in Ecuador, Indonesia

Day one in Poznan: UN doesn’t discuss REDD, Conservation International does

Day one in Poznan: UN doesn't discuss REDD, Conservation International doesFor those who have been to previous UN Climate Conferences, the following will be of no surprise. This afternoon, both the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) failed to discuss REDD, although it was on the agenda for both groups.

The AWG-LCA started 15 minutes late and the delegates spent most of the remaining 75 minutes discussing whether or not there should be a contact group to discuss the “shared vision on long-term cooperation to address climate change”. The SBSTA was little better, with delegates reading out prepared statements and hardly any interaction between the speakers.

The AWG-LCA chair proposed stopping the meeting and reconvening at 18.00. This clashed with a side event organised by the French Development Agency (AFD) and Conservation International (CI) titled “Innovative financing for forest-based climate mitigation”. After three hours of AWG-LCA and SBSTA, I thought a side event would be more interesting.

In his presentation, Johnson Cerda spoke about the Limoncocha forest in Ecuador and about the need to include Indigenous Peoples in all stages of planning of REDD projects. The community has an area of about 7,000 hectares of forest. After a mapping exercise, they decided to protect about 80 per cent of the forest.

“Money is not our main goal,” Cerda said. “The government says that it wants to protect the forests with REDD. These are the forests that we have been protecting for a long time.”

For Cerda and his community, an important issue is land tenure. “We don’t want the bad experience we have had in the past with protected areas,” he said. If the government really wants to protect the forest it has to give land titles to the Indigenous Peoples to protect the forest. He contrasted this with the government, which continues to give out oil concessions in protected areas.

John Lanchbery is Head of Climate Change Policy with the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He described two projects, the Gola Forest in Sierra Leone and the Harapan Forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. In both cases, Lanchbery emphasised that the projects required a long term process – not just a case of “ticking the boxes”. He also emphasised the importance of involving local people, “otherwise it just won’t work”. Neither of the projects that Lanchbery described were REDD projects, although Lanchbery said that they are “interesting from a REDD point of view”. The concept of additionality doesn’t appear to trouble Lanchbery too much.

Conservation International’s Ben Vitale spoke about the “innovative financing” in the side event’s title. Vitale is Managing Director of Conservation International’s Conservation and Community Carbon Fund.

According to Vitale, there are “over 100 forest-carbon demonstration projects globally”. (He reaches this figure, presumably by including projects such as the two that Lanchbery had just described.) To Vitale, the question is “Where do we go from here? How can we expand these activities?” Vitale’s answer is the Conservation and Community Carbon Fund, which aims to double the number of forest-carbon projects by bringing in carbon finance. The projects are to create carbon credits and the fund will be partially revolving – in other words the money spent by the fund on financing the project will come back through carbon trading.

After the presentation, I asked Vitale to say something about the current global financial crisis, in particular the financial innovations that led to the hundreds of billions of dollars that governments have spent on bailing out the banks. I noted that the carbon market will be extremely complex and very untransparent. And I asked whether he thought it was ironic to be talking about “innovative financing” at this particular moment in history.

Vitale declined to answer my questions, commenting only that with this financial crisis perhaps it makes sense to have a more stable fund, but the fund would have to be very, very large and it would have to grow over time. He made no mention of the bailout of the banks, the complexity of the carbon market, or what would happen if the carbon market fails. Crisis, what crisis?

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