By Climatico Contributor: Nick Oakes
Recalling last week’s benchmarks for the success of REDD+ negotiations at COP17, we can take each in turn and assess state of the negotiations on each topic. As expected, much of the discussion has been focussed on the MRV text (and addendum) from the SBSTA, which has now been presented to the COP for adoption this week.
There’s agreement that forest countries should be able to choose whether to use Reference Emission Levels (RELs) or Reference Levels (RLs). Forest countries will also be permitted to use RELs or RLs in different regions and aggregate up to a national level, allowing some much desired flexibility to the mammoth task of national accounting of forest carbon.
On the verification of emissions reductions, the text does not specify a body that is responsible for the verification. This could be forest countries, donor countries or third parties. Given the political element to verification – namely the protection of national sovereignty – it seems likely REDD+ could proceed down the same lines as the CDM, meaning forest country bodies approved by the UNFCCC will verify emissions reductions, although we will probably have to wait another year before there is clarity on this issue.
The text puts forward requirements for the reporting of safeguards. Controversially, and attracting criticism from many observers, it does not do enough to measure how safeguards will be respected, and in the event that they are not respected, detail the punitive measure faced by those in violation of those safeguards.
The concern here seems to largely relate to social safeguards – ensuring the rights of local communities are respected and penalties enforced, and their inclusion in the benefits of REDD+. The current text asks only that forest countries submit information on how they are implementing safeguards, which can be compared against standards set for their implementation. It does not require that forest countries submit information on the impacts of REDD+ on local communities, or to put it another way, whether the safeguards that have been implemented are fit for purpose. As Louis Verchot, climate change scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research noted, “what has been put forward here are standards for reporting, not standards for performance, and we need to see decisions on performance standards to move forward with REDD+.”
The AWG-LCA has drafted a note on the outcomes of a number of working groups, but for the REDD+ working group, tasked with looking in to finance options, the text, unsurprisingly, does not show much in the way of material progress. At the moment the text seems to simply push back a decision on finance by asking the secretariat to provide financing options before the thirty-eight meeting of the SBSTA.
The remainder of COP17 will see the final adoption of the text presented to the COP by the SBSTA, possibly with some more clarity on a timescale and focussed discussions on the possibilities for finance options. With much of the technicalities agreed, however, getting REDD+ off the ground is now intimately dependent on reconnecting it back with discussions of international agreements and finance, to which the remainder of COP17 will be devoted.