Humane Society International has been at the
forefront of the campaign to protect biodiversity from dangerous climate change
for nearly fifteen years.
We have worked to see climate change recognised in
law as a key threat to thousands of species and their habitats, seeking urgent
government action. Using a range of state and Federal laws, we have sought to
protect as much wildlife habitat across Australia as possible, so that as
temperatures rise and the needs of each species begins to change, there are
sufficient habitats and corridors available for species to cope.
At international climate negotiations, we have been
pushing hard for a global plan to stop forest destruction and degradation and
all the greenhouse gas emissions that it causes.
We are continually reviewing potential legal
action, seeking to get improved government and industry responses in reducing
greenhouse gas emission
Climate and Forest
The international community is negotiating a new global
agreement to address climate change at the United Nations to take over from the
Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Included in the negotiations is a
mechanism which would give financial incentives to developing countries that
protect their forests and reduce rates of deforestation and forest degradation.
When forests are cut down and burnt all the carbon dioxide
they sequestered over hundreds of years is released back to the atmosphere. In
the last 300 years the destruction of forests and other ecosystems is estimated
to have released between 200 and 250 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere.
In fact deforestation and forest degradation is responsible for a massive
18-25% of annual global carbon emissions, greater than all the world's cars,
trucks and planes combined.
Of course, fewer forests remain to mop up all the excess
carbon dioxide from deforestation, industrial and other sources. Hence, its no
surprise that atmospheric carbon levels have already surpassed 350 ppm, the
level scientists tell us we need to stabilize at to avoid dangerous climate
change and a slew of species extinctions. We simply cannot avoid dangerous
climate change unless we swiftly protect remaining forests and other carbon
rich ecosystems and start to restore lost and degraded forests. Deep cuts in
industrial emissions are also required and we must rapidly shift to low carbon
Unless deforestation stops now in places like Sumatra and
Borneo, we will lose species like the orangutan forever – which, climate change
aside, would be a tragedy all of its own.
In UN parlance the proposed mechanism is dubbed “REDD” which
stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in
Developing Countries. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to finally
generate the financial resources that are needed to tackle deforestation and
save the biodiversity in the world’s remaining forests.
Humane Society International is very active briefing
countries on the design of the REDD mechanism to ensure it will be as effective
as possible at forest protection and restoration, while including safeguards
for biodiversity conservation and the rights of indigenous peoples and local
communities. To that end we are founding members of the Ecosystems Climate
Alliance www.ecosystemsclimate.org which is an alliance of conservation
groups campaigning at the UN to keep forests intact and their carbon out of the
Our concern is that a poorly designed REDD mechanism could
have perverse results. For example, it is vital that REDD funds are prioritised
towards preventing intact forests being opened up to new logging operations and
towards restoring degraded forests. Whereas, many aspirants for REDD funding
want to see it subsidise new logging operations in currently intact forests on
the promise that they wont be as destructive as they might otherwise have been.
That might be so, but such new logging operations will nevertheless degrade
pristine forests and increase carbon emissions and should not be incentivised
with REDD subsidies. It is also important that the definitions for forests are
not manipulated to disguise degradation and deforestation and emissions – for
example by pretending palm oil plantations are forests when the truth is
pristine forests are cleared and burnt to make way for them. See our poster
campaign for definitions: Poster 1
Download (9 MB) / Poster 2 Download (4 MB).
HSI has also been proud to contribute funds to mapping work
to identify carbon and biodiversity hotspots where REDD funds should be
prioritised that has been undertaken by the United Nations Environment Program
World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) www.carbon-biodiversity.net.
The maps will be of interest to developing countries and
donors wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through avoided deforestation
and maximize biodiversity protection at the same time.
United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change - UNFCCC
In 1994 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change came into force and has been ratified by 192 countries. It sets the
overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle climate change.
Most UNFCCC parties have also approved an addition to the
treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005 and has more powerful
and legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a commitment
period between 2007 and 2012.
UNFCCC parties are currently negotiating a new Agreement
with commitments to take effect from 2012. The negotiations began in Bali in
December 2007 where the UNFCCC parties agreed the ‘Bali Road Map’ to set the
parameters for the negotiations, which were intended to conclude in Copenhagen
in December 2009. Thanks to the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, negotiating a
mechanism to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) were
included in the Bali Road Map.
At the 2009 Copenhagen meeting governments failed to
conclude a new binding Agreement but some countries did sign on to a Copenhagen
Accord where they pledged their onward commitments to reduce emissions. In 2011
the negotiations are ongoing for a new binding Agreement.
HSI is engaging with the negotiations to ensure that the
Agreement will include forest protection as part of the global strategy to
mitigate greenhouse gases from 2012. Deforestation and degradation is responsible
for an estimated 18-25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and so it was
extremely regrettable that forest protection was omitted from the Kyoto
HSI supports REDD being included in an international
emission-trading scheme. Dangerous climate change can only be avoided if the
world’s remaining forests are protected and the carbon market offers an
unprecedented opportunity to secure that protection.
However, it is important that the REDD mechanism is well
designed to be successful at reducing greenhouse emissions, to avoid perverse
outcomes and to maximise the co-benefits for biodiversity protection.
HSI is seeking to ensure that the UNFCCC negotiates a REDD
mechanism that will prioritize protection for the world's remaining intact
forests and restoration of degraded forests, while including safeguards for
biodiversity conservation and the rights of indigenous peoples and local
communities. To that end we are working with a coalition of organisations
called Ecosystems Climate AllianceTo maximise biodiversity co-benefits from REDD
initiatives, HSI has been proud to have given a financial contribution to a
project to map biodiversity and carbon hotspots by the United Nations
Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). The maps
will be helpful for countries wanting to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
through avoided deforestation and to maximise biodiversity protection at the
same time. Carbon & Biodiversity PDF
Read more about our climate campaigns at