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Final Days of Vietnam

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The villagers’ decision to start the inventory in the new year spelled the end of my direct involvement in implementation in Vietnam. My plan to engage with the villagers directly and take portrait pictures that would present the personal side of this foresting situation was stymied by a directive from above: no-one goes to the forest until the new year. The threat of the ethnic minorities rioting around Christmas (and the poor impression the government’s ‘suppression tactics’ might engender) was probably the main motivation for preventing any international personnel from entering the sensitive areas. Writing in 2010, the inventory is presently underway and going well but the preliminary results are as poor as we had feared. The forests in Thon 4 have not only been ravaged by deforestation but also high degradation of what is left.

In the remaining weeks in Vietnam we travelled to Hanoi to meet with other GTZ members working in the Green sector. We presented some of our results for Thon 6, including estimates of the carbon content lost to deforestation and degradation in the last 5 years. The results were shocking. The majority of the carbon lost was through degradation of the forest and not from clear deforestation. This poses a problem, that we demonstrated at the end of the talk, how easy is it to identify where the forest has degraded? It has always been known that monitoring degradation will be important for REDD but it has been considered as a minor effect so that much of the focus continues to be on remote sensing. But if it is not possible to remotely sense degraded forests accurately then there needs to be a shift in technological focus. The picture below compares the most extreme cases of carbon content and illustrates the challenge that faces the monitoring of REDD:

Forests with different carbon contents can be seen from above.

However, this is a very extreme case and there is a lot of carbon to be lost in between!

Along with the issue of enforcement or at least monitoring of the degradation of the forest is the effect on the situation when money from REDD is actually envisaged. For example, will the money be a universally decided value for a tonne of carbon dioxide or will there be different prices for countries with different median incomes? If the universal rate is too low then people in more developed countries will lack the incentive to protect the forest and people in less developed countries will be being paid more than they would be willing to receive to protect the trees. But where do you stop? Should the pricing be based on the per-hectare opportunity cost of not cutting down the trees? Since carbon dioxide is an artificial commodity inasmuch as the price would be set by market change outcome and not according to supply or demand then the price should be the one that reduces the amount of carbon the most without disrupting local markets too greatly. This sounds a lot like a case for opportunity cost based pricing but how would that be regulated? And how would we build that kind of thinking into a forest management approach where the land would not be completely cleared and the cost is the lost timber-sales revenue? These are questions that are not being answered quickly enough.

Written by calumdavey

January 13, 2010 at 11:33 am

Posted in Dak Nong, Vietnam

Tagged with , ,