EDF Talks Global Climate

The state of REDD+ (mid-2018 edition)

Deforestation is still a significant problem around the world, but governments are increasingly making the institutional changes necessary to limit deforestation. Credit: Flickr/Dams999

As the biennial REDD Exchange (REDDx) conference in Oslo approaches, it is a good time to review the progress Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) has made over the last year.

Deforestation still continues to be a significant problem in many parts of the world (tropical and non-tropical), so there is definitely more work to do. However, more and more of the institutional changes necessary to turn the corner on deforestation in the coming years are occurring at all levels of government. Below are some notable areas of progress we’ve seen recently on REDD+.

National programs complete Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements

Three countries (Brazil, Ecuador, and Malaysia) have now submitted all Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements to the Lima Info Hub, and 36 countries have submitted Forest Reference Emission Levels  – an increase of 11 submissions since COP 23 in November 2017.

Innovation in Brazil

Notable progress has been made in Brazil, where the country’s national REDD+ committee (CONAREDD+) modified its Amazon Fund incentive system to use a “stock-flow” approach to directly benefit its nine Amazon Basin states. The approach recognizes efforts by the Amazon Basin states to not only reduce deforestation (the “flow” part), but also conserve their current forest carbon stocks (the “stock” part). A recent report funded by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) explains the new system and how it should better incentivize Amazon Basin states to conserve carbon stocks and reduce deforestation.

Most important to curbing deforestation and enhancing REDD+ is for the amount and scope of results payments to national governments to increase. Until then, it will be challenging to accelerate the necessary government-led actions and policy changes.

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility countries advance

Progress is also being made in the FCPF’s Carbon Fund. The Carbon Fund board has approved or provisionally approved the Emission Reduction Programs of 11 countries. Four of those countries (Costa Rica, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mexico) are in or starting negotiations to finalize the results-based payment terms, which should be concluded before the year’s end. It is possible that a payment for results will also occur before the end of the year.

Colombia – a step backward and a step forward

Colombia offers a mixed bag of progress and challenges. Deforestation did increase since the signing of the peace agreement, but the government is taking various actions to combat this rise in deforestation. The Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the government must protect the Amazon forest. To support the government’s efforts, the Norwegian government agreed to finance these actions through results based payments that must also include benefits to Colombia’s indigenous peoples. This complements the Colombian government’s expansion of indigenous territories in mid-2017.

REDD+ projects’ evolution in national systems

Colombia was also in the spotlight when it announced that companies would be able to meet their carbon tax responsibility through purchasing emissions reductions from REDD+ projects.  Only a month ago, news came from Peru that the federal government will “nest” some REDD+ projects into its nationally determined contribution (NDC) commitments. For both countries, it is still unclear how exactly the “nesting” of the projects, benefit sharing, and accounting against NDCs will work, but these are important first steps.

Private sector deforestation reduction strategies

Collaboration with the private sector will be important for the success of REDD+ – especially in countries where agriculture commodities such as beef and soy are the main drivers of deforestation. Previous strategies were focused on using third-party verified certification schemes, but their limitations have been recognized and now a more holistic and complete solution is being pursued: the jurisdictional approach.

Multinational companies such as Unilever, Mars, Olam, and Walmart all announced their support of this strategy last year at COP 23’s Forest Day while on a panel with leaders from the Mato Grosso, Brazil and Sabah, Malaysia jurisdictions. Mato Grosso’s Produce, Conserve, and Include strategy (PCI) is probably one of the most advanced jurisdictional approaches and has recently been buoyed by both a REDD+ Early Movers (REM) MoU worth 17 million euros  and a commitment of support from Carrefour.

Looking forward

While notable progress on the REDD+ front has been made over the last 6-12 months, the Global Forest Watch team at the REDDx conference will probably announce that deforestation for 2017 was still near record highs. More action is needed at all levels; perhaps more substantial actions will be highlighted at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit to be held in September.

Most important to curbing deforestation and enhancing REDD+, however, is for the amount and scope of results payments to national governments to increase. These payments could come from the Green Climate Fund’s REDD+ results based payment Request For Proposals or transactions from the FCPF’s Carbon Fund.

Until these payments start to flow in an efficient and methodologically consistent manner, it will be challenging to accelerate the necessary government-led actions and policy changes. REDDx in Oslo could provide an opportunity to hear how we can make this happen.

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Cocoa partnerships: How collaboration helps the Arhuacos of Colombia conserve the forest and improve economic opportunity

Women from the Arhuaco indigenous nation of Colombia prepare to process cocoa produced for sustainable chocolate company Original Beans. Photo by Original Beans

This post was co-authored by Chris Meyer, Senior Manager of Amazon Forest Policy at EDF, and Sybelle VanAntwerp, Community Economic Development Volunteer serving with the Peace Corps in Colombia. It originally appeared on peacecorps.gov. En español.

The story behind Dutch chocolate company Original Beans’ Arhuaco Businchari chocolate bar begins in the tropical forest covered Sierra Nevada region of Colombia, on the Caribbean coast in the northern reaches of South America. That is where the indigenous Arhuaco nation has been able to cultivate, harvest, and sell cocoa successfully for the past two years, improving the economic opportunities for their communities while conserving the precious forest around them.

This past March, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) organized a workshop in Bogotá that provided the Arhuaco community a platform for knowledge sharing. It also sponsored a visit by a cocoa buyer. This fruitful collaboration was made possible with the help of the US government’s Peace Corps program and EcoDecision’s Canopy Bridge, with USAID funding. It’s an example that shows how collaboration is key to conserving the remaining tropical forests and supporting indigenous peoples to develop alternative economic activities that align with their cultural values. For the Arhuacos, the collaboration is already generating results and they are sharing their experience with entrepreneurial indigenous groups throughout the country.

The buyer visit, a key element of this collaboration, took place at the Arhuaco cocoa processing center just outside of Santa Marta, Magdalena. Jan Schubert, from Original Beans, the Arhuacos’ principal European partner, spent almost two weeks in the region promoting community cocoa initiatives. According to Original Beans, the company has a distinctive vision to “replenish what we consume” – focusing on biodiverse agroecosystems, reforestation, sustainable value chains, and community involvement. It is more than just a chocolate company. Currently, Original Beans makes their own Arhuaco Businchari bar, has an exclusive agreement for single-origin couverture with JRE Europe restaurants, and also recently started selling cocoa beans to small-scale chocolate makers through the Original Beans warehouse in Amsterdam.

Schubert explained, “With the Arhuaco community’s Colombian buyer, Cacao de Colombia, Original Beans aims to buy 10 metric tons of cocoa beans during the 2018 harvest, supporting indigenous livelihoods with a stable price more than double the market average.”

Challenges of organic certification

During the visit, Schubert supported several efforts, including working closely with members of the Arhuaco community association ASOARHUACO to plan out the next steps in the organic certification process. This will be crucial in the coming year to increase Arhuaco cocoa’s commercial value and reach a wider market segment in Europe. Although the community’s cocoa production is yet to be certified, Arhuaco producers follow organic cultivation principles aligned with their cultural values. Challenges of geography and communication make organic certification especially difficult. Original Beans used this most recent visit as an opportunity to strategize with association leaders, especially around the organization of baseline GPS information for each producer that will be evaluated by the certification body.

In the remote Arhuaco village of Bunkwimake in the higher altitudes, the vision is to continue developing a nursery that will house native tree species and eventually rescued cacao bunsi, or white cocoa, which is a unique variety that is native to the Sierra Nevada. Original Beans donated materials to construct a nursery and is exploring the possibility of installing an irrigation system, collaborating closely with community leaders and advisors to determine the next steps of support.

A girl from the Arhuaco indigenous nation in Northern Colombia samples a selection of chocolate bars from Original Beans, a sustainable chocolate company that is partnering with the Arhuaco nation on cocoa production. Photo by Original Beans.

Indigenous entrepreneurship

Arhuaco indigenous leaders have begun looking to share their experiences with commercializing cocoa and coffee beyond their community. Arhuaco leaders Francisco Villafaña and Jader Mejía presented their experiences at the Third Macro-Territorial Meeting on Economies for Indigenous Peoples of the Northeastern Amazon in Bogotá. Organized by EDF, the GAIA Amazonas Foundation, and Global Green Growth Institute, the workshop served as a noteworthy moment of capacity building between indigenous communities.

Villafaña and Mejía’s presentation told a success story of indigenous entrepreneurship. They spoke about the development of the value chains of both cocoa and coffee, key partners and aid organizations that have helped them in the process, and overarching successes and challenges. One prominent partner that has helped the community since 2009 is USAID and ANADARKO, through the nonprofit ACDI/VOCA; in addition, the community has received national government support through a UNODC alternative livelihoods program to replace illicit use crops. Villafaña and Mejía demonstrated the Arhuacos’ achievements, which serve as a model for other indigenous groups, including creating their own brands and small batches of chocolate bars and coffee through this financing. For the Arhuaco presenters, the forum was invaluable as they continue to develop the marketing skills necessary for successful business growth. Not only were they able to gain experience with public speaking, but they were also able to network with potential business partners.

In response to the Arhuacos’ presentation, workshop participants highlighted that profit is not always a sufficient incentive to develop an economic activity that is in line with indigenous values. The speakers portrayed profit as a tool and resource, rather than an objective, to achieve loftier goals such as increasing market access or infrastructure, improving food sovereignty, and reclaiming territories. The participants supported the idea that communities need to drive their own projects, instead of being led by outsiders that have less of an understanding or stake in the work within the community. Foreign organizations have a greater impact when they empower community leadership, help strengthen existing structures and create learning opportunities within each process so that participants can become self-sufficient in the long-term.

Narratives such as that of ASOARHUACO might generate new ideas among participants for project proposals; there is a significant call for community-driven projects from the Colombian government through its Indigenous Pillar of the Amazon Vision Program (PIVA). Ultimately, Villafaña and Mejía offered the workshop’s participants a shared perspective relevant to Colombia, stemming from a wealth of common experiences in developing economic opportunities consistent with their indigenous culture.

From Bogotá to Bunkwimake, this collaboration is strengthening the Arhuacos’ efforts to market their products and ultimately drive their own processes. It connects the community members with new experiences, opportunities, and partners that empowers individuals and increases the community’s sense of ownership over its cacao production.

The cacao wager has not been won; the community must continue to insist on its short, medium, and long-term objectives. For this reason, it needs to continue carrying out institutional management and leadership to achieve its dreams of the peace, balance, and health of Mother Nature.

 

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Deforestation-free supply chains: 4 trends to watch

Trees removed from a forest. iStock

Hundreds of companies have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains by 2020, but the political landscape and market conditions are shifting as the deadline draws nearer. Here are four emerging trends that these companies – as well as the governments and civil society organizations engaging with them to zero out deforestation – should be taking into consideration as 2020 fast approaches.

1. Western companies can’t solve deforestation on their own.

One significantly subscribed-to theory of change for deforestation-free supply chains was that if enough companies set goals and purchase deforestation-free commodities, we will see reductions in deforestation globally. But so far, even with more than 350 companies setting forest-related goals, we are not seeing this transformational change. This is primarily because emerging economies play an increasingly important role in commodity markets. U.S. and European companies do not have enough market leverage to have a widespread impact.

Take beef, for example. Beef accounts for more deforestation annually than all of soy, palm oil, and pulp and paper combined. Western consumers actually eat very little of it. Most beef is consumed domestically in countries like Brazil, while the rest goes to countries where deforestation isn’t a major factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions, like Russia and countries in the Middle East.

Similarly, markets for palm oil, another major driver of deforestation, tend to prioritize price over environmental impact. This is particularly true in China, India and the domestic markets of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Clearly then, a deforestation-free strategy needs to involve non-Western markets and address those supply chains.

2. New approaches that focus on local context and solving governance challenges are gaining traction among supplier companies.

Three new approaches that focus on local context and solving governance challenges are gaining traction among supplier companies. These three initiatives follow what is known as the jurisdictional approach because they focus on engaging actors from the government, private sector, farmer groups, and civil society. With the jurisdictional approach, the private sector works with governments to reduce deforestation and improve productivity in an entire region.

  • Mato Grosso, Brazil’s Produce, Conserve, and Include (PCI) strategy. PCI is one of the pioneering pilots of the jurisdictional approach, and is gaining momentum after finalizing an investment plan and a $54 million commitment to the provincial governments for REDD+. This multi-stakeholder platform aims to work with producer companies to increase production of agriculture and livestock while reducing deforestation, increasing reforestation, and incorporating smallholders and indigenous peoples in low-emission rural development. The PCI is tackling thorny commodities such as the state’s beef and soy production.
  • Olam’s Living Landscape policy. Few upstream plantation companies have agreed to change their plantation development and purchasing strategies, but Olam just did. Their new strategy focuses on collaborating with multiple stakeholders in landscapes and making a holistic positive impact – not just mitigating negative impacts.
  • The World Cocoa Foundation’s Forest and Climate Initiative. As part of this initiative, private sector actors up and down the cocoa supply chain are collaborating through an association to work with the governments of Ghana and Ivory Coast to reduce deforestation in the production of cocoa. This exciting collaborative model allows companies to engage alongside peers and with governments, and has potential which will be watched closely.

3. Certifications are limited in their ability to solve commodity-linked deforestation on a broad scale.

Global certification processes can help companies take short- and medium-term steps toward reducing deforestation in their supply chains. However, corporate leadership on forests needs to incorporate approaches that help resolve the problem on a broader scale and for the long term.

A better approach is a broader process such as the Responsible Sourcing Palm Oil (RSPO) certification system that is now being implemented in a number of jurisdictions. The RSPO helps its members think more broadly about indirect impacts and other supply chain actors – such as government agencies – in places where palm oil is grown and being developed.

4. More complex approaches that include governments are necessary in most contexts and for medium- and long-term success.

Because deforestation is a complex, multi-layered challenge, solving deforestation necessitates a complex approach – one that involves players from the crops and industries causing deforestation, as well as local and national political processes. Inherent in such a complex approach is the need to define complex concepts, including the term “deforestation” itself, and what is “legal” at the state, provincial, and/or national level.

TFA 2020 General Assembly and making progress

The Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020 initiative is a platform focused on enhancing partnerships between government, private sector, and civil society organizations to eliminate deforestation. Parties at TFA’s upcoming General Assembly will tackle how to achieve the goal of zero net deforestation by 2020 from key commodities, like beef, soy and palm oil.

EDF will promote jurisdictional approaches, including Mato Grosso’s Produce, Conserve, and Include strategy, during a side event geared at increasing the engagement of corporate actors with government, farmers and civil society.

Reducing deforestation remains a significant challenge and becoming more urgent – deforestation rates remain high and have a direct impact on global warming. It will take the actors involved in deforestation to come together to find a solution that works for everyone, and for the planet. Promising solutions, like the jurisdictional approach, are emerging and showing signs that it can be done.

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States Should Welcome REDD+ into International Aviation Carbon Offset Program

Sectoral scale REDD+ programs meet or exceed proposed CORSIA offset

aircraft-landing-reach-injection-47044-700x325

Source: pixabay.com

Two important climate change initiatives are advancing and their future success looks more and more intertwined. The Carbon Offset Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) is approaching the end of a policy-making phase to finalize environmental criteria for offset programs – which will be necessary for airlines to meet the international aviation sector’s climate commitments. At the same time, many countries striving to conserve their tropical forests are looking for sources of funding for large-scale programs for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).

ICAO recently hosted a seminar in Montreal on carbon markets. The seminar occurred as ICAO Member States are considering draft Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for implementing CORSIA, including environmental integrity criteria for offset programs and emissions credits. With some countries having submitted their observations on the proposals this week, and more slated to do so by April 20th following a series of regional seminars on CORSIA, the 36-member ICAO Council aims to finalize and adopt the SARPs this June. ICAO’s CORSIA Resolution directs the Council to establish, with the technical contribution of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), a standing technical advisory body to make recommendations to the Council on the eligible emissions units for use by the CORSIA. While the Council is establishing this body, proponents of different programs like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and REDD+ will be informing decision makers about their ability to supply high-integrity offsets.

Why REDD+ is a great solution for CORSIA

REDD+ is the only sectoral set of policy approaches to be featured in the Paris Agreement, which will govern global climate action starting in 2021. REDD+ received special recognition by the world’s climate policy makers, for two reasons. First, dramatic reductions in emissions from deforestation can play a key role in the battle to avert dangerous climate shifts. Second, the world’s nations have set out a multilaterally agreed framework for measuring these reductions, ensuring that forest protection proceeds with environmental/biological and social safeguards, providing basic guidance for market-based transfers of these reductions, and ensuring environmental integrity through accounting and transparency. The UNFCCC’s 2013 Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and related UNFCCC Decisions set a precedent for these programs to proceed at jurisdictional or national rather than simply project scale in order to develop and enforce policies to address deforestation at a large scale, prevent leakage of deforestation, and avoid double claiming of emissions reductions.

Parallel to the development of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, the World Bank, nine donor governments and TNC created the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to help tropical forest countries prepare plans to reduce deforestation nationwide, and to pilot results-based payments for those reductions. These countries are succeeding in reducing emissions from deforestation – and payments for their results could be issued by the end of 2018.

The guidance provided by Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and the upcoming results of the FCPF are two important reasons why REDD+ should be a source of offsets for CORSIA. As the FCPF is demonstrating, REDD+ that meets the UN’s multilaterally agreed Warsaw Framework is achieving real results, and deserves to be a source of offsets for CORSIA.

A recent analysis of REDD+ by Climate Advisers demonstrates how REDD+ programs implemented under the Warsaw Framework meet CORSIA’s draft Emissions Unit Eligibility Criteria. Another just released study by Climate Advisers discusses why REDD+ is a good option for airlines needing to meet their CORSIA obligations.

What are other potential offset suppliers for CORSIA?

During an ICAO seminar held in February in Montreal, potential offset suppliers gave short presentations of their programs to an audience of about 200 people. Reviewing the workshop program, one can’t help but notice a big focus on the CDM. The CDM’s existence is not guaranteed in the new post-2020 climate regime for many reasons. But one prominent factor is the risk that if the CDM actually did achieve real reductions, those reductions could be claimed both by the host country in the context of the Paris Agreement, and by an airline in CORSIA. That would negate the climate benefit of CORSIA. Flawed CDM credits should not be allowed to crowd quality REDD+ credits out in CORSIA.

But can REDD+ actually supply CORSIA? EDF researched this question and found that the answer is yes – even when doing proper accounting to ensure no double counting. Another interesting finding is that if REDD+ is used, many emerging markets could see net economic benefits. See, for examples, analyses by Climate Advisers of net benefits for Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Peru.

Making a match of REDD+ and CORSIA

Evaluating CORSIA’s draft Emissions Units Criteria, REDD+– under the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ or the FCPF– meets or exceeds them. Sourcing offsets from REDD+ offers more than just environmental benefits. In addition to generating significant potential supply of emissions reductions, REDD+ activities can also generate significant economic and social co-benefits, in addition to offering higher regulatory certainty than other mechanisms. CORSIA policy makers would be well advised to acquaint themselves with REDD+ – the only sectoral program for the new Paris climate regime agreed upon by 193 countries.

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A look into the diverse indigenous enterprises working in Colombia’s tropical forests

Colombian coffee has a Protected Designation of Origin | Photo: Wikimedia

Amazon indigenous communities have made huge strides in the last two decades to secure legal recognition for their ancestral lands – territories which play a major role in efforts to conserve rainforests and stabilize the global climate. But there is still much work to be done.

Many protections for indigenous lands are still precarious and once land rights are secured, the key challenge remains: how to keep these lands economically viable for their ancestral owners in the face of often overwhelming economic pressures from mining, logging and commercial agriculture to exploit the lands in destructive ways.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Ecodecision worked with the Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC) to identify examples of indigenous-led enterprises from the Amazon that were contributing to better incomes and creating local value for indigenous territories.

The goal was to better understand how indigenous enterprises support their culture, the challenges they face, and the scope for replication and growth.

The study examined many cases of indigenous enterprises for:

  • Use of ingredients from the forest and traditional practices or knowledge
  • Type of organization used to run the enterprise
  • Role of women in the enterprises
  • Current scale and investment need to scale further

We found indigenous enterprises of the Colombian Amazon are as diverse as the people, flora and fauna of the region.

Cases of diverse indigenous enterprises of the Colombian Amazon

There are dozens indigenous enterprises in the Colombian Amazon and they vary in product offerings, organizational forms, and market sizes. We selected some of the most developed ones with the ability to deliver products (domestically and internationally), gender involvement, external partnerships, and potential for investment.

Mambe.org is a non-profit that partners closely with indigenous peoples and places a focus on indigenous women and their artisanal products. It operates a storefront in Bogota that sells the women’s crafts. In addition to the storefront, Mambe.org makes connections between indigenous communities’ ecotourism offerings and tourists. The board of Mambe.org includes indigenous representation, but some of its day-to-day operations aspects are managed by non-indigenous employees.

Selva Amazonía is an indigenous enterprise of the Nasa tribe that makes cosmetics based on ingredients collected from the forest and uses traditional and sustainable techniques for harvesting with a strong role for women. Its legal representative is a woman and women play a strong role in the production of its products.

ASOPROCEGUA, the Association of Agricultural Producers for Economic Change in Guaviare, has been growing quickly over the last couple of years by processing Amazonian fruits. It sells its products whole sale and retail in Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena – a rare example of an indigenous enterprise commercializing its products beyond Bogota to other parts of Colombia. Its purees of the non-traditional Amazonian fruits are important ingredients to a fast-growing ice cream company focused on Colombian flavors and ingredients.

The Indigenous Central Cooperative of Cauca (CENCOIC) is a coffee producer organization with 2300+ producing members, which recently celebrated its 37th birthday. It has much to celebrate as it also recently exported its prized coffee to roasters in the US, UK, New Zealand, Germany, France, and Australia. Its members follow conservation best practices that mandate the conservation of forests, water sources, and other natural commons.

Next step: how to scale up these indigenous enterprises

Despite the diversity of indigenous enterprises in product offerings, organizational structures, and market sizes, they all face common challenges in terms of access to markets and finance, and the need to continually improve their business administration capabilities. Flexible funding and support mechanisms are highly needed for indigenous groups to consolidate and grow these enterprises based on their hard-won territorial rights and rich natural and cultural heritage.

Over the next year, EDF with OPIAC and partner Canopy Bridge will explore how to further scale these examples and the many other indigenous enterprises in Colombia. This will include connecting them with new buyers from the US and other countries. Best practices will also be shared between them and aspiring indigenous leaders and entrepreneurs to further strengthen the sector. Indigenous enterprises and the values embedded in them are an essential component for tropical forest conservation and empowering indigenous peoples to control their own destinies.

These case studies are part of a broader effort to inventory economic enterprises lead by indigenous communities in a comprehensive online database.

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Shoddy CIFOR publication on indigenous peoples’ rights abuses gets the facts wrong

Indigenous People Day at COP23 | Photo by UNClimateChange

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) held a press conference during COP 23 in Bonn to launch a new publication, “Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation.”

But the research underlying this sensationalistic headline is fundamentally flawed. Not only is their publication factually wrong in many places, but the peer-review process failed to identify numerous weaknesses in the analysis. A rights-based approach for REDD+ was already enshrined in the UNFCCC COP 19’s decision on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ in 2013. One could argue that it actually goes even further back to the Cancun Safeguard decision at COP 16 in 2010.

Below are the five primary issues in the report. (Note: The rest of this piece assumes readers are generally familiar with the points made in the CIFOR publication and very familiar with REDD+ within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.)

  1. The mafia, not REDD+ supporters, are killing indigenous and community leaders

The biggest problem with CIFOR’s publication is they fail to identify who is murdering indigenous and community leaders trying to protect their rights and forests, which gives the impression that it’s people connected to REDD+.

But the researchers say in footnote 2 they did not attempt to investigate the veracity of the allegations:

“As this review refers only to published sources, it does not include more recent allegations or attempts to evaluate the veracity or present status of each case (including whether corrective measures have since been taken), …”

If they would have done more research, they would have found that the majority did not have anything to do with a REDD+ process or rise to an actual “rights abuse” definition. Global Witness documented 200 killings in 2016, and 97 so far in 2017, and identified the biggest violators as mafias involved in illegal logging, mining, and agribusiness – not REDD+ proponents murdering indigenous and community activists.

  1. CIFOR’s publication relies on unreliable sources

Some of CIFOR’s sourcing for its publication is untrustworthy. For example, REDD-Monitor.com has a clear anti-REDD+ agenda and its funders include a who’s who list of groups with strong anti-REDD+ positions. Its About page calls REDD+ a “hairbrained scheme to allow continued greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels by offsetting these emissions against ‘avoided deforestation’ in the Global South.”

  1. CIFOR’s article’s peer-review is weak

While many of the reviewers are knowledgeable about rights and the REDD+ field, they are not the people who are most well-acquainted with UNFCCC REDD+ decisions.

  1. UNFCCC REDD+ uses a rights-based approach

REDD+ negotiators, indigenous peoples representatives, and civil society organizations spent eight years creating comprehensive guidance for REDD+, called the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.

The Warsaw Framework includes the “Cancun Safeguards” and also mandates reporting on how the safeguards are addressed and respected. The Cancun Safeguards were agreed to in 2010 and were one of the first REDD+ decisions that guided all subsequent decisions.

The Cancun Safeguards was one of the first decisions to reference the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (also known as “UNDRIP”) in an international agreement. Nearly all of the world’s countries approved the decision and the insertion of a reference to UNDRIP forced many countries who had not previously acknowledged the Declaration to do as much.

  1. The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ does not include project-based REDD+

A significant part of the “allegations” and “potential” negative examples explored in the article are linked to REDD+ projects, which again, are not covered by the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. But do a simple word search for “projects” in all of the UNFCCC REDD+ decisions and you’ll see the word does not appear once. That’s because implicitly, UNFCCC REDD+ is meant for jurisdictional REDD+ programs – not one-off REDD+ projects.

Suggestions for moving forward

CIFOR and the REDD+ community should consider a few steps to make amends for their inaccurate publication.

  • CIFOR should consider writing its own research paper on the dozens, if not hundreds, of indigenous leaders and forest activists that are murdered every year defending their rights and the forests.
  • CIFOR should not treat REDD Monitor as a legitimate resource for academic research.
  • CIFOR should improve its “peer-review” process and ensure information is, per its tagline, “accurate.”

Vigilance will always be needed to ensure that no abuses of indigenous rights occur in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation. One such violation is one too many.

However, such risks have long been identified and are already being addressed, not least because indigenous groups have effectively used national and international REDD+ processes to advance recognition of their rights.

Sensationalized publications based on unsubstantiated allegations do nobody any good, and divert attention from documented rights violations and murders committed by actors seeking to destroy forests – not by REDD+ proponents who are eager to work with indigenous leaders to protect them.

Posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples / Leave a comment