REDD+ almost at the finish line: Doha preview

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is one of the policy areas in international climate negotiations that has made the most progress in the last few years. With the cutting and burning of trees contributing to about 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions, any realistic plan to reduce global warming pollution sufficiently – and in time to avoid dangerous consequences – must rely in part on preserving tropical forests, and REDD+ policies are key to doing just that.

Countries have made major decisions on the building blocks needed for policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), and now REDD+ is close to being finalized in some of the Doha negotiations. Photo credit: CIFOR

As negotiators begin heading to the Conference of Parties 18  (COP 18) to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha, Qatar to hash out important issues for a global climate agreement, EDF has taken a look at where the REDD+ issue stands now, and where we anticipate it going in Doha.

Countries have made major decisions on the building blocks needed for REDD+, including agreement that REDD+: 1) is a voluntary mitigation mechanism; 2) that it has to be a part of the overall mitigation efforts in the UNFCCC; 3) that strong environmental and social safeguards are vital; and 4) that the goal of REDD+ is to “slow, halt and reverse deforestation.”

With such priming, REDD+ is nearly ready to be finalized in the “LCA” negotiations – the Long-term Cooperative Action negotiating track, where negotiations over obligations for the U.S. and major developing countries are lodged — and then become part of the negotiations for a new climate agreement for all countries that would take effect from 2020. Moving REDD+ into these new “ADP” negotiations (The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) is critical, since any new agreement must both include REDD+ and allow countries to meet a portion of their future commitments by paying for real and credible REDD+ tons.

We see at least three major issues that may make progress in Doha::

1. Technical Issues (Week 1):

The technical and scientific body that provides recommendations to the Conference of Parties, SBSTA, meets the first week of Doha to negotiate further guidance on important technical issues such as the assessment review process for reference levels (a snapshot of a country’s emissions for deforestation in a given year) and Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV). Last year in Durban, countries agreed on the basis for REDD+ reference levels (RLs) and guidance on the content of REDD+ reference levels country submissions. That decision also called for countries to begin enabling the technical assessment of proposed reference levels once they have been submitted, and initiating work on developing methodological guidance for the technical assessment of proposed REDD+ reference levels.In Doha, SBSTA should start this work and commit to developing a technical assessment process for adoption at next year’s conference.

For measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions, countries are close to agreeing on REDD+ MRV guidance; however, this issue is complicated by the fact that there are separate overall MRV discussions simultaneously underway in the LCA track. Some countries believe overall guidance needs to be determined before issue-specific details, like for REDD+, can be addressed. Other countries feel that REDD+ has made strong progress and as long as the guidance does not conflict with the overall MRV, countries should move ahead. There are other SBSTA issues (e.g. technical and scientific ones) that will be added to next year’s SBSTA agenda, such as the issue of reference level technical assessment process. We expect that the overall REDD+ guidance will be general, which will give countries the necessary flexibility in constructing their reference levels, MRV and monitoring systems.

Protecting indigenous peoples in SBSTA: A major consideration in developing REDD+ policies is the role of indigenous peoples, who are the best-suited to monitor and protect their land from deforestation. Many indigenous peoples support REDD+ activities that protect their rights to their land and resources, and seek recognition of the principles from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Doha, we will be supporting indigenous peoples who are advocating in SBSTA for a REDD+ decision to include more guidance and details on Safeguard Information Systems – systems for providing information on how social and environmental safeguards are addressed and respected.

2. Finance and REDD+ in LCA (Week 2)

In the LCA REDD+ track, which starts the second week of Doha, countries have an opportunity to reach consensus on procedures and modalities on REDD+ financing for results-based actions – meaning countries will try to agree on the details for how to pay for REDD+ reductions and what sources of finance can be used. Because the private sector is best suited to pay for REDD+ reductions, we believe that a combination of market and non-market funding should be used to pay for REDD+ reductions. A draft proposal from the Chair of the LCA negotiations at September’s meeting in Bangkok reached no agreement on whether this text should form the basis for negotiations. However, given the ambitious agenda and the fact that the LCA ends in Doha, many believe that this chair’s text or some modification of it will be the starting point for negotiations. If there is no agreement on this issue, it will have to be resolved next year. EDF believes that countries should be able to use the market to pay for REDD+, and that countries with caps on their emissions after 2015 should be able to use a portion of REDD+ credits to meet their commitments.

3. REDD+ as part of the ADP negotiations

Not every REDD+ issue will be finalized in Doha, but with the LCA ending, it remains unclear what exactly will happen to any remaining REDD+ issues. SBSTA and SBI will likely be tasked with further exploring REDD+ issues as needed, but some countries, especially REDD+ countries, are worried that unless REDD+ has a home in the ADP agenda, it risks being left out of the ADP negotiations. We think a smart solution would be to include REDD+ into the ADP framework, which will formally recognize it as a mitigation component of the ADP.

REDD+ is almost at the finish line. We need a decision with more direction about how it will be financed, and carbon markets must play a role. And we need REDD+ to be part of the ADP negotiations so that when the ADP deal is finalized in 2015, countries will be able to use REDD+ credits to meet a portion of their national emissions reductions commitments.

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