UN helps launch forest monitoring system to tackle climate change

Eroded and deforested slopes in Jamaica's Blue Mountains

20 October 2009 – A new and free way to monitor the size and health of forests through satellite data and help curb greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation has been launched by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and its partners.

“Never before have data of this kind been provided directly to users in developing countries,” said FAO Director General Jacques Diouf. “Monitoring will be cheaper, more accurate and transparent for countries that want to participate in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”

The new system delivers data for 13,000 locations and provides tools for their interpretaSustainable forest management can create jobs and protect the livelihoods of indigenous people and local communitiestion.

Nearly 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined – result from deforestation and degradation of forests, and plans to slash these emissions are expected to be a component of the new climate change agreement that is set to be reached by nations in December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a cash injection to jump-start progress on the UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) initiative aimed at combating climate change through creating incentives to reverse the trend of deforestation.

“Sustainable forest management can create jobs and protect the livelihoods of indigenous people and local communities,” he added, addressing the high-level gathering with 70 governments represented, including 14 heads of State and senior ministers, on the fringes of the General Assembly’s annual General Debate.

UN-REDD – launched last September by Mr. Ban in collaboration with the FAO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – compensates developing countries for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

But many issues must be solved before UN-REDD can work, FAO stressed.

One such challenge is the need for measurement, reporting and verification systems of carbon to ensure that carbon accounting and payments are carried out transparently.

“National monitoring systems must be enhanced, not just looking at carbon dynamics but also measuring multiple benefits of UN-REDD and drivers of deforestation,” said Peter Holmgren, FAO’s climate change focal point.

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