IJGPRM – Introduction to the second issue

According to the synthesis of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[1] published in 2014, human activity influences the climate of the Earth, given the 6 billion people who, in a way or in the other, act on the ecosystems by their multiple and varied activities.

This second issue of IJGPRM publishes the results of the assessment of the human impact, through its activities, on the vegetation of the Congo Basin using geospatial technology tools in order to contribute to the fight against global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. This is more important due to the fact that the phenomenon of the greenhouse effect affects all countries, North and South, who must join hands to understand and best deal with the problem of the greenhouse effect. This is the Sine qua non condition for reducing the impacts of anthropogenic climate change and promoting sustainable land management and development.

However, if the implementation of integrated environmental accounting becomes important, adjusting Gross Domestic Product – GDP- (from general accounting) through the integration of monetary measures of depletion, degradation and protection expenditure of the environment to calculate a « green GDP » is not yet consensus for various technical reasons. In addition, the ecosystem accounting system does not take into account ecosystem services and, in part, is not subject to monetary transactions (such as land or water offered by ecosystems).

Ecosystem accounts would provide an overview of the state of ecosystems and a detailed description of the pressures they face in order to take these elements into account in public decision-making. For these reasons, integrating the value of ecosystems into national accounting systems was decided as the second objective of the Biodiversity Strategic Plan adopted at the Tenth Conference of the Parties during the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya[2] October 2010. All of these attempts have been federated by the World Bank in a partnership: the WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) initiative.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recommends that the parties include in their national accounts the values of their natural capital. Apart from the CBD, the United Nations Statistics Division has produced statistical standards to frame this approach. The World Bank has already funded several applications of ecosystem accounting through the WAVES program, which consists of Heritage Accounting and Ecosystem Services Valorization to help countries integrate the value of natural capital into the national accounts. It works to develop scientifically credible methods of accounting for ecosystems and to promote their use in decision-making among a wide range of stakeholders. The accounting of ecosystems always involves the preparation of land use maps. This mapping is done mainly by the use of satellite images.

This special issue of the International Journal of Geomatics, Planning and Resource Management questions the types of ultra-high resolution (THR) satellite data and geo-spatial tools that can quantify and evaluate forest dynamics and their Potential for carbon sequestration in the Congo Basin. Tihis second issue has 10 articles. Thus, the article by Onguene et al., which is in fact a keynote, deals with the stakes and the scientific opportunities of the evaluation of the carbon sequestration capacity in the Congo Basin. Anaba, Highlights the role of marginal forest formations in the Congo Basin in REDD + mechanisms and processes, while Ndjuala and al., and Teweche and al., and Zephania Nji Fogwe analyze the mechanisms and factors of dynamism of forest formations respectively in the forest massifs of Mount Cameroon, in the forest reserves of Zamay and Mayo Louti and on the Oku mountains. Modes of exploitation and/or management of natural or anthropogenic forest resources are questioned by Youta Happi in the locality of Koutaba, Mbengue et al., with historical-geographic approach and Muderwa et al. in and around the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest influenced by the city and the agroindustry is evaluated diachronically by Yapi-Diahou et al. in Sub saharian Africa at all, and Yamafouo et al. in the estuary of Wouri in Cameroon.

From these scientific contributions, it is clear that there is a need to intensify the popularization of the results of the use of remote sensing for the evaluation of forest landscape dynamics and carbon sequestration capacity around the world and specifically for managers of Congo basin forests. The continued implementation of programs to facilitate access to images by satellites and drones, such as the OSFT program (Spatial Observation of Tropical Forest), is crucial for this line of research. This initiative, funded by the French Development Agency, provides high-resolution satellite images acquired by the SPOT satellite to the countries of Central Africa. The Sentinel images presented by Jean Paul Rudant complete the range of these free-access data. But it is necessary to create Bachelor programs and professional Masters on the judicious, effective and efficient use of these tools, like the Master GAGER (Geomatics, Planning and Resource Management) of the University of Ngaoundere; The ultimate goal is to provide States Parties, Policy Makers and Civil Society Organizations with effective and efficient decision support tools for sustainable management of forest resources.

In fact, forests are home to a very important biodiversity, many vital services and many greenhouse gases such as CO2. However, globalization has increased pressure on these forests, particularly in tropical areas. It is therefore essential to collaborate in their sustainable management at the international level in order to combat global warming, protect the environment, combat poverty and preserve life on earth.

It is this concern that underlies the creation, in 2005 by the main polluters, of the world of the UN-REDD + program, which means Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The addition of « + » corresponds to taking into account the increase in carbon stocks, for example through adapted silvicultural practices or plantations. High-value projects have been initiated by NGOs, companies, project managers, regional and international fora, as well as national and regional authorities. However, many abuses, mainly due to the lack of clarity regarding what may or may not be identified as « REDD + », have been noted at all scales. For this reason, Alain Karsenty (2015) notes that « the REDD + mechanism, which has been designed to help Southern countries reduce their emissions from deforestation, has so far not really fulfilled its role and has given rise to questionable practices « because deforestation in tropical environments accounts for only 10 to 15% of annual human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Funding for the scheme was to be based on emission permits that southern countries which had reduced their deforestation would have sold to the countries of the North. Negotiations, however, have not yet resolved this point, as several countries, like Bolivia, oppose what they perceive as an attempt to commodify nature. An alternative would be to mobilize the Green Climate Fund, created in 2009 in Copenhagen. But it still has not fulfilled his promise to raise $ 100 billion a year.

REDD +, at the present stage, seems to be an instrument of inextricable complexity that makes the happiness of consultants, consulting firms and a few decision-makers in tropical countries[3]. Its supposed effectiveness is based on the principle of payment to results. However, the assessment of these results is based on the production of reference scenarios such as « what would happen if nothing were done? », Unverifiable by definition (because if the project is realized the scenario can not be observed) and therefore easily manipulated. Other difficulties, such as the cancellation of emission reductions, if deforestation resumes, make it strenuous for the negotiating process to propose operational rules to implement this mechanism. Its only tangible reality is the numerous forest conservation projects stamped « REDD + » (Karsenty, 2015)[4]. This non-interventionist principle (hands-off, in the jargon of international experts) can not hold for a very long time against the pressures of the NGOs which fear, not without reason, a confiscation by the States, rights of use of the local communities on the Forests, or destruction of biodiversity for the benefit of tree plantations to store carbon. In the « participatory and inclusive » logic of international environmental governance, States Parties to the Climate Convention have introduced a number of safeguards, making the REDD + mechanism even more difficult to implement. In the context of a collapse in the price of emission permits and the fragmentation of carbon markets, the illusion that the opportunity costs of forest conservation could be offset has also faded.

Finally, decision-makers realize that, without prior investment in the agricultural and food systems of poor if not failing countries, there can be no « performance » in the fight against deforestation. These investments are largely part of official development assistance. And they must be accompanied by reforms (for example on land rights) that only continuous dialogue with the authorities of these countries can advance.

In November 2013, at the 19th Meeting of the Parties to the Climate Convention, after eight years of negotiations, the manual containing the basic rules for REDD + was finalized. The introduction of the manual was intended to allow full implementation of REDD + taking into account lessons learned from existing projects. Finally, at the climate conference in Bonn in June 2015, an agreement was reached. This concluded negotiations to make REDD +, the mechanism to support the fight against deforestation in developing countries, operational. Immediately, two questions are relevant to geospatial technologists :

  1. Can we know and georeferencing all the trees in the Congo Basin?
  2. Is environmental accounting, with carbon credit as a backdrop, applied at the tree level? If yes, for a tree of which template?

By :

[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full_fr.pdf

[2] https://www.cbd.int/abs/doc/protocol/nagoya-protocol-fr.pdf

[3] In some countries, civil engineering firms or Local Support Organizations in Maternal Education have, in a few days, turned into a REDD + Expertise Cabinet just to catch the funds coming in through this channel. Yet the REDD + mechanism remains very complex and requires scientific research for far more precise measurement and quantification.

[4] http://envol-vert.org/forets-services/en-savoir-plus/2016/01/reflexions-sur-le-systeme-redd/