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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

REDD Champion

Air Date: Week of

Greenpeace's criticism is ill-founded, according to Dan Nepstad. He's executive director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, IPAM International, and he told host Steve Curwood that though REDD has a way to go yet, it's the best game in town to protect the forest and cut carbon.


CURWOOD: But the Greenpeace report didn't go unchallenged; Dan Nepstad defended the California plan in the online magazine Monga Bay. Nepstad is executive director of IPAM International - that's the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. He says REDD at a national level is still a long-term goal but it will be a while in coming.

NEPSTAD: So in the interim while we’re still waiting for this grand global
scheme to come together we’ve got to be very pragmatic and look for any opportunity that we can to get positive recognition and benefits flowing into these states and provinces that have done amazing things in lowering greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

CURWOOD: The Greenpeace report, they call it “Outsourcing Hot Air”, is saying that the sub-national REDD projects won’t actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They say polluters in California, in this case, will still be able to go on polluting.

NEPSTAD: California’s international offset mechanism would actually be the first market mechanism that rewards states and provinces around the world that have already reduced global greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 percent. And they’ve received virtually nothing for that. This is the type of transformation that California’s offset system could leverage, could catalyze. If California drops this piece of its legislation, the chance of procuring these gains, and deepening these gains for the climate and for rain forests will be greatly diminished.

CURWOOD: How does the reduction of emissions, attributed to REDD, compare to what’s happened under the Kyoto Protocol?

NEPSTAD: Believe it or not, even though REDD doesn’t actually have a fully formed international mechanism, we’ve had about one and a half billion tons of emissions reductions just from the states of the Brazilian Amazon. Compared to 1.9 billion tons in the European Union nations that are participating in the Kyoto Protocol. So these states and provinces of the tropical nations have achieved incredible reductions in emissions. 1.5 percent of all of the emissions of human activities released into the atmosphere have been produced, basically, voluntarily by these states and provinces. And it’s this context that preserving this element of international offsets within the California policy, is incredibly important to send the signal to these political leaders that what they’ve done is recognized, and will be rewarded.

CURWOOD: What do you think motivates Greenpeace in its criticism? They use very strong language, and I’m quoting here, that they “risk finite resources on a policy mechanism that will not deliver real benefits for the climate, forests or people, and could even make matters worse.”

NEPSTAD: In my opinion, this report is poorly informed. I think this is a lack of understanding, really, of the processes that it’s criticizing. We do have to be careful with offsets. As we see with the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, some of these mechanisms do not give us climate benefits, they do not really add up to robust reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, even though the money is flowing through these mechanisms and we need watchdog groups like Greenpeace doing just that. In this case, though, I think that they missed the mark.

CURWOOD: Dan Nepstad, what do you think is the real potential of REDD to deliver on its promises to protect rainforests, to preserve biodiversity, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

NEPSTAD: Steve, that’s the quintessential question. We think that REDD is the first step towards a much larger shift in the way that we grow food and livestock and fiber and feed and fuel around the world, that basically retools the economy so that those economic transactions and activities that are eroding the natural capital of the planet, will make less money because we’re building in the environmental externalities into those transactions.

It this recipe, it’s this new development model that we think could eventually, by 2020, reduce emissions by as much as 10 percent. This is, for me, one of the great sources of optimism today.

CURWOOD: Dan Nepstad is Executive Director and Senior Scientist at IPAM International, part of the Amazon International Research Institute. Thank you so much!

NEPSTAD: Thank you very much Steve!



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