REDD in Panama

How should REDD work in Panama? The basics are that it should:

  • Be a national system (potentially nested with a definite end for projects);
  • Ensure the majority of the benefits reach those living in the forests.
  • Not count enhanced forest carbon sequestration that comes from plantations (monoculture Teak, Oil Palm).

Why a national system? Independent projects are great, but they will just push the deforestation around the country - leakage, in other words. If these projects are to be included, it should be within a "nested" approach. This means that projects have a set amount of time (between 5-7 years) to merge their project into the national system, or "nest" it.

It still isn't clear who owns the carbon in the trees in Panama, and that will hopefully be determined in the coming years. To be effective, REDD projects will need to foment other income generating activities to replace the income gained from traditional practices. If the government and/or project promoters capture more than 30% of the cash generated from REDD, there won't be sufficient incentive at the local level to stop deforestation.

Now that REDD is REDD+, (the "+" means the countries/projects can get credit for carbon enhancement), we need to make sure that it is not used to support unsustainable forestry practices such as monoculture plantations. There is also the problem of "additionality" because the majority of the plantations are cultivated for the timber, not carbon capture. Sustainable environmental and social practices should be rewarded, not those that eventually leave land worse off and people not participating in an economically positive manner.

Panama just signed onto the Norwegian/French REDD partnership. This is good for Panama because it will help the country move forward in developing the national level systems and laws necessary to financing and knowledge exchange opportunities. It has the opportunity now with the UNREDD funds already approved to move forward and once again be at the forefront of national level REDD.