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Will forestry projects become part of Russia’s climate policy?

The inclusion of forestry projects in Kyoto mechanisms remains a matter of dispute. For Russia this would be one of the least costly, thus very promising ways. Although many NGOs are cautious about the inclusion of forests in climate policy mechanisms, especially as far as methods of emissions volume estimation, the accuracy of carbon sequestration accounting and the threat of monoculture plantations to ecosystems are concerned.

There is a serious risk that a too large share of forestry projects will level down the very aims of the Kyoto protocol by reducing the need of any human-derived effort to reduce the anthropogenic climate impact and develop renewable energy and to let certain countries use just what Mother Nature gave.

On the other hand, since there is already the so-called REDD mechanism that is implying the active involvement of tropical forests in Kyoto mechanisms, then why Russia’s boreal forests and those of other countries are not allowed in?

There are many examples of very negative effects of using forestry projects as Kyoto mechanisms, - says Irina Stavchuk of Climate Action Network of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia,- and no guarantees are given that virgin forests will not be destroyed, will not suffer from insects, will not be cut down or burned and will perform their initially implied duty.

CAN (Climate Action Network) International takes a definite stand against the inclusion of LULUCF projects in Kyoto mechanisms, namely Clean Development Mechanisms aimed at developing countries, in Kyoto’s second commitment period. According to CAN, measures of combating deforestation and forest degradation are crucial, but must be implemented beyond the Kyoto framework.

CAN not only opposes the inclusion of LULUCF activities beyond the existing afforestation and reforestation category in the CDM but also recommends that the structure of the current CDM A/R is revised in advance of the second phase of Kyoto based on these concerns. In addition, the CDM is clearly not the appropriate tool for addressing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (i.e.REDD).

Alexey Kokorin, Head of WWF Russia Climate and Energy programme, says that it is important for Russia to launch forestry projects that cover forest planting as well as sustainable forest management. A project like this is now developed in Primorye Territory by WWF. According to Kokorin, forest is what we are both famous and special for, and special measures should be implemented to include forestry projects in the JI scheme, and to make sure that they also deal with the sustainable use of afforested ex-agricultural lands that we have in abundance.

Trying to get to the root of it, one cannot say that the new Russian climate regulation (The Regulation of September, 15) may give forestry projects a head start. In the document there are no advantages given to forestry or any other type of small-scale projects or those for energy efficiency or renewables development.

RSEU Climate Secretariat would like to emphasize that Russia must implement measures of forest protection. We have already spoken for the accounting of boreal forests in the international climate policy mechanisms. But when it comes to Russian JI projects, we assume that the first thing that needs to be done today is to give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects which have a great potential in Russia, so far used far from its fullest. Sustainable forestry projects are undoubtedly very important for Russia, but considering the difficulties of the JI procedure, no artificial competition should be created between forestry and energy projects.