By Climatico Contributor: Nick Oakes

Panama Rainforest

Baby steps for REDD+ set to take place in Durban. (Image source: Nick Seers)

REDD+ is one of the building blocks for a new international agreement, and like other blocks, such as finance and technology transfer, it is one that many observers are hoping will become operational relatively soon, perhaps even in absence of a post-Kyoto agreement and the merging of the AWG-LCA with the AWG-KP.

There are four forums/themes in which REDD+ will be discussed at Durban. Most of the discussions so far have taken place within the AWG-LCA and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), whilst there have also been discussions in the AWG-KP, and the talks across multiple bodies on the common theme of finance. Briefly analysing each of these forums/themes will indicate some benchmarks for success and the likely outcomes at Durban.

Safeguarding the safeguards

In the Cancun agreements the SBSTA was tasked with building the methodological rigour needed to operationalise a REDD+ mechanism. The SBSTA called on Parties to submit guidance on three issues that need to be addressed for COP17: (1) the systems needed to provide guidance on how safeguards are addressed; (2) modalities of forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels; and (3) modalities for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

Turning first to the submissions on protection of safeguards, these are outlined in Annex I to the Cancun Agreements. They cover a range of topics, from national level policy promotion and consistency with the Convention, to ensuring there are results-based approaches and that relevant stakeholders’ needs are addressed.

There seems to be agreement that the systems for monitoring safeguards will be designed nationally. This means that the UNFCCC process will issue only guidelines on how to build the systems, whilst the systems themselves are constructed by each Party. Norway, however – perhaps resonant of broader developed country sentiment – suggests that Parties should submit information on how the systems are designed, as a means of quality control.

MRV still lurking

Turning to the forest reference levels and MRV – the former of which is a subcategory of the latter, and so probably better presented as one topic rather than two – some Parties have pointed to the lack of clarity on the definition of forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels. One suggestion is that the former cover REDD, while the latter cover REDD+. Establishing guidance used for construction of a reference level moves discussion on to baseline measurement, a key component necessary for operationalising a REDD+ mechanism.

A slight sideshow to this discussion is the inclusion of Development Adjustment Factors (DAF) in the reference levels. These are planned activities that cause deforestation or degradation in the future. It seems that many countries will push for their inclusion in reference levels at COP17, but the definitions and terms of usage may be more difficult to define post-COP, given that DAFs will doubtlessly be highly politicised.

On the principles of an MRV regime, these are broadly in agreement, in that it should be separate and independent from systems created to monitor safeguards, whilst reiterating they should be “non-intrusive, non-punitive, and respectful of national sovereignty and legislation.” Some countries have noted that much of the groundwork is in place for MRV principles, given its primacy at Cancun last year.

Some ad-hoc submissions

The AWG-LCA has continued working on a draft text within an informal REDD+ working group. However, given that the content of this text will be largely contingent on the outcome of the SBSTA, the exact nature of the draft text without agreement on the SBSTA’s submissions is somewhat unclear. Nonetheless, it is possible that if the essential elements of a decision are agreed, at the very least a draft decision on REDD+ could emerge.

With the AWG-KP, however, there is far less of a focussed discussion. It has been agreed that land-use, land-use change and forestry will be considered as an emissions source under the Kyoto Protocol (KP), but little has been negotiated on the subject of REDD+ within the KP.

One submission from a variety of forest countries outlines a possible means of including a REDD+ mechanism within the KP. However, given the amount of work going in to REDD+ outside of the KP, and that the continuation of the KP is by far the largest uncertainty at the talks, there is little chance this proposal will receive much attention.

Financing REDD+

Finance will undoubtedly be raised across a number of forums. For example, it seems to be agreed that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will have a distinct REDD+ facility, whilst the majority of funding to date has come from Norway, via its own bilateral mechanisms.

It’s probable that forest countries will seek funding from a number of sources as a prerequisite to agreement on other issues, but as a theme itself there is little holistic oversight. In this sense finance has been more of a country-by-country approach, each individually seeking sources of funding. As a result, we are likely to see a push by forest countries to solidify funding commitments from multilateral sources, such as the GCF, whilst simultaneously coveting bilateral ties.

COP17 will undoubtedly result in Parties edging closer to approving the technicalities needed to get a REDD+ mechanism up and running, but given the complex, inter-linked nature of the mechanism’s connections to the overarching discussions on targets and legal nature of a successor to Kyoto, agreeing – possibly even formalising – the technicalities of a REDD+ mechanism and focussing discussions on finance is the most that Durban is likely to achieve. 

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