Author: Jennifer Helgeson

Deforestation and uncontrolled grazing leads to erosion (Image by: treesftf)

Deforestation and uncontrolled grazing leads to erosion (Image by: treesftf)

As negotiations continue, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and Enhanced Carbon Stocks (REDD+) is viewed as one of the only mechanisms expected to be agreed upon during the ongoing climate change talks in Copenhagen.  But an excellent point is being made – a successful REDD+ program requires a strong global CO2 target.  Without a global objective, any framework agreed for REDD+ will continue to allow deforestation without a clear finish line in view.  So, before we can even approach the complexity of the REDD+ mechanism itself, we require: a CO2 limitation target, a full understanding of the carbon stocks and governance structures for forests, and a sense of the financial commitments available, among other things.  The debate around REDD+ has been focused on issues of methodology, local communities, and indigenous people, as well as finance mechanisms.

That is a lot to settle in the one remaining week of COP15!

Running up to Copenhagen, REDD+ was often lauded as a sort of silver bullet towards addressing large-scale CO2 output reductions.  Draft REDD+ text coming into Copenhagen included a global objective for halving deforestation by 2020 and totally halting net forest loss by 2030.  The UNFCCC had assumed that forests account for about 20 % of global CO2 output, but Dutch researchers recently reported that the maximum level is likely closer to 12 % (Van der Werf, et al., 2009.

Surprisingly, discussions of REDD+ do not appear to have been damaged too much by this report.   “Even with lower emissions, avoiding deforestation remains the cheapest and quickest way to realize huge reductions,” says Herbert Christ from the Congo Basin Forest partnership (CBFP), a platform of ten Congo Basin countries.

Sure, a global REDD+ objective can help the world stay at or below 2C warming, but this does not come free of charge.  It is vital that developed countries commit to the level of funding consistent with realizing the goals of a REDD+ plan.  All this week, the potential socio-economic outcomes of REDD+ have been discussed at multiple side-events to the official negotiations.  It is stressed that REDD+ can simultaneously reduce emissions and alleviate poverty through rewarding local communities for forest conservation efforts.  But realizing side benefits depends heavily on significant and reliable streams of funding.  And well, once funds are secured, how they are distributed and monitored is a major concern.

All aspects of the Copenhagen negotiation package require funding, e.g. technology transfer, adaptation, mitigation; thus, it is hard to imagine that REDD+ will come off fully-funded with ease.  The “Copenhagen Launch Fund” was announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the summit of Commonwealth Leaders last week in Trinidad & Tobago.  But the proposed 10 billion USD funding (meant to come from donations by the UK and other developed nations) to help poor countries adapt to the impact of climate change is not enough, says Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Colin Beck.

Throughout the week , this has been the ardent position of the developing nations.  Thus, when adaptation funding offered is barely ten-percent of what developing nations require (110 billion USD), how can REDD+ expect to be fully financed (by the 11 donor countries) in a totally separate pool of money?

However, there has been impressive movement by some developed nations on setting the framework of REDD+ and the associated Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).  Thursday, France clashed with other EU states in advocating strong baselines under this system for all nations.  French climate ambassador, Brice Lalonde, called accounting methods proposed by EU nations most dependent on forestry “sloppy, and even fraudulent.”  He went on to state that “the EU cannot embrace fraudulent methods and then turn around and ask developed countries to accept something that they are not willing to impose on themselves.” Lalonde.  Coming up to Copenhagen, France worked with REDD+ countries (especially those of South America) to establish viable methods for that program as well (click here to read more).

There were a number of side events concerning REDD+ throughout this first week of COP15.  Many of these events highlighted REDD+ pilot projects in some of the 37 nations covered under the plan.  Naturally, the implementation of a final REDD+ system will be complex due to differences in country and local-level needs in forest conservation.  But the general idea to which many negotiators are distilling REDD+ to over the last days is a system whereby developing countries are rewarded with carbon credits for sustaining their forests.  The same concerns were voiced by nation after nation.  Primarily, concerns fall under two themes: 1) protection of indigenous peoples’ rights; and 2) distribution of funds from federal government to localities.

Throughout the week, Guyana stressed the need to implement standardized Readiness Preparedness Proposal (RPP) procedures for countries covered by REDD+.  There is an evident capacity gap in the understanding the extent of deforestation in many countries, especially when left to self-report.  There is temptation to overlook some illegal logging, and without GIS technology, it is difficult to be accurate; chances of non-additionality and leakage are extended as well.  To this point, Guyana has also discussed a National Inventory Process that would be supported and standardized under REDD+.

Though many countries seem convinced that they will benefit from the REDD+ program, indigenous voices continue to warn that money from national-level carbon credits might not make it to them.  In this view REDD+ is intertwined with human rights laws.  To this point there has been discussion of adopting “pro-poor policies,” that protect the most marginal of indigenous peoples.  Yet, that seems to be a cloaked way of calling for total national reform to protect indigenous people in 37 countries, some of which qualify as the most unstable in the world.  And well, some of those nations still hope to get credits for forest plantations that are not cut but used for generation of products, like palm oil.

So many loose ends seem apparent… So, the real question is—does REDD+ put the cart before the horse?  Are all the discussions tailoring details without a solid and viable holistic vision of REDD+?  Not to mention PINC?

For a more comprehensive overview of all proposals on REDD+ and PINC, see the Little REDD+ Book.

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