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Forest carbon credits could help development in Congo

USA – An initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering carbon credits to countries that reduce deforestation may be one of the best mechanisms for promoting sustainable development in Central Africa says a remote sensing expert from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC).

Dr. Nadine Laporte, an associate scientist with WHRC who uses remote sensing to analyze land use change in Africa, says that REDD could protect forests, safeguard biodiversity, and improve rural livelihoods in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other Central African nations.

“REDD is perhaps the most promising way to protect forests in much of the tropics, including all the central African countries,” Laporte told mongabay.com. “Carbon credits represent the largest potential flow of revenue to support sustainable development in tropical forest regions, particularly because most of the ecological services provided by these ecosystems (biodiversity, hydrology, sustenance of forest peoples, etc) do not have strong mechanisms to promote their conservation.”
But Laporte cautions that REDD is not a stand-alone solution for development in DRC — it must be integrated into a national program involving the country’s emerging industrial sectors. Further REDD will require improved monitoring and governance capacity to be implemented successfully.

“It is necessary to reinforce national capacity to monitor forests and identify the best alternatives to reduce degradation and deforestation, despite wide variation between regions and types of land use,” she said. “Moreover, most people in the DRC, for example, rely on fuel wood for their energy needs. As such, it is important to develop REDD programs in synergy with the forest, agriculture and energy sectors.”

Laporte says that remote sensing can help the effort by identifying where and why deforestation is occurring; the suitability of land for different types of uses including agriculture; and the carbon stocks of forests. Recently Laporte has used satellite imagery to map the potential for REDD and assess the extent of logging roads in some of the most remote parts of the Congo Basin. In conjunction with the remote sensing, Laporte also works on the ground, training people in central African countries to use satellite remote sensing for forest mapping and monitoring. She engages a wide range of stakeholders including scientists, conservation groups, government forestry departments, forest peoples, and logging firms.