Roadmap developed for new regional programme on climate protection through forest conservation

Deforestation and forest degradation account for 17 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Although Pacific Island countries (PICs) contribute very little to emissions, the larger forested PICs can play an important role in reducing global carbon emissions. There are opportunities for these countries to benefit financially from maintaining and establishing forest areas to mitigate climate change through a REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) carbon financing mechanism. The sustainable management and conservation of forest areas for climate change mitigation will also have ecological, social, cultural and economic benefits.

At the 2009 Pacific Regional Heads of Forestry Services (HOFS) meeting in Nadi, Fiji Islands, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) member countries and territories called for the development of regional and national policies and institutional frameworks for the implementation of REDD and capacity development in this sector. In response to the HOFS recommendations, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), in partnership with SPC, secured funding support from the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety for a regional project titled 'Climate protection through forest conservation in the Pacific Island countries'. The project will have funding of EUR 4.9 million over a four-year period from November 2010 to the end of 2014 and will address REDD+, which includes conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in addition to deforestation and forest degradation.

The regional component will cover all SPC member countries and territories, but national activities will focus on three countries with large forest cover: Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomons Islands and Vanuatu. Fiji Islands is currently supported under the existing SPC/GTZ Programme on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region.

The new regional project identifies three main objectives: 1) the development of a regional REDD+ policy, 2) the establishment and utilisation of a regional REDD+ information and support platform, and 3) supporting Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands in the REDD+ readiness process.

A three-day regional inception workshop on 22-24 November 2010 in Suva, Fiji Islands, provided the opportunity for participants from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, PNG, and Fiji Islands to draft a roadmap and preliminary plan of operation for the regional programme. Participants included heads of forestry; senior officers from the forestry, environment, policy, and planning sectors; non-governmental organisations; donor agencies and regional organisations. The workshop identified the main outputs and activities for the three main objectives of the project. Sharing of information and capacities amongst PICs was strongly recommended, with efforts to be coordinated by SPC.

At the end of the workshop, participants expressed their appreciation for what they described as a great learning experience. Participants said they had learnt a lot from the workshop and particularly from the opportunity to share experiences with fellow Pacific Islanders. The Under Secretary of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Forests, Mr Gordon Konairamo, said that PICs should be proud for being proactive and aggressively driving the REDD process forward.

The workshop was supported and organised by SPC and GTZ. The workshop facilitators were Dr Sean Weaver (REDD policy expert), Dr Martin Herold (REDD measuring, reporting and verification [MRV] expert) and Dr Ian Payton (REDD MRV expert). The regional project will be coordinated through the SPC Land Resources Division (LRD).