The earth’s rainforest and its climate are linked in an intimate way that is often overlooked by those who do not live near the Amazon. Evapotranspiration is a critical part of the earth’s water cycle that combines the processes of evaporation and transpiration of water into the earth’s atmosphere from its surface. Deforestation results in less evapotranspiration, which in turn results in fewer clouds and less rainfall. The communities in and around the rainforest rely on rainfall to survive, and deforestation has proved to be devastating to these groups of people.
In a recent study on the Amazon basin, researchers estimated that by the year 2050 the rainforest will see a 12 percent decrease in “wet-season” rainfall and 21 percent reduction in “dry-season” rainfall if the rate of deforestation in the area remains consistent (Spracklen, 2012). Unfortunately, these effects would impact surrounding ecosystems and communities, and the consequences would be certainly felt globally in the form of environmental problems and a severe lack of sustainable resources.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development that is focused on stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that threaten the earth’s climate (“Article 2: Objective,” 1994). Each year the UNFCCC meets to assess the progress made toward reducing climate change by dealing with greenhouse gas concentrations. One extremely important role the UNFCCC had in global climate control was establishing the Kyoto Protocol. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol legally limited greenhouse gas emissions produced by developing countries. As of 2013, the UNFCCC has 195 countries behind it and has been actively working toward reducing pollution and its roots, which includes deforestation.
One important aspect of the UNFCCC is that all of its members, no matter their geographical location, protect the environment at a national, continental, and global level. While deforestation may be happening on another continent or in another country, it should be addressed with urgency. The UNFCCC makes a point, however, to consider an individual country’s circumstances in its ability to contribute to protecting the earth’s climate. Finally, the UNFCCC is an advocate for the polluter pays principle which states that those who are responsible for producing pollution are also responsible for paying for the consequences of the damage done to the environment (Cordato, 2001).
Many governments and international agencies have undertaken programs in order to influence the debate on global environmental policy. Programs such as REDD+, UNFCC, and other initiatives attempt to influence developing economies into following sustainable methods of economic development. However, this proves difficult as many of these nations see such attempts as Western attempts at perpetuating developing world poverty, and as complete hypocrisy in the wake of the West’s history of pollution and flagrant resource extraction. REDD+ serves to protect critical forested areas within developing countries by creating market values for the ‘services’ provided by these reserves (Tufano, 2011). By assigning a financial value to carbon stores, REDD+ is offering an incentive to developing countries to build sustainable economies. REDD+ goes beyond protecting the environment, and also makes an effort to help indigenous peoples and rainforest-dependent communities (Richards, 2008).
The concerns over REDD+ are that carbon stocks may be purchased and sold regardless of environmental contributions. This kind of behavior might swamp the carbon markets in developing countries and serve as a catalyst to enact protocols that could cripple developing economies. Additionally, the idea of placing value on a forest as if it is a commodity may be considered disrespectful toward indigenous peoples who may have a spiritual connection to a forest (Llanos, 2011). Another con is that those who live in the forests will not ever see revenue from carbon stocks. There is also no agreed upon definition of forest degradation that REDD+ adheres by, thus providing a somewhat unstable foundation for acting as a global officer.
The question of who will finance REDD+ remains unanswered for the most part, however funding initiatives have been set into place for REDD+. Brazil has the most REDD+ funding through the Amazon Fund (Stiftung, 2011). Also, both public and private funding may be beneficial to REDD+ so that both sectors may play a role in its preparation and implementation (Stiftung, 2011).
Cordato, R. E. (2001). The polluter pays principle: a proper guide for environmental policy. In The Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation. Washington, D.C. 3-21. P.1
Llanos, R. E. (2011). The reality of redd in peru: between theory and practice. Forest Peoples Programme. 56 p.4
Richards, M. (2008). Redd, the last chance for tropical forests?. FRR.1-4. P 5
Spracklen, D. V. (2012). Observations of increased tropical rainfall preceded by air passage over forests. Nature,489(7415), 282-285. P6
Tufano, J. (2011). Forests and climate change policy: An analysis of three redd-plus design options. Carbon & Climate Law Review, 5(4). 443-444 P2