Author Archives: Gus Silva-Chavez

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.

Posted in Deforestation, REDD, UN negotiations| 6 Responses

REDD+ finance, indigenous rights protections move forward in 2012 with boost from Durban negotiations

This is a joint post by Gus Silva-Chávez, EDF's Climate & Forests specialist and REDD+ project manager, and Chris Meyer, who coordinates EDF’s REDD+ activities with Indigenous Peoples.

The most recent UN climate negotiations wrapped up in December with a better-than-anticipated outcome, but the preparations for the next set — this year in Qatar — are already underway.

Policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and to protect the rights of indigenous peoples who live in the forests made important progress in the recent UN climate negotiations in Durban.

We've spent some time reflecting on the outcome of the 2011 talks in Durban, South Africa, especially on progress on policies to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, known in the UN world as REDD+. REDD+ was a huge winner in the 2010 negotiations, when the UN put its seal of approval on the policy, and this year made some additional progress, most importantly in finance and in ensuring rights for indigenous peoples.

We were recently invited to write about the REDD+ negotiations in Durban for the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), a coalition of -collaboration of 14 states and provinces in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria that was formed in 2008 at the first Governor’s Global Climate Summit.

Below is our analysis of where REDD+ negotiations ended in Durban, and what we're likely to see as countries gear up for the Qatar negotiations. You can find additional analysis of Durban negotiations by EDF's International Climate Program Director Jennifer Haverkamp in her blog post In Durban, world's major economies show will to address climate change.

The Durban REDD+ Outcome

Cross-posted from the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force Newsletter (January 2012)

In an annual ritual, government negotiators, NGOs and journalists attended the December 2011 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Durban, South Africa. Negotiators in Durban approved technical guidelines for ensuring that reference levels — benchmarks for measuring progress in reducing emissions from deforestation — have environmental integrity. EDF had been eagerly anticipating this technical decision going into Durban, these new guidelines will provide a framework and necessary guidelines on how to establish reference levels that are based on science and that can serve as a measuring stick for environmental performance and financial compensation.

REDD+ policies got a major boost in Durban when countries agreed that all sources of funding, including carbon markets, are eligible to pay for REDD+ activities. After years of exploring how to pay for all three stages of REDD+ (capacity building, early implementation and national-level pay-for-performance), the UN has put its seal of approval on the use of markets. Estimates indicate that while public financing is needed, especially for the capacity building stage, only large-scale, sustainable funding from carbon markets will generate sufficient funding. EDF applauds this decision.

The decision on REDD+ finance, in the “Long-term Cooperative Action” (LCA) negotiations, included a clear endorsement of all sources of finance, a call for a REDD+ finance workshop and a technical paper in 2012.

Looking forward to next year’s climate negotiations in Qatar, countries will start deciding on the details of reference levels, and some will begin to calculate their reference levels using the guidance decided in Durban. As more specific REDD+ financing methods are developed, countries will hold a REDD+ finance workshop and produce a technical paper that will attempt to answer some of the questions around financing REDD+.

Indigenous peoples & REDD+

Negotiators in Durban approved critical provisions for ensuring the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected and will be safeguarded in the implementation of REDD+ programs. Parties also outlined the protections for Indigenous Peoples prominently in the LCA’s financing sections. Still, negotiators only developed a framework for systems of reporting on the implementation of REDD+ safeguards and decided to continue working on the content of these REDD+ systems next year.

Durban resulted in a positive step forward in providing preliminary guidance for the reporting on the implementation of safeguards as countries launch REDD readiness initiatives already being financed through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, UN-REDD program, and other bilateral initiatives. More importantly, we’re seeing indigenous peoples in many countries developing their own consultation and information gathering processes that will feed information into these systems.

The Durban conference as a whole produced surprisingly good results, given our modest expectations. However, it is important to note that there are a lot of concrete actions taking place outside of the UNFCCC forum, including efforts to open a path for REDD+ credits from Brazil, Mexico and beyond to flow into California’s emerging carbon market. Top-down efforts at the international level can only succeed if bottom-up actions like these are being successfully implemented.

For additional information on EDF’s international work, please visit edf.org/international.


Posted in Deforestation, Durban (COP-17), Indigenous peoples, REDD| 2 Responses

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!

Posted in Durban (COP-17), REDD| 4 Responses

Final week of Cancún talks begins, stage set for decision on reducing emissions from deforestation

Today marks the start of the second week of the U.N. climate conference in Cancún, and also the first day of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).  Environment ministers meeting about REDD+ in Cancún this week are expected to focus on four main issues, and with enough political will, a decision on REDD+ is on the horizon.

REDD+, as we mentioned in our post on Cancún policy issues to watch, is one of the most developed areas of text in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and going into Cancún, REDD+ was considered among the areas most likely to see progress there.

REDD+ negotiations' slow start not a setback

Understandably, I’ve had a number of people ask why it took a full week (of the two-week-long talks) to actually start negotiations on REDD+.  That’s a fair question, and the result of a few circumstances.

In every session, to advance negotiations the Chair of the REDD+ negotiations is authorized to assemble a "balanced text" based on countries' views, previous negotiating texts, and consultations with countries.  Countries then can accept or reject this as the starting point for negotiations.  One country (Bolivia) was not accepting the initial version of the text, and since the UNFCCC operates on a consensus-basis, the negotiations could not move forward.

Over the weekend a new negotiating text was released, and in this one the Chair had included for discussion some provisions Bolivia had been pushing for.  Bolivia agreed to accept the text, and now the REDD+ negotiations are underway.

The good news is that REDD+ has been such a prominent issue in the negotiations that, unlike other issues, REDD+ negotiations are very advanced, so a slight delay isn't a serious setback.  The REDD+ text is practically complete — it has all the basic elements for a good REDD+ policies that will work, and very little of the text it is “bracketed,” or still under discussion.

What's up next for REDD+ negotiations

Now it’s up to the environment ministers in Cancún to make decisions on the final parts of the text.  Based on my discussions with negotiators, there are four major issues left to discuss in the REDD+ text:

  1. Goal for reducing deforestation emissions: The challenge in deciding on a goal for reducing deforestation emissions is that developed countries want to know how much they can reduce emissions, while developing countries want to know how much financing they will receive by preventing deforestation in their countries.  That essentially leaves negotiators with two options for determining a goal for reducing deforestation emissions:
    • Create specific reductions targets (e.g. cut emissions from deforestation 50% by 2020), and tie these targets to specific finance numbers (e.g. how much financing goes to developing countries who help in avoiding deforestation).
    • Create a general goal e.g. REDD+ mechanism should make significant reductions to emissions from deforestation, subject to appropriate finance).  Since it’s unlikely that countries will be able to agree on a goal with specific numbers in Cancún, to make progress in REDD+ it’s likely countries will choose to create a more general goal than one with specific numbers.
  2. Sub-national accounting: Countries are debating whether compensation for REDD+ activities could be given for an interim period at a sub-national (e.g. state and provincial) level, as opposed to the preferred national level.  Allowing sub-national crediting would benefit countries that need a few years to establish a national REDD+ accounting system, thus allowing forest conservation while those countries get a national system in place.
  3. Social and environmental safeguards: The REDD+ text includes numerous protections for the environment and for the people who will be affected by REDD+ policies.  Negotiators will be debating whether to mandate or just recommend these safeguards, which include:
    • Social safeguards: Protections for communities affected by REDD+ activities, for example making sure countries putting REDD+ policies in place consult properly with local communities and stakeholders.  Most basic safeguards are in place, but negotiators must decide how long they should remain in place.
    • Environmental safeguards: Protections to ensure the environmental integrity of REDD+ activities, for example making sure there are no loop holes that would allow payment for forests to be cut down and then replanted with new plantations.
  4. Finance: Simply put, for REDD+ policies to work and be sustainable, REDD+ must use the sustainable and large-scale funding that markets can generate.  Negotiators will be discussing whether to allow both market and non-market (e.g. public finance money from governments) funds.

There is widespread agreement on the basic core elements on REDD+, and with only these four issues still left unresolved, the stage is set for a REDD+ decision to come out of Cancún.

Beyond REDD+, countries in Cancún (including the United States) are looking for a “balanced” decision – meaning additional decisions in other areas of the global treaty like finance; measurement, reporting and verification (MRV); and land-use and forestry (read more in our Policies to Watch post).

So, now it’s up to the ministers here this week to make these final decisions — and the earlier, the better.  The sooner they can agree on REDD+, the more time the ministers can spend on the other issues that require more negotiations to produce a balanced package in Cancún.

This is part of a series from EDF's experts, who are blogging regularly from the U.N. climate conference in Cancún on EDF's Climate Talks blog.

Posted in News, REDD, UN negotiations| 1 Response

Enviro groups criticize REDD+ Partnership’s "unacceptable" exclusion of civil society

EDF’s REDD intern Martina Car contributed to this post.

While EDF welcomed the agreement among 50 countries to collaborate in the global effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) established during May’s Oslo Climate Conference, the REDD+ Partnership got off to a disappointing start this week after deeply inadequate steps were taken to include stakeholders in the Brazil meeting.

The REDD+ Partnership meetings are intended to bring together governments, private sector and civil society groups – including indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations – to make important decisions about the world’s forests.

However, the Partnership, co-chaired by Japan and Papua New Guinea, waited until one week before its first-ever meeting to invite civil society groups. Given the short amount of time to make travel arrangements and jointly strategize on policy recommendations, representatives from wide-ranging sectors of civil society – especially delegates from developing nations and spokesmen from indigenous communities – found it impossible to attend the meeting.

Too little notice is “unacceptable”

In response to this failure to include stakeholders in the important REDD decision-making process, NGOs across the political spectrum sent letters of protest to the chairs of the Partnership; thirty-six NGOs boycotted the meeting altogether.

EDF joined a number of other environmental groups to express concern about the way civil society had been excluded.  In a letter to the participants in the REDD+ Partnership, environmental groups wrote:

We… find the arrangements for this meeting to be inconsistent with the goals of the Partnership, in particular its stated principle to ‘be inclusive of all committed countries as well as representatives of relevant stakeholders including indigenous peoples, local communities, civil society and the private sector.’  The process for engaging stakeholders in the [Brazil] meeting is unacceptable.

The groups also urged governments to postpone any decisions until there is a legitimate and workable consultation process in place.

Transparency and coordination crucial for next meeting

Though the first meeting of REDD+ Partnership may have been “a serious false start,” as some NGOs have said, it has also been an opportunity for Partnership organizers to learn an important lesson, making way for a more transparent and coordinated process for civil society’s engagement in future talks.  This serious consultative flaw must be fixed for the next meeting.

Posted in Deforestation, News, REDD| Leave a comment

In Bonn, Countries Finally Focusing on the Substantive Issues

Reporting from the U.N. climate talks underway in Bonn, Germany

The 185-nation Bonn Conference, which will run until June 11, is the biggest international meeting on climate change since a summit last December in Copenhagen failed to agree to a new global deal.  At the beginning of the meeting, EDF urged countries to seize the momentum and start moving away from procedural arguments into a real, substantive negotiation of the critical issues like mitigation, finance, deforestation emissions and forestry accounting rules.

New negotiating text brings fewer fireworks than expected

Monday was a slow day as the scientific and technical panels started their discussions.  These are by nature not the most exciting negotiations but the fireworks were expected to begin on Tuesday when the real policy negotiations under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol were scheduled to start.  The Chair of the LCA (Long term cooperative action under the Convention) was going to unveil a new text that some thought would be the basis of negotiations while others thought it could be turned, via further discussions and negotiations during this week, into a formal negotiating text that would draw upon last year´s negotiating text and additional sources, such as the Copenhagen Accord.  The Kyoto Protocol negotiations were also scheduled to begin yesterday.

And what happened? No fireworks, at least not the ones that usually happen at these meetings.  Blocs of countries welcomed the LCA Chair´s negotiating text though many said that there are gaps that need to be filled over the next two weeks. As late as Monday night, at the traditional reception hosted by the City of Bonn, I was hearing from many countries that no one was happy with the text and that there was a real risk that the text would be rejected by dozens of countries, including the US and major developing countries.

This would have been catastrophic and perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the UNFCCC process.  Maybe it was the inspirational farewell speech that Yvo Do Boer gave during Monday´s reception hosted by the mayor of Bonn and the Environment Ministry, or the optimistic message from the incoming head of the UNFCCC, Christiana  Figueres, but by 10 a.m. Tuesday, what could have turned into another nasty procedural fight, actually became the event that many of us hoped for–global negotiations in which countries act in their self interest but in a constructive and rational way with a real desire to reach compromise.

Forestry playing a leading role

Other EDF members who will help me to cover legal and finance issues, as well as forestry rules, have arrived.  In particular, Dr. Jason Funk has taken a break from helping out with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and assessing the impact of the oil spill on our precious wetlands.

Dr. Funk´s arrival is timed perfectly since he is our technical forestry expert.  The forestry rules in UN speak are known as "Land Use, Land use Change and Forestry", or LULUCF, and they are the accounting rules that developed countries use to measure the increase in carbon from their forests and land areas, as well as the increase in sinks when for example trees grow.  This is quite different from the utility generating sector which only produces emissions.  Read EDF's Forestry fact sheet for an overview of forestry issues in the U.N. climate talks.

John Ashe, chair of the climate negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol track, told countries that he expected to finalize the forestry and land use portion of the negotiating text on the last day.  I spent two days working with NGO colleagues to spread the message that these are bad rules that should not be finalized as they are currently drafted.  EDF and other NGOs have been highlighting this accounting loophole and we have been successful in receiving media attention.

We have had meetings with Heads of Delegation, walked them through our concerns and explained the quantitative analysis, using their own numbers and their own data that clearly show they are attempting to hide future emissions.  And some of them agree that the numbers do not add up and that we are setting up a bad system that will not be credible. And the pressure is getting to top negotiators, such as the lead Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN), Kevin Conrad who called that (LULUCF accounting rules), "fraudulent accounting" and the co-head of the EU delegation, Artur Runge-Metzger, told Reuters that such loopholes must be closed, under "harmonized" reporting rules.

Today is the third day and as I have learned, the climate negotiations are unpredictable and a roller coaster.  But on this sunny day in Bonn, after three straight days of clouds and rain, it does seem that the clouds have parted for these negotiations to achieve progress on the road to Cancun and beyond.

Posted in Forestry, UN negotiations| 1 Response
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