Fiji REDD policy scoping workshop
Thursday, 24 September 2009 00:00
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed the vulnerability of small island states to the effects of climate change. Extreme weather events that may be linked to climate change, such as floods, droughts, cyclones and accompanying waves and tidal surges are already impacting communities globally, as well as in the Pacific region. For Pacific Island countries, these natural hazards and rising sea levels pose serious challenges that cannot be wished away. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns will affect yields and the species and varieties of crops. More extreme rainfall patterns could result in production losses due to heat stress, drought conditions, increased flooding of river catchments and soil erosion.

The Fiji National REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) policy scoping workshop held in September 2009 considered a draft REDD policy statement for Fiji Islands. A REDD framework for Fiji will need to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Workshop participants represented stakeholders in forestry, environment, agriculture and land use, provincial development, culture and heritage, and indigenous affairs, as well as landowners. The workshop included thematic sessions on policy-related aspects and carbon monitoring.

Currently REDD is a controversial issue in climate change circles. In the recent United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF-8) meeting in New York, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) emphasised the development of a REDD mechanism within the context of a sustainable forest management (SFM) regime and delivered the statement, ‘we want to reiterate the region’s vulnerability to impacts of climate change and that we welcome the ongoing work at UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] and other fora to address the issue including the consideration of REDD as an important mitigation mechanism in developing countries. However, we need to recognise that it should not be seen as an alternative to SFM but rather a component of it.’ This statement is in support of the Fiji Islands’ national communication to the UNFCCC secretariat, which considers SFM to be the basis for all mitigating strategies

A REDD regime will need to ensure that the rights of resource owners are protected and that the services provided by their forests are enhanced in terms of financial, environmental and social benefits. This workshop is the beginning of a consultative process for the development of a national REDD strategy that strives to be conducive to the sustainable development of resource owners and the country whilst effectively reducing carbon emission

Agriculture conversion was identified as a major cause for deforestation in Fiji. Other main causes included forest clearance for settlement (mainly coastal forests) and clear felling of plantations. Initiatives addressing the drivers of forest-based carbon emissions will need to be supported and strengthened. The monitoring of carbon is an essential component of REDD and the IPCC guidelines for land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions call for regular and consistent monitoring of carbon stocks, area and changes in the area of forestland, and other land uses.

Dr Ian Payton of Landcare Research in New Zealand discussed carbon inventory methodologies and processes. Inventory methodologies to improve carbon stock estimates of native forests and planted forests cover the above-ground live pool, below ground pool, dead wood and litter pools, and soil organic matter.

A key issue in forest carbon monitoring is ‘forest area change’, as this is an indicator of change in carbon pools. Remote sensing is a tool to detect and assess forest area change. Dr Martin Herold of GOFC/GOLD (Global Observation for Forest and Land Cover Dynamics), an international expert on this subject provided insights on international requirements and procedures and the approaches that can be taken to assess deforestation and forest degradation.

Accurate, robust and reliable information is critical not only for any future REDD regime but for current UNFCCC greenhouse gas reporting as well
A gap analysis on the carbon monitoring capacities in Fiji revealed the need for more consistent and verifiable data and the need for all stakeholders to contribute to the land, land use change, and forestry data. Datasets will be gathered from forest inventories, land use assessments, agriculture surveys, forest plantation records, land development records and others and compiled in a common format for analysis. Furthermore, there is a need to develop the capacities of relevant technical persons and a standard monitoring and inventorying procedure will need to be established to ensure consistent and accurate measurement and to enable comparative assessments.

The workshop was organised by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), in close collaboration with SPC, the Fiji Forestry Department and the Fiji Department of Environment.