Author: Jennifer Helgeson

Protesters inside the Bella Center want respect for indigeneous rights in REDD negotiations

Protesters demand respect for indigeneous rights in REDD negotiations (Image by: Matthew McDermott)

Since the beginning of the Copenhagen negotiations, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism has been seen as one of the most likely to reach agreement.  However, the nuances of the mechanism have caused concern over the rights of indigenous peoples and overall financing, among other issues.  In the first week of the Copenhagen negotiations these concerns caused an outcry for more stringent targets and foci for the REDD+ structure (for more on this, click here.)

The second week of negotiations has been plagued by contentious negotiations, halted meetings and walkouts.  Political pressure to come to an agreement in the next three days has increased with the arrival of over 110 heads of State at the Bella Center.  Amid the chaos of the negotiation process there have been some positive moves, especially with regards to provisions under a REDD+ mechanism.

Cara Peace, Tropical Forest Group’s Assistant Director for Policy, states that, “REDD is one of the few areas where significant progress has been made in Copenhagen.”  Two critical elements of REDD+ have come closer to consensus between parties in the last couple days.  Firstly, forests and those residing within forests need “early action” language to fast track financing to save forests immediately as possible.  Secondly, to move forward, national forest reference levels and timelines need be decided.  Both these issues have been addressed in late night meetings.

Once the text forces decisions on reference forest emission levels, it is suspected that generating conservation funding for tropical forests will become easier.  But this presents a difficult circle of distrust in the negotiations.  “It’s hardly surprising that developing countries won’t commit to global targets for deforestation when rich countries haven’t yet provided the necessary financing for REDD,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Rainforest Foundation, UK.  So, which comes first to break a potential halt in the negotiations; developing county targets or financing promises?

To this point there has been an increased focus on involving private sector investment and input within the REDD+ institutional set-up.  But private sector investments require “signaling” that REDD+ will be viable, and that starts with development of binding targets.  Additionally, private finance seems to spur on heightened concerns by nations and those residing in forests that safeguards against false solutions that are non-additional and allow for leakage must be taken.

The Tropical Forest Group also reports that there has been some progression in the language used to specify indigenous people’s rights.  Though, key safeguards to protect indigenous people’s rights and limitations to forest conversion to plantations were moved from the operative section of the text to a non-binding preamble text.  But the text now makes explicit reference to protection of natural forests for the first time.

The length of the REDD+ framework continues to expand and contract, but at least there is movement and progress amongst otherwise halting negotiations in Copenhagen.  But will political pressures and the time crunch be too much for developing a strong REDD+?  Two more days….

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