Expand Carbon Sinks by Saving Forests

Target: Dr. Margo Briggs, U.N. Programme Officer, Forestry Dept.

Goal: Improve management of the United Nations’ plan to reduce deforestation and promote reforestation.

Worldwide, over a hundred thousand square kilometers of forest are destroyed every year, devastating global biodiversity and eliminating ancient carbon sinks. As human industry continues to increase, burning fossil fuels and producing carbon dioxide at an unsustainable rate, global carbon sinks have become a hotly debated subject. Researchers at NASA estimate that 45 percent of the carbon stored on land is stored in forests. Though the U.N. has recognized the importance of this issue, their efforts to manage forests are inefficient and in need of updating.

Overseen by the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD), the voluntary REDD+ initiative has grown exponentially over the past decade. REDD+ focuses on heavily forested developing nations at high risk of deforestation and is funded by donor states, the most significant of which is Norway.

According to the U.N., the goal of REDD+ is to “reduce forest emissions and enhance carbon stocks in forests while contributing to national sustainable development.” The organization operates by offering encouragements to participating nations in the form of compensation for carbon stored in forests. Participating governments work internally and with indigenous groups to reduce deforestation and initiate reforestation. The more carbon an area absorbs, the greater the compensation from REDD+.

This idea of using the market to promote environmental progress can be effective if handled correctly, or useless and even damaging if it is done wrong. A strong oversight and checks and balances system is essential to ensuring that governments don’t exploit the program or their own citizens. Indigenous groups and others who rely directly on the affected forests must be responsible for managing the forests on their lands.

Currently, the process of applying for and obtaining REDD+ funding is tedious, complex, and bureaucratic, and local forestry groups rarely have a say. REDD+ must be modified to give local and indigenous groups more power in deciding how to best manage their forests and to ensure that funding is delivered to where it is needed most. In many cases, lax federal governance has caused the bulk of the costs of environmental cleanup to fall unfairly on indigenous groups. These groups must be given a stronger voice under modified REDD+ regulations. Demand that the UN-REDD update current REDD+ policies that are insufficient and mired in bureaucracy.


Dear Dr. Briggs,

We are in a global deforestation crisis that threatens biodiversity, climate patterns, traditional ways of life, and atmospheric conditions. As major sinks of atmospheric carbon, strong and diverse forests are absolutely essential to the wellbeing of the planet and all those living on it. The UN-REDD has worked to create the REDD+ initiative, rewarding nations that reduce deforestation or encourage reforestation by recording changes in that nation’s ability to absorb carbon.

Unfortunately, REDD+ has failed to meet the expectations of many experts. Funding gets tied up in bureaucracy and never reaches the forest communities and indigenous people that are actively making changes. REDD+ must give more authority to these local groups and ensure that their funding is distributed swiftly and fairly.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Matt Zimmerman

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