What to expect for forests and REDD+ at COP22 in Marrakesh?

Forest

Photo credit: Flickr @CIFOR

With the Paris Agreement entering into force on November 4th, climate negotiators at this years’ climate talks (COP22) in Marrakesh will have to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the rules and guidance that will translate Paris climate commitments into action.

As the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement, the land sector will be discussed this year in the context of implementation and progress – especially REDD+. There are no agenda items directly addressing forests at COP22, so REDD+ negotiators will need to focus on how REDD+ fits into other items on mitigation, accounting, transparency, and markets. Forests will also be highlighted during a series of COP events in the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA).

Forests in the Global Climate Action Agenda

On November 8th—the US election day—the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) will showcase important forest initiatives. Held alongside the negotiations, the GCAA is meant to highlight initiatives not only from nation states, but also from a broad set of stakeholders including civil society and the private sector. Partnerships among these stakeholders will be especially emphasized.

The GCAA will also highlight the New York Declaration on Forests annual assessment report, which was released globally on November 3rd. This year’s report focused on private sector’s implementation of their zero-deforestation supply chain commitments. The report also gives a good overview of overall progress against halving deforestation in natural forests by 2020, which should be at the center of the discussions at the GCAA forest showcasing event.

While I find it heartening that many companies based in North America, Europe, and Australia are making deforestation commitments, the world’s forests need countries and companies in emerging markets to start implementing and reporting on their commitments.

Negotiations: Transparency, Accounting, and Markets

At COP22, REDD+ negotiators will most likely be found at the sides of their colleagues that focus on transparency and accounting. REDD+ methodological guidance included in the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and other previous decisions already ensures a high level of transparency in any REDD+ programming. Experience with effective transparency provisions under REDD+ provides an opportunity to inform the development of the “enhanced transparency framework” that will be critical to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Accounting in the land and forest sector is as important as that in other sectors – if not more important, given the sector’s potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is critical to ensure that consistent principles apply throughout all sectors, including effective accounting that avoids double counting of emissions reductions.

To promote environmental integrity between countries’ policies to implement REDD+, a report published today by EDF and four other leading organizations collected recommendations from experts from REDD+ countries and technical assessment teams on forest reference levels. It provided key guidance for tropical countries to receive payments for results from REDD+.

The negotiations on markets will probably be some of the most interesting. Markets could provide a much needed source of funding to support results from REDD+, while REDD+ could provide useful lessons for the development of accounting guidance for Article 6 (related to transfers of mitigation outcomes), as detailed in our joint submission with four other leading observer organizations.

Countries may choose to use REDD+ emission reductions as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO) under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, consistent with the Warsaw Framework and other REDD+ decisions. The use of ITMOs toward national commitments must also be consistent with the accounting guidance yet to be developed under Article 6.2, including the clear requirement to avoid double counting of emissions reductions.

The country of Brazil offers an example of where the REDD+ and ITMO debate is playing out. Recently, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, made up of over 130 leading environmental NGOs and companies has recently, after extensive internal discussion, approved a consensus position on REDD+. Their position – that can be found here – posits that the positions of Brazil’s international climate negotiators dealing with land use – in particular their opposition to market-based REDD+ and failure to recognize subnational REDD+ systems in national carbon accounting – do not reflect the overwhelming majority views on these issues in Brazilian society. It will be interesting to see these differences between Brazilian society and their climate negotiators debated at the COP.

It is not clear how forests or REDD+ will be featured in the new market mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development (under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement). I don’t expect negotiators to start discussing a new REDD+ methodology for Article 6.4 in Marrakesh, and this is likely many years down the road.

As previous analysis has shown significant costs savings from using REDD+ in carbon markets, I expect countries interested in using markets to discuss the details of transacting REDD+ ITMOs next year, either within the UNFCCC negotiations or in clubs of carbon markets in parallel to the UNFCCC.

The Marrakesh COP will probably yield less tangible text related to REDD+ than past UNFCCC meetings, though REDD+ negotiators will probably have much to discuss with each other outside the negotiating rooms. What I will be looking for are signs that REDD+ implementation is accelerating and how the accounting and transparency discussion in the UNFCCC might impact REDD+ and the forest sector.

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