Features & Commentary
Ecuador: taking firm steps towards REDD
by Marco Chiu, Advisor of the Undersecretary of Natural Patrimony
|Marco Chiu |
Due to the relatively high rate of deforestation in Ecuador (1,46% per year) the current Government has decided to set actions designed to reduce deforestation as a high priority. Thus, the National Development Plan, designed under the leadership of the National Planning Office (SENPLADES), has set up stopping deforestation as one of its main objectives. This way, the Ministry of Environment has assumed the challenge to reduce deforestation and is proactively taking innovative measures to reduce deforestation.
Traditionally, command and control measures have been applied for forestry control, but on September 2008 the Ministry of Environment launched its Socio Bosque Program (PSB). Socio Bosque is the implementation of an incentive-based policy that provides an economic incentive to land owners who voluntarily decide to protect their forest. Socio Bosque aims at preserving native forests and other native ecosystems and thereby protecting their enormous ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual values. Secondly, it aims at a significant reduction of deforestation and its associated emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Finally, it aims at increasing human well being by providing financial resources to the poorest people in rural areas.
The Programme is fully financed by public funds. However, in order to accomplish the goals of the Programme, additional funds will be needed. Therefore, the Ministry of Environment decided to explore additional sources of funding. One of the alternatives taken seriously by the Ministry is REDD. Inspired by the Socio Bosque Programme, the Ministry decided to start taking actions to prepare the country for participating in a scheme such as REDD.
The Ministry started by identifying the elements that constitute a National REDD Strategy. Many of those elements include actions already implemented in the country, but many of those actions might need to be expanded. Other elements have been identified taking as a reference the international discussions around REDD. Thus, the Ministry of Environment has defined actions to be implemented in order to implement a National REDD Strategy, at least in the following areas: forestry control, management information systems, GHG monitoring system (MRV), land tenure regularization in forestry areas, sustainable management of forests, aforestation and reforestation activities, legal and institutional framework, and Socio Bosque.
Socio Bosque is an important element of the strategy. Besides constituting the implementation of a domestic incentive-based policy to tackle deforestation, it offers a clear and transparent mechanism for delivering benefits to local communities, including indigenous peoples. The mechanism has benefitted over 20,000 people and has included in conservation agreements over 300,000 hectares of forest and other native vegetation ecosystems since September 2008. The expectation is to expand the Programme in terms of area of conservation and number of beneficiaries.
Another relevant element which is a priority at the moment is setting up a legal and institutional framework to regulate REDD activities in the country. Taking into account some new legal instruments being developed in Ecuador to assist the development of environmental actions, a new framework needs to be designed and implemented to regulate environmental services in Ecuador. Such a frameworks will also assist the development of REDD activities in the country. The expectation is to develop a full framework in the course of year 2010. This activity must complement the already existing incentive policy put in place through the Socio Bosque Program. Notably, the structure of rights (i.e. over the land) must be clarified in this process, as well as a benefit-sharing scheme which has to be fair to the local communities.
In regard to the implementation of an information system, there are two projects being carried out at the moment by the Ministry of Environment to provide input for such system. One is the development of a National Forest Inventory, in technical cooperation with FAO. The project aims at characterizing the current situation of the forestry sector in Ecuador as well as to provide key information for REDD, such as the carbon content in different types of forest in the country. The second project is the definition of the Reference Scenario of Emissions by Deforestation. This project counts with the technical support of regional experts and includes an historical analysis of deforestation through a multi-temporal land use change analysis, using remote sensing. For the two projects a methodological protocol is currently in advanced phases of design. For 2010, the expectation is to collect data and to run the appropriate analysis.
Delivering social and environmental benefits through the implementation of Socio Bosque and REDD activities in the country is a priority for the Ministry of Environment. Socio Bosque aims at preserving native ecosystems in the country as well as increasing the well-being of the population. For the Ministry of Environment it is relevant that REDD activities similarly deliver both: social and environmental benefits. With regard to the second objective, a work program has been initiated in partnership with the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance to develop and implement the “REDD+ Standard” for national REDD initiatives. A set of principles, criteria, and indicators have been proposed. Currently, external consultations are being carried out. Two workshops were held in Ecuador on October 2009 to receive feedback from civil society, including indigenous communities, about the set of proposed principles, criteria, and indicators. For the beginning of 2010, the final version of the standard will be launched and a second phase of the work program will follow to include a national interpretation of the standard, pilot implementation, and the definition of a National Standard Committee.
Despite the tremendous progress made so far, there are still many aspects to be worked out before implementing REDD activities in Ecuador. An overall economic assessment for REDD is still needed as well as the development of a (MRV) GHG monitoring system. In the same way, a National Registry and Reporting System need to be put forward, as well as outreach, among others.
Ecuador is committed to demonstrating that REDD can deliver sound environmental and social benefits if designed properly, at the same time that reducing deforestation in tropical forests, within which the most relevant areas for biodiversity conservation are located. Mr. Chiu is the Government of Ecuador’s Advisor of the Natural Patrimony Undersecretary at the Ministry of Environment. He started working with the Government in 2008 with the team that designed the Socio Bosque Program and later became the UNFCCC negotiator for Ecuador and took part in designing Ecuador’s National REDD Strategy. Mr Chiu started his career in 1997 as a technician for characterizing water resources in tropical ecosystems. Later, he worked at an Ecuadorian NGO named EcoCiencia where he was involved in projects related to conservation of biodiversity, from the definition of policies to the implementation of specific conservation strategies on the ground. Then, he worked at ECOLEX (an Environmental Law NGO) where he started complementing biodiversity conservation measures with planning strategies designed to be implemented in local governments. Finally, he worked in 2004 and 2005 at two Seattle based NGOs where he was involved in projects designed to apply measures for habitat restoration in the first NGO and project management, information management, and fund-rising activities in the second NGO. Mr. Chiu studied Geography and Environmental Studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito, and hold a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science from Lund University in Sweden.
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