Thailand’s floods: Community forestry can respond to an uncertain climate future

Community forestry can meet both climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives, says RECOFTC Program Officer Jim Stephenson

Flooding in Ayutthaya

Flooding in Ayutthaya, Thailand. Photo credit: People’s Daily Online

Bangkok, Thailand, 26 October 2011: For more than a month, the Northern and Central plains of Thailand have been devastated by the worst floods in half a century. Parts of Bangkok are now underwater as the government declares a national disaster, and residents are preparing for the worst.  All around Southeast Asia countries have been experiencing unusually strong storms and heavy rainfall with damaging consequences for both people and the economy, with the Thai government predicting a loss of at least 1% in GDP due to flooding this year. One thing is for sure: a changing climate will bring unpredictable challenges, and RECOFTC is working with communities to better understand and prepare for an uncertain climate future.

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Social Forestry in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

ASEAN forests currently cover approximately 213 million hectares of land across 10 countries. Their diverse composition consists of tropical lowland forests, mountain forests, coastal mangrove forests, and peat forests, as well as the remnants of what is believed to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. It is well recognized that these forests and their ecosystems provide both products and services for local livelihoods.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 1992) community forestry has three core elements: (a) Provision of fuel and other goods essential to meeting basic needs at the rural household and community level (b) Provision of food and the environmental stability necessary for continued food production (c) Generation of income and employment in the rural community.

Experiences gained from social forestry in the last three decades give a good basis for believing that local communities can both reduce causes of climate change and respond effectively to its impacts. This makes social forestry an invaluable component of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies implemented at the local level.
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Curbing deforestation requires economic incentives, government cooperation with local people

Dr. R.K. Pachauri

Dr. R.K. Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

On Friday, August 5, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests had the pleasure of hosting Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Nobel laureate and head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), as one of the speakers at a press conference in advance of the Second Regional Forum on Community Forestry in Bangkok. The Conference was attended by 35 media and civil society representatives at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Bangkok. Dr. Pachauri has made tremendous contributions to climate change research and advocacy throughout his career, and RECOFTC was honored to have him speak on his perspectives on climate change and community forestry.

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After Cancun: We’re all foresters now

The mild success of Cancun provided a great advance for the world’s foresters: global attention. But with this attention comes responsibility.

From the chill of Copenhagen we reached the calm seas of Cancun, and the mood of climate change negotiators soared with the balmy temperatures. There is agreement. COP16 is officially a success. We can move forward with renewed confidence and hope.

All true, of course. But before we start doing cartwheels for joy, consider this: If the Cancun agreement had been the outcome from Copenhagen, it would still have been considered a failure.

So how far have we come?

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Cancun: Victory for diplomacy, defeat for climate

It was an admirable coup for political will in reaching a deal, but a failure where it really mattered – controlling carbon emissions. I confess that I was one of those breathing a sigh of relief when the ‘Cancun agreements’ were unveiled. The build-up to Cancun, while lukewarm as compared to Copenhagen, ignited nonetheless desire for results. Euphoria at having reached a deal swept over many Cancun watchers, myself included. How do the Cancun agreements look now in the sober light of day?

The Bolivian ambassador accused the plenary at Cancun of ‘thinking like politicians’ rather than confronting the harsh scientific realities of climate change. Treated as the spoiler in the negotiations, Bolivia was right. Namely, that the non-binding national pledges to cut emissions are unlikely to prevent global temperatures from rising to a forecast 3.2 degrees or to an even more catastrophic 4 degrees. Cancun may very well be a self-congratulatory love-in as we set our sails for devastation. But really, what are the options?

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Closing Cancun – The Joys of Low Expectations

The optimists have it.  Cancun is officially a success.  But is it really worth a standing ovation?  In fact, this conference was a masterstroke of understated ambition.  The Mexican presidency is to be congratulated (truly, no sarcasm in this column) on a well-orchestrated event.

The relatively good news caught most commentators unawares, both journalists and negotiators themselves (although some of us have been determined to see the sunny side of Cancun for a while).  However, the truth is that this deal, if presented at Copenhagen last year, would still have represented a failure. (more…)

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