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Good forest governance key for climate change schemes

Rome, 23 May 2011

FAO and the World Bank have unveiled a new guidance framework which can help countries assess the governance of their forest resources. The ability to demonstrate good governance in forestry is becoming increasingly important for countries wishing to participate in emerging climate change mitigation schemes.

The framework provides countries with a comprehensive checklist they can use to identify and address problems in governance of forest resources. It can also be used to help ensure that efforts to reduce emissions from forests in developing countries are properly managed.

Generally speaking, governance refers to the laws, institutions, management regimes, policies and social conventions that determine how forests are used and who gets to use them.

Developed by FAO and the World Bank-managed Program on Forests (PROFOR), the "Framework for Assessing and Monitoring Forest Governance" looks at three key components or "pillars" of forest governance — policy, legal, institution and regulatory frameworks; planning and decision-making processes; implementation, enforcement, and compliance — and grades performance in six areas: accountability, effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, participation, and transparency.

"Good governance in forestry determines whether forest resources are used efficiently, sustainably, and equitably," said Eva Muller of FAO's Forestry Department. "This framework outlines a systematic approach that countries and forest managers can use to identify areas of weakness, devise and implement suitable responses, and monitor results."

Nalin Kishor of the World Bank's Forestry Team added: "Through a participatory approach, the framework can identify actions needed for monitoring of financial flows in the sector and equitable sharing of benefits."

Managing forests to temper climate change

Hundreds of millions of rural people depend on forests and trees for their livelihoods and household food security and stand to benefit from improved and more equitable forest management regimes.

At the same time, the sector also holds great potential for sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. Most of these emissions occur in developing countries.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change addresses this problem via an initiative known as "Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation," or REDD+. Under REDD+, developing countries would be offered incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation and to increase carbon sequestration through planting new forests, forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

North-South financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to $30 billion a year, providing a considerable boost for rural development.

Getting REDD+ right

Despite its promise, REDD+ does present some formidable challenges. Unintended disruptions for local communities, fraud and ineffective projects, and corruption and misappropriation of funds have all been cited as possible problems.

"At the last UN Climate Change summit in Cancun, there was basic agreement on the core activities, principles and safeguards that should underpin REDD+," said Peter Holmgren, Director of FAO's Climate, Energy and Tenure Division. "This included the need for systems to provide information on how safeguards are being addressed and respected."

At the same meeting where the FAO-World Bank forestry framework was presented, a similar document focusing on the provision of information on governance issues related specifically to REDD+ was presented by the UN-REDD Programme and Chatham House. Like the forest governance framework, it provides guidance for use by countries looking to ensure and show that REDD+ activities are effectively implemented and governance safeguards addressed.

Though the implementation of REDD+ presents a huge challenge for countries where institutional capacities are weak, it also creates new incentives and opens the possibility for increased support for tackling governance issues, it says.

The international workshop where the two framework documents were presented and discussed was organized by FAO in conjunction with the UN-REDD Programme, Chatham House and the World Bank.

Pilot projects based on the two frameworks are planned in order to test and strengthen them.

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