REDD+ Durban: Countries agree on key issues

Going into the final days of the UN climate conference, countries have agreed on key issues on policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

The draft decision on how to evaluate and ensure environmental and social responsibility in curbing deforestation is expected to be approved in the final hours of the conference later this week.

The results of the draft decision written by a technical working group are mixed. (I’ve assigned them letter grades below).

1) Reference Levels (Grade: A-)

Reference levels are benchmarks of measuring forest-related emissions in tons of carbon dioxide per year. A robust reference level means that we can measure whether a country is reducing emissions and maintains environmental integrity.

EDF supported a clear separation between the setting of reference levels and the political questions relating to compensation, and that’s what has been approved. The compensation discussion will be a political negotiation that depends on commitments (caps) from developed and major emitting countries.

Countries may adjust their reference levels, but they'll have to justify each adjustment individually to the satisfaction of an expert review panel. This is an important safeguard that will promote environmental integrity.

2) Safeguards (Grade: B-)

The discussions centered on the type of information that needs to be submitted, as well as how frequently and to whom the information should be reported.

This is critical because it allows us to see if REDD+ national programs are being implemented with the consent of indigenous peoples and local communities, and if their rights are being respected.

At this point, a framework for the safeguard information systems was decided, but explicit guidelines on its content were not decided upon. However, there is the opportunity for the guidelines to be strengthened next year. In addition, outside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, many other groups such as the UN-REDD program, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, as well as Brazil’s national and state REDD program are making major strides in implementing such safeguard programs.

3) Monitoring, Reporting and Verification/ MRV (Grade: incomplete)

In the UNFCCC, there is an entire set of negotiations dealing with this issue. As a result, countries did not explore this issue in relation to forest-specific issues.

The decision calls for guidance from the overall MRV negotiations and for an expert meeting next year to discuss these issues in depth. Waiting for overall guidance is a prudent move and should not be seen as a negative outcome.

Financing for REDD+

In the coming days, countries will be focusing on how to finance REDD+ activities. The discussions on REDD+ finance, taking place in the negotiations on “Long-term Cooperative Action,” (LCA) began last week but made little progress, due to the focus on the technical issues.

Although the Cancun agreements tasked the LCA with “exploring” all financing sources — including markets –the current negotiating text simply calls for more exploration in the form of a technical paper and a workshop.  This is disappointing and many countries agreed that we can be more ambitious and this conference needs to put its seal of approval on the use of all financing sources.

The EDF team is making the case that in order for REDD+ programs to be created and sustained over many years, the UNFCCC needs to recognize that all sources of financing should be used to pay for REDD+. Public funding will never be enough and the gap in financing will have to be made up by the private sector. Stay tuned to see what happens!

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