COP19: RoadFree Initiative challenges REDD+ to keep roads out of intact forests

November 22 2013

COP19: RoadFree Initiative challenges REDD+ to keep roads out of intact forests

Warsaw, November 22: While REDD+ negotiations achieved a breakthrough at the COP19 in Warsaw, scientists and policy makers gathered at the RoadFree side event [1] to demonstrate that forest protection can be more effective by prioritizing REDD+ funding towards roadfree forests.

Scientists and representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament exposed the destructive effects of roadbuilding on forest’s ecosystems and livelihoods. The speakers insisted on the urgency of keeping forests free of roads, while stressing that this is also a time and cost-efficient way to protect biodiversity and the climate. Special emphasis was also given to alternative solutions to roadbuilding and transport infrastructures in rainforest regions.

Michael Bucki, from the European Commission DG-Climate commented " The EU welcomes the breakthrough on REDD+. Parties have adopted a package of seven decisions that outline a workable architecture for REDD+, from monitoring to finance, from coordination to socio-economic safeguards. This could set a blueprint and a precedent for more sustainable use of land. Roadfree forests underline the necessary trade-offs and synergies between REDD+ and rural development. As the Environment Minister of Norway put it, REDD+ shall not be an alternative to development, it helps a choice towards alternative, more sustainable development pathways."

Sadia Ahmed from Microsoft Research Cambridge and Imperial College London, is lead author of the recent study “Temporal patterns of road network development in the Brazilian Amazon” [2], she reminded: “Road development is often the initial stage of industrial development, access to remote areas for colonisation, agriculture development, resource extraction. It’s also the first stage of deforestation and forest degradation. If we hope to protect forests, one of the most pragmatic approach is to moderate the development of roads that open access to forest frontiers.”

On the question of Environmental Impact Assessments, Pitou van Dijck [3] from the Centre for Latin American Research, Amsterdam, stated: “most environmental assessments focus on the impact of one selected road and by doing so, miss the much larger impacts. It is the combination of roads in an area that results in fragmentation, extinction of fauna and flora, reduced humidity, and increases risk of fire, drying out. Such impacts remain out of sight in studies that focus on impacts of one road only.”

Member of the European Parliament Kriton Arsenis welcomes the adoption of the REDD+ package by the COP19, noting that: “The REDD+ package announced today closes eight years of discussions and work and this COP should be remembered as the forests COP. Parties have reached important conclusions on sticky points such as reference levels and the Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying (MRV) of REDD+ activities.”

He added: “this is a strong signal for the protection of roadfree forests that came just weeks after the European Parliament decided to allocate 1,2 m Euros for research and a pilot project aimed at further identifying the benefits of prioritizing REDD+ funding to roadfree forests [4]. The challenge ahead will be to include the land factor (mitigation and adaptation of forests and agriculture) in the 2015 agreement.”

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 [1] RoadFree COP 19 side event: Get REDD+ Right by Keeping Forests Free of Roads roadfree-cop-19-side-event-get-redd-right-by-keeping-forests-free-of-roads

[2] Sadia E. Ahmed, Carlos M. Souza Jr., Júlia Riberio, Robert M. Ewers. Temporal patterns of road network development in the Brazilian Amazon Regional Environmental Change. October 2013, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 927-937

[3] Pitou van Dijck is the author of the book The Impact of the IIRSA Road Infrastructure Programme on Amazonia (March 2013), Earthscan from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

[4] European Parliament backs the protection of roadfree areas