to contributing to sustainable development, CDM projects will have to meet certain requirements that distinguish them from conventional forestry projects. How do livelihood-enhancing forest carbon projects compare with others in meeting these criteria?

    Land-use change in the tropics is a net source of carbon to the atmosphere, primarily due to deforestation.⁴ Figure 1 summarises research findings on the carbon sequestered or lost from converting from one land-use system to another in the humid tropics of Brazil, Cameroon and Indonesia. Obviously, the highest level of carbon benefits results from conserving or extending primary rain forest. Annual crops and pastures...

  6. (pp. 21-25)

    At Marrakesh, the SBSTA was given the responsibility of recommending modalities for implementing CDM projects, including their social implications (UNFCCC 2001). The Union of Concerned Scientists (2000) called for sound science-based rules to ensure that CDM forestry projects provide multiple benefits, including socioeconomic benefits, to local communities in developing countries. While the Marrakesh Accords clearly open the door to addressing social concerns, they also lay down specific rules for implementing the sustainable development clause of the CDM. They specify that it is the host country’s prerogative to confirm whether or not a project contributes to sustainable development (UNFCCC 2001). Projects...

  7. (pp. 25-28)

    The principal actors in the CDM are the specific buyers and sellers of carbon emission credits, that is, the external investors and local communities or companies undertaking commitments of carbon emission offsets. However, national governments will play a pivotal role in promoting livelihood-enhancing forest carbon projects, by creating an enabling environment for such projects to develop and providing safeguards to protect the interests of local people. Multilateral and bilateral donors can play a valuable role in financing and providing technical assistance for these national initiatives (Box 9).

    By proactively planning for CDM projects, national or regional governments can reduce the...

  8. (pp. 28-35)

    If private investors and local people are to find mutual benefits in forest carbon projects, a convincing ‘business case’ must be made to both. Project design recommendations made here are based on lessons from past forestry experiences, pilot carbon projects implemented during the Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) phase of the UNFCCC, company-community forestry business partnerships and community-based conservation programmes (Box 11).

    Several decades of experience with large-scale forest protection, plantation and social forestry projects in populated rural areas demonstrates that large, centrally designed and managed projects fail far more often than they succeed. Participatory forest project planning and implementation can...

  9. (pp. 36-37)

    CDM projects could profoundly affect livelihood strategies. Almost all tropical forests have people living in and around them, and forest resources are an integral part of the socioeconomic and cultural milieu in rural areas. The above analysis identifies where the real opportunities and risks of CDM projects lie for rural livelihoods, and the proactive efforts needed at various levels to raise the likelihood of positive impacts.

    Much of the controversity over the social impacts of CDM forestry has centred around large-scale industrial plantations and forest-protection projects, which may indeed pose significant risks for local communities. However, our results show that...