Globally, around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, water, fuel, shelter and income. Some 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests. At the same time, forests absorb and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas driving climate change.
In conflict-affected areas, availability and access to forest resources can either make conflict worse or contribute to peace. If you accept the case, as many do, that the impacts of climate change make it harder to build peace, there is also a compelling argument that mitigating climate change by reducing deforestation could offer a significant peace dividend, depending on how it is done.
Yet despite the importance of forests to both climate change mitigation and peace, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. Every year about 13 million hectares (roughly the size of Portugal) are being destroyed.
To combat deforestation and preserve forests as carbon sinks, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2005 introduced a mechanism called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
Under REDD, more developed countries pay for programmes in less developed countries to preserve forests. Later a 'plus’ was added to REDD introducing the elements of conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forests as carbon sinks.
The financial dimensions are significant. For example, Norway as the biggest contributor has pledged over $1.4 billion to REDD+ funds. Most of the money targets Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. For Indonesia alone, $156 million of REDD+ funding has been approved.
From a peacebuilding perspective, REDD+ and other efforts to promote sustainable forest management offer both peace opportunities and conflict risks. The peace opportunities associated with REDD+ are wider recognition of the multiple economic, social and cultural values of forests and a strengthening of the rights of local communities that depend on the forest. Poverty may also be reduced if the financial benefits of REDD+ are shared, and income opportunities created for local residents, who may work as forest monitors and guards.
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