By Nuru Ahmed

Uganda has become the first African country to submit results for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

REDD+ is a mechanism developed by the parties to the UNFCCC to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The mechanism by the United Nations calls for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

The results submission to the UNFCCC has paved the way for potential results-based payments to the country, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on June 24, 2020.

Results based payments comprise the final REDD+ phase. It provides financial incentives to developing countries that prove they stopped deforestation during a certain period of time. This is done through rigorous UN-backed technical evaluations.

Uganda claimed it reduced emissions by 8,070,694 tonnes of carbon dioxide for 2015-2017 in a document prepared by its Ministry of Water and Environment, the REDD+ Secretariat and National Forestry Authority.

Arresting deforestation

The REDD+ results showed deforestation reduced to 28,095 hectares (ha) per year over a two-year result period (2015-17) from a 50,147 ha per year average over a 15-year reference period (2000-15).

This meant 44 percent reduction in the country’s rate of deforestation annually between 2015 and 2017, compared to estimates for 2000-15 and the protection of 20,052 ha every year on an average during 2015-2017.

These estimates were drawn on data collected by the National Forest Authority.

One concern was that Uganda’s forested area could have disappeared within the coming century, if deforestation was not reigned in.

The country’s forest cover had depleted to 8 percent from 24 percent in the 1990s, largely attributed to human encroachment, for charcoal, timber and agriculture.

The document submitted by the government will help Uganda receive funds through the Green Climate Fund’s forest conservation scheme.

Brazil, which received $96.5 million under the results-based payments, was the first recipient country.

Mabira, Uganda

REDD+ in Uganda

In Uganda, the REDD+ program forms a part of the country’s National Climate Change Policy that aims for a harmonised and coordinated approach towards a climate-resilient and low-carbon development path for sustainable development.

The country had launched its REDD+ programme in 2013. In 2017, Uganda presented its first forest reference emission level of historical average emissions from deforestation between 2000 and 2015 as required under measurement, reporting and verification for REDD+ activities.

The REDD+ strategy, launched in 2017, included developing plans and options for forest management to reduce carbon emissions and maintain valuable ecosystem services such as biodiversity, water supply, soil protection and wealth creation for sustainable livelihoods.

The Government of Uganda then decided to assess the country’s performance in reducing emissions for 2015-17 and to further improve estimates of forest change and associated emission factors.

Significant for Africa

The submission of the results are a significant development on REDD+ for Africa, said FAO.

This will encourage other African countries to reduce carbon emissions by decreasing deforestation and forest degradation.

Achieving REDD+ results in the continent is challenging, as there are other development priorities — with agriculture, mining, energy and forestry — driving deforestation, according to the FAO.

Africa had the greatest annual rate of net forest loss, at 3.9 million ha, across the world in this decade. The rate of net forest loss also increased in Africa from 1990 till this year, according to the FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020.

Supporting African countries through all three REDD+ phases — readiness, implementation and result-based actions — by providing tools and analysis of how to design, implement and measure the results of REDD+ action is key to reversing these trends. This will, in turn, position Africa as the forest champion of the next decade, said FAO.

Uganda is endowed with natural forests like Mabira, Kalinzu, Budongo, Bugoma, Busitema and many other forest reserves.