Research has proved that in the second half of the 20th century there has been astonishing growth in all aspects related to development - the world population has doubled, food production tripled, energy use quadrupled and overall economic activity quintupled.
It has also made evident that there is a close correlation between economic growth and environmental degradation: as communities grow, so the environment declines.
Today there is concern that over-exploitation of resources could lead modern civilization to collapse just like ancient civilizations, unless resource use is revised.
Scientists have also proved that almost 50 per cent of the world's forests have been lost because of human activity and present day forests occupy about a quarter of the Earth's ice-free land - atleast half of it occurring in the tropics.
Deforestation on a global scale is a major contributing factor to Climate Change (CC). It results in the release of carbon that is stored in trees as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. CO2 is the most abundantly present greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere.
Forests moderate the local climate and the global water cycle through their unique evapotranspiration (an important part of the water cycle) and their light reflectance.
Forests also help conserve bio diversity, protect water quality, preserve soil quality and purify the air, and these free services to the ecosystem have no market value.
So forest conservation has little appeal when compared with the economic benefits of logging which, through soil degradation and organic decomposition returns CO2 to the atmosphere.
About 90 per cent of the carbon stored in land vegetation is locked up in the trees and they sequester about 50% more carbon than is present in the atmosphere.
Therefore, this is why the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is an important element in the international climate change regime.
REDD+ is a new mechanism that aims at slowing down the rate of CC by paying developing countries to stop cutting down their forests.
It is a policy framework that is being implemented by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), through which small landowners are able to benefit from.
It is a mitigating intervention which came about from the Kyoto Protocol, but was not included in it due to the issue of permanence.
REDD+ ensures that the rights of the indigenous people are taken into consideration, as many of these indigenous groups, who have lived in the forests are worried about being neglected.
People who depend on the forests often lack political power and fear that their interests will not be taken into consideration by governments and international institutions and REDD+ puts that thought to rest.
Carbon trading is another way of labeling REDD+.
This would involve a large transfer of money from wealthy countries to poor countries, as part of their obligation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to decrease the output of their carbon emissions.
Carbon trading is founded on the idea that companies and governments may in part meet targets for reducing their carbon emissions by paying for carbon reductions elsewhere in the global economy. REDD+ allows balance to be issued that would check the amount of carbon saved through bypassing deforestation.
The balances could then be traded on carbon markets.
Raising money quickly is an advantage of carbon trading.
While on the contrary, flooding existing carbon markets with REDD+ balances, or credits, could further alter the already low market value of carbon if countries mitigation commitments are not brought up.
Apart from this, the most challenging part of implementing the mechanism is factors like remote geography, small size forest area that is, the smaller the area the lesser the benefits, low capacity to spend money, meaning that when the money is present, it is hard to implement it in a certain place, and lastly landownership, as it is different in every Pacific Island Country.
Most developing countries would voluntarily decide in to the REDD+ mechanism, so in order for it to work, the outline must ensure that there is more money in protecting forests than in logging or agriculture conversion.
In order to gain payments for the amount of carbon you save, it must be measurable. It is necessary to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the forest in question and then predict how much carbon could be saved by slowing down deforestation and forest degradation.
Fiji was introduced to REDD+ in 2009 - seeing it as a way to sustain the forests. Though the approach had phases, Fiji is one of the countries which saw the advantages and accepted the approach.
In 2010, the Fiji National REDD+ strategy was developed.
In April 2012, there will be a drafting of the National REDD+ strategy through multi- stakeholders.
The forestry department in Fiji actually plays a leading role in establishing National MRV (Measuring, Reporting and Verification of GHG's) system.
So REDD+ really is a way to address environmental degradation and encourage enhancement of forest carbon stocks by assigning an economic value to forests and many developing as well as developed countries now see it as a positive way to contribute to global mitigation efforts to CC.
It would be highly recommended for those involved with deforestation work to get involved with REDD+ also because if we reduce our carbon emissions, we surely reduce the effects of global warming.
* Rusila Tagicakibau is a climate advocate nand a member of Project Survival Pacific. PSP is a regional youth environmental organisation that works to safeguard the survival of the Pacific island people from the impacts of climate change and to promote sustainable development within the Pacific.
For further information and clarification, please contact Project Survival Pacific's communications co-ordinator, Kelvin Anthony on +679 9463700 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.