South Africa's national REDD+ initiative: assessing the potential of the forestry sector on climate change mitigation

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Environmental Science and Policy

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University of Cape Town

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+) is regarded by its proponents as one of the more efficient and cost effective ways to mitigate climate change. There was further progress toward the implementation of this mechanism at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP) in Cancun in December 2010. Many countries in southern African, including South Africa, have not been integrated (do not participate) into the UN-REDD+ programme, probably due to their low forest cover and national rates of deforestation. This paper discusses the potential contribution of REDD+ activities to the South African Government's pledge of reducing national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 34% below business as usual by 2020. A number of issues such as complex land tenure system, limited forest cover and other conflicting environmental issues present challenges for REDD+ in South Africa. Despite these genuine concerns, REDD+ remains a practical strategy to contribute to climate change mitigation for South Africa. The paper raises the need for development of a variety of emission reduction programmes – not only in the energy sector. The paper also assesses several national options and opportunities towards a working REDD+ mechanism. It concludes by identifying key mechanisms for moving forward to prepare for REDD+ actions in South Africa and raises the urgent need for national dialogue between stakeholders and institutions to evaluate the feasibility of making use of the mechanism in South Africa and the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) region. The paper further addresses possible synergies and conflicts between the national climate change and forestry policies towards REDD+ development. It suggests that REDD+ should be part of the national dialogue on policy to respond to climate change and should be integrated into the national flagship programmes that the national climate change white paper seeks to implement. A multiple-benefit REDD+ initiative for South Africa can benefit from these international financial initiatives. It is anticipated that this initiative will provide a platform to enhance policy, institutional and technical stakeholder capacities to access financial incentives that may lead to sound environmental practises.