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Notes from Forest Day 2, Poznan

At the 2007 climate conference in Bali, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organised a Forest Day. In Poznan, on 6 December 2008, CIFOR held Forest Day 2.

The more than 900 participants could chose from 38 different side events and four “Cross-Cutting themes” Sub Plenary presentations, all bracketed by an Opening Plenary session and a Closing Plenary session. But this apparent diversity of views was marred by the fact that there were no Indigenous Peoples’ representatives in any of the Plenary or Sub Plenary sessions. During the Closing Plenary session, Yvo de Boer pointed out the importance of consulting Indigenous Peoples and civil society and said that “There is a little group of marginalised Indigenous Peoples wandering around who are not really making an input to the negotiations.” He might have added that they were also not making an input to Forest Day 2.

The following is based on the notes I took during Forest Day 2. REDD-Monitor would be interested to hear other people’s versions of the day’s events in the comments.[1]

At the Closing Plenary and in a press conference a couple of days later, Frances Seymour, CIFOR’s Director General talked about a “consensus” of foresters. But during the day, a wide range of views and opinions were expressed. Even in the Opening Plenary session there were disagreements.

Frances Seymour, opened the proceedings. “2009 will likely be the most important year in our lifetimes for forests,” she said.

Jan Heino of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation explained that Forest Day 2 was organised by CIFOR with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, a voluntary partnership consisting of 14 International Organisations working on forests. Heino was keen to play down the destructive role that logging has played in the world’s forests. Some people say that it is forestry that is to blame for emissions from forests, but forest destruction is often the result of factors outside the forestry sector, for example agriculture, he said.

“For the forestry community it is obvious, too obvious, that sustainable forest management has a significant strategic role to play in addressing climate change,” he said.

Heino did not explain what he meant by “sustainable forest management” or how (or whether) this differs from industrial logging concessions, or whether there should be some forests, such as old-growth forests, which should be out of bounds to the timber industry. Neither did he mention Indigenous Peoples.

Sunita Narain, the Director of the Centre for Science and Environment, used to be on the board of CIFOR. Her presentation and perspective was radically different to that of the FAO’s Jan Heino. Narain explained that forests are critical for the livelihoods of the poor. Forests build the economic base of poor communities. At the same time, forests are critical for economic growth. There is an opportunity cost of keeping forests standing, for example, if mining operations do not go ahead in forest areas, she said.

There is the possibility of a win-win situation, but we must avoid the mistakes of the past. We cannot allow creative carbon accounting, she said. She is critical of the flexible mechanisms built into the Kyoto Protocol. She noted that the clean development mechanism was designed for narrow self interest. “We said it would not work,” she said and added that we must learn from our experience with CDM. She emphasised the importance of keeping forests out of the carbon trading mechanism.

“This is not an either/or situation,” she said. We have to have deep cuts in emissions, but we also have to stop emissions from deforestation.

Martin Parry of the Grantham Institute and Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London was Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II (IPCC AR4 2007). He didn’t seem too worried about where the money came from to protect forests. He said that there are two aspects to climate change. First, action is needed. Second, it is really urgent. “Only if forestry is included can we succeed,” he said. “We simply cannot do it without you.”

His presentation described the likely impacts of climate change in dramatically increasing the rate of extinctions. He pointed out that emissions continue to increase. We need an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 and it is important that reductions start now. Without forests, this target is impossibly hard to meet. Amazonia could become a net carbon source as global warming continues. Parry mentioned Indigenous Peoples and the need to protect vulnerable forest dwelling people.

Pavlan Sukdev of Deutsche Bank and the study leader of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, spoke about the economic value of standing forests. REDD is a potentially huge solution, he said. However, he noted, there is a need for “a robust international legal architecture”.

In response to Frances Seymour’s question “What one thing needs to happen?” Martin Parry replied that everything needs to happen. In particular, international funding needs to be found to protect forests. “It’s as simple as money, actually,” he said.

But neither the opening session nor the other presentations I heard during the day suggested that protecting the world’s forests was going to be “simple”.

After the opening session, I went to the Cross-Cutting Sub Plenary session on “Global REDD architecture”. When I arrived, a presentation about the Juma project in Brazil had already started, to a packed lecture room. (According to IISD, this was Virgilio Viana of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation.) The Juma project, which covers about 500,000 hectares, will avoid 3.6 million tons of CO2 emissions, he said. Baseline, leakage and permanence are all accounted for. At the request of the certifying organisation, TÜV SÜD, the project also did an additionality test. The Juma project proves that it is possible to certify a project in Brazil, according to the presenter.

Projects are an important way of addressing local communities’ issues. We should move quickly, he said. “There is a tipping point with forests.”

Ruben Lubowski is an economist working with the Environmental Defense Fund. He echoed Martin Parry’s presentation in the Opening Plenary session: “We need emissions reductions now. It is hard to see how this can work without forests,” he said.

REDD can potentially start right now. It gives you what economists call an “option value”, Lubowski said. He talked about the risk of carbon credits from forests flooding the market, which he admitted was a valid concern, but there are ways to deal with it, he said. For example, if we have a global carbon market then flooding is not a problem. Another option would be banking the credits from forests. The credits could be issued today and saved for the future. The money would be available now, but the carbon credits need not come into the market immediately. During the questions session, Lubowski said that the risks of flooding the market are being exaggerated by some people.

Even if everything is not worked out immediately, we can be flexible, Lubowski explained. “We’ll work it out,” he said. “We’ll measure consertatively in countries where measurement is a problem.” Perhaps the credits will be worth less. “Building flexibility into the system is important,” he said.

Lubowski’s optimism suggests that he hasn’t looked in much detail at forestry politics over the past two decades, or at the reality facing local communities living in and near forests in the global South. It also suggests that, perhaps strangely considering that he’s an economist, he hasn’t looked in too much detail at the current financial and economic crisis that the world is in.

Doug Boucher of the Union of Concerned Scientists said that there was an agreement on the costs needed to reduce deforestation by half by 2020. The Eliash report produced a figure that was similar to his: about US$20 billion a year. This is quite inexpensive, compared to other options. REDD is cost effective. When asked whether his figures were calculated based on commodity prices six months ago or today, Boucher said that the figure of US$20 billion a year is based on commodity prices two years ago. “We used to think that US$20 billion was a lot of money,” he said, “but now governments give away a trillion with a day’s thought.”

Boucher continued. The next question is how do we finance REDD? Newspapers always report the same story that proponents and opponents say that the carbon markets are the only way to fund REDD. In fact, there are various other options available, such as using money from the auctioning of emission rights. These do not necessarily have to lead to carbon offsets. It is therefore up to us to tell a more nuanced story to the media.

He said that we have to use all the available options for funding. REDD will not work without funds, for example for capacity building and stabilisation. There is also the issue of countries with low deforestation rates and low forest cover and how we prevent leakage to those countries. In response to a question he noted that there can be different ways of funding at different times. First there might be the voluntary carbon market, then money from a fund, then money from auctions from cap and trade schemes, which could raise large sums of money. With a nested system, it is possible to start at the national level or at the project level.

Boucher explained his view of permanence in forests. If I own a coal-fired power plant and I get US$20 million for keeping it closed for one year, then I’ve got that money for avoiding the emissions for one year, not forever. It is the same with forests, according to Boucher. We pay for one year’s avoided emissions. “It is analogous to the industrial sector,” he said, “where we don’t give [permanence] much thought.”

This is an extraordinary view in my opinion. There is little point in paying to preserve forests for one year if they are to be clearcut the following year. Boucher, it seems, hasn’t grasped the fact that burning fossil fuels is not the same as storing carbon in forests or that avoiding deforestation for only one year is almost meaningless in terms of addressing runaway climate change.

Michael Dutschke of Biocarbon Consult made a comment from the floor about permanence and liability. We need to define what we mean by permanence, he said, because “nothing is permanent”. If we get to “stabilisation” by 2050, then “well done, we’re well on the way”, he said. In forests, the major permanence issues are fire, climate change and so on. Globally, there are risks. These risks can be shared between the buyers and sellers of carbon credits – if there are to be credits. There are project risks and there are political risks. There are ways of securitising the risks, for example by temporising credits. It doesn’t have to look like the system used for afforestation.

Somewhere between 42 and 100 years is effectively permanent, Dutschke said. There is already some experience with project credit buffers – the idea of holding back credits in case part of the forest area is destroyed. Another option is risk pooling. Insurance is the best way of mitigating risks. Because there is a risk that these mechanisms may not be equitable, there is a need for supranational regulation of the insurance market, he explained.

The moderator of the session, Arild Angelsen of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences had an interesting theory about the complexity of the climate negotiations. Whenever something becomes too controversial, he explained, the negotiators come up with a new term. At first, no one knows what it means and everyone is enthusiastic. As they find out what it means, it becomes controversial, so then they think up a new term.

During the questions, someone from IIED commented that many people talk about win-win situations. “I’d like you to reflect on whose going to lose,” she said. “There are people benefiting from deforestation who are not going to go away.”

William Sunderlin of the Rights and Resources Initiative said that we’re all talking about the need to rush ahead with REDD, but asked how are you going to get the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples recognised first?

Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition pointed out the gender imbalance on the panel. She also noted the regional imbalance and the fact that there were no Indigenous Peoples on any of the plenary or subplenary sessions.

Boucher quoted Bismark: People should never see how their legislation or how their sausages are made. “We need a deal,” he said. “We need a deal soon. There will be a lot left out.”

After lunch, I was faced with an overwhelming choice of 21 parallel side events. Among other options, I could have heard the business perspective on forests, climate change and the forest industry, or the business case for REDD biodiversity benefits, or a company called CarbonFix on how afforestation/reforestation was a “key factor for the success of REDD”, or the Forests Dialogue explaining “Your Role in Ensuring that Forests Positively Effect [sic] Climate Change”, or Avoided Deforestation Partners launching something called “REDD Methodology Modules”.

I decided on a side event on “Indigenous and Local Community Perspectives on Forests and Climate Change”, organised by the Rainforest Foundation Norway and the Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement (CED) in Cameroon. Samuel Nnah Ndobe talked about the Congo Basin, an area covering 520 million hectares and home to 90 million people, more than 70 per cent of whom are forest dependent. The population includes communities of unique hunter gatherers and Indigenous Peoples. Of a forest area of more than 200 million hectares, less than one per cent is community forest. About 50 per cent of the forest in the Congo Basin is allocated for logging.

For villagers to get the rights to manage their forests as community forests is a very long process, unlike the process for issuing logging concessions. Community forests are a good option for sustainable forest management, Ndobe said. It is a way of getting us to REDD very quickly.

Lars Løvold, Director of the Rainforest Foundation Norway, said that protection of forests is entering into a new arena, with the involvement of forests in the climate negotiations. He noted that 80 per cent of deforestation is caused by large-scale outside actors and 20 per cent by poor people clearing land for food.

Løvold has been dealing with issues relating to Indigenous Peoples and rainforests for 30 years. In the last 15 years, since the Earth Summit in Rio, there has been a lot of nice language on rainforests, but deforestation continues, he said. Now, we are suddenly talking about billions of dollars being invested in forest protection. This is a new situation and perhaps it will be possible to stop deforestation. There may be a total change in the development paradigm, he said.

But REDD without rights will not function, Løvold said, and it risks aggravating conflicts and poverty. We must move away from the focus on individual forests. Participation is crucial. REDD can work where tenure rights are recognised. With all the various REDD schemes being developed, UN-REDD, the Norwegian Government’s involved and the FCPF, we must have true civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ involvement on decision-making committees.

Løvold said that keeping the carbon in the trees in order to trade carbon credits is not the objective. This may come in the future, it is not yet decided. “For me, getting safeguards in place now is the important thing,” he said. Financing is a separate discussion, he added. As a way of addressing leakage, we need to look nationally, then regionally, then globally. Starting at the national level is a good start, he said.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues talked about the precedents for recognising Indigenous Peoples rights, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 8j of the Convention on Biodiversity, the UN convention on Human Rights, the policies on Indigenous Peoples of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 169 (ILO 169).

When we first heard about REDD, Tauli-Corpuz said, it was the loggers who would get paid. We made a lot of noise about that and now that’s not going to be happening. In response to my question about her opinion on the way REDD is developing so far, she replied, “There is no REDD yet.” Tauli-Corpuz said that we can use the opportunity of REDD to bring in legislation to address our rights.

After a coffee break, I went to a side event organised by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), “Learning from Forest Carbon Projects, Standards and the Private Sector to Inform Effective Policy Frameworks that Maximize Climate, Community and Biodiversity Benefits ”.

I arrived late, because a journalist from Malaysia wanted to ask me some questions about REDD. When I got to the side event, Eric Bettelheim of Sustainable Forestry Management Ltd. was in full flow. “80 per cent of the world’s wood comes from forests,” he said. If we’re going to stop removing wood from forests, we’re going to need billions of dollars invested in plantations. This is not going to be cheap and we are only going to be able to gradually do it.

“I raise money,” Bettelheim said. “We do not bet on carbon.” He explained that the companies that his firm invests in are sustainable enterprises. “Save the rainforests! That’s my generation,” he said. “WWF has forgotten it. Greenpeace has forgotten it. Friends of the Earth has forgotten it. But I haven’t forgotten it.”

We are long term investors, Bettelheim explained. This also means dealing with agriculture. The vast majority is subsistence agriculture. Only 20 per cent is commercial. Therefore, our projects are dealing with poor people, some of them are there illegally. We have to plan decades ahead and we need 100s of billions of dollars of investment to save the forests. CCBA integrates all our concerns. The community sees it as in their interest to protect the forests. Brazil’s president Lula sent 3,000 people into the Amazon recently to stop deforestation. The result was that deforestation went up.

The IPCC tells us that 18-20 per cent of emissions is a result of deforestation. Added to this is 14 per cent related to land use change. So we’re talking about land use planning on a large scale, Bettelheim said. Pedro Moura Costa from EcoSecurities said that the exclusion of forests from the Kyoto Protocol was the biggest environmental crime of the 20th Century. 150,000 square kilometres went up in flames for no reason at all. Bettelheim estimates that US$170 billion a year is needed at a price of US$20 a ton. The only way of doing this is through carbon credits, he said.

There will be three billion more people on the earth by the time I’m expected to die. Eight billion will be in the developing world and there will be “one billion of us”. We need to marshall the political will now, both to stabilise the climate and to lift these people out of poverty, Bettelheim said.

Jeffrey Hayward of Rainforest Alliance spoke next. He thanked Bethelheim for his talk and suggested that we might like to “re-calibrate” for his presentation, “down to, say, Sarah Palin level.” Hayward talked about standards, third party evaluation, benchmarks, assurance and confidence. Good design should come at the beginning. Third party independent auditing can monitor perfomance and do validation and verification audits. Some firms get involved with the CCBA standards not because they want to get carbon on to the market, but because a firm wants to offset its own emissions, for example.

Hayward talked about respecting rights, customs and traditions. Under the CCBA, full audit reports are available on the website. He added that other certification schemes only require that public summaries are posted. An audit takes between three to ten days, depending on the complexity of the project. If the project doesn’t meet the criteria it is given a certain period of time and they have to send the information to Rainforest Alliance to prove that they have met the criteria.

Sometimes projects are not sure which standard they want: VCS, CCBA, Plan Vivo and so on. There is a rapidly escalating number of projects, in both the agriculture and the forestry sectors. Rainforest Alliance has carried out eight full verifications, 75 per cent of which met CCBA standards. 30 more projects are in the pipeline, Hayward said.

Celia Harvey from Conservation International spoke about recognising stakeholder rights. One problem, she acknowledged, is determining who actually owns the carbon. One aspect that’s not getting a lot of attention at these talks is capacity building. REDD will almost certainly reduce the loss of forests of high biodiversity value, she said.

During the questions, someone from northeast India spoke about the area that he comes from. There is some sacred forest left, but most of the forest has already gone. The area was the seat of the East India Company. Now there are plans for open cast uranium mining. India is building a wall to prevent refugees from Bangladesh coming in, he said.

Bettelheim replied that there are always alternative uses for land. The question is whether we can shift economic values. Nuclear energy is part of the solution. We have to shift economies in favour of conservation. There could potentially be massive migrations of people across the Bangladesh-India border. Dafur is another situation that I talk about, he said and suggested that we should all read the last essay in “War and Peace”.

At the Closing Plenary to Forest Day 2, Frances Seymour presented a summary prepared by representatives of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. The summary emphasised the consensus reached in the “forestry community” about REDD. Instead of noting areas of disagreement, the summary lists “Areas requiring further consensus-building” and “Areas for further research and development”. Seymour said that there is consensus that mitigation and adaptation are interlinked. Finance has to come from funds and from innovative financial mechanisms. Safeguards have to be in place. Financing from non-market sources is needed to start up REDD, she said.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change spoke next. Strangely, the version of the speech available on CIFOR’s website bears little relationship to what de Boer actually said in Poznan. De Boer noted that Seymour had referred to the need to consult and that that is important, but that we’re now at the stage where we are taking things out. The “Assembly Document” on REDD has been reduced from 700 pages down to 82. Comments can be made up to January. After that, “You’ll have to work the delegates in the corridors,” he said. De Boer said that he was disappointed not to hear Seymour say anything of the co-benefits between REDD and the Convention on Biodiversity and the Desertification Convention.

Coordination is needed between the World Bank and UN-REDD. This issue is too big, too contentious and too important to try to deal with it all under climate, de Boer said. It is important to develop safeguards that don’t become a noose around the neck of the agreement.

Why are there almost no afforestation projects recognised under the CDM, he asked. First, because there is no market, because the EU is not interested in those credits. He said it was strange to see an agreement reached in Bali, but then for the EU to say that we don’t want to buy the credits anyway. (This comment was applauded.)

The second reason is financing. Who does the money go to? The people who depend on forests should be the ones who get the money.

He commented that Seymour said a lot about REDD, but nothing about conservation. “The work you’ve done is sensitive and intelligent,” he said and suggested that in future Forest Days more negotiators should be involved.

Don Koo Lee, the president of IUFRO read a two page statement. Dennis Garrity the Director General of ICRAF spoke about the importance of including agriculture, especially since 80 per cent of deforestation is a result of conversion to agriculture. A whole landscape approach is necessary. REDD won’t work on its own. Garrity had listened to Eric Bettelheim’s presentation, it seems. 18 per cent of emissions are from forests. 14 per cent are from agriculture. 80 per cent of wood comes from forests. A phenomenal investment is needed if we are to replace that, Garrity said and added that the lowest hanging fruit is to stop deforestation of peatlands.

The World Bank’s Warren Evans said that the one thing that he was concerned about Seymour’s summary was that she talked about the need to do research. “We need to go out and do, do, do,” he said. “Learning by doing,” he added. This is bad news for the world’s people and forests, I’m afraid. In its more than sixty years of existence, the World Bank may have been good at the “do, do, do” side of things, including financing logging, building roads through the Amazon, hydropower dams which have flooded vast areas and mineral extraction from forest areas. But there is little evidence that it has learned anything from this destruction.

Evans continued. There is a gap between the rhetoric on the adaptation side, he said. For example, why is there not a massive programme of replanting mangroves? I think that adaptation is more important than mitigation, he said.

In her presentation, Jan McAlpine, the new Director of UNFF, said that “REDD cannot solve all the problems of forest management.”

With that comment, my notes of the day end. I don’t share Frances Seymour’s view that consensus had been reached. There are important and fundamental questions about REDD. Some of these questions were raised during Forest Day 2. They need to be openly discussed, not swept under the carpet of a fake “consensus”.

I went downstairs to the entrance foyer, where a lavish buffet was on offer. The Polish forestry department brass band played and apparently endless glasses of wine and vodka were served. I’m not sure whether we were celebrating (and if so, what we were supposed to celebrate) or whether it was intended to be a wake for the world’s forests.


[1] I apologise for the length of this post, but having taken the notes, it seemed pointless not to share them. I’ve tried to keep my comments on what was said to a minimum, but at times the temptation was too great to resist. Obviously, this post doesn’t reflect any of the presentations that I didn’t go to. If you want a shorter overview of events, here’s IISD’s Summary of Forest Day 2.

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  1. I’m doing some research on REDD and how it may benefit both biodiversity conservation and local people for an MSc Thesis I have to write this year. So this type of discussion summary is very useful for me, and I’ve been following your REDD monitor posts regularly. No need to apologize for length of post. If anything, I would like to see MORE comments from your end, not fewer. In the end the word “rights” did not make it into the draft. Do you think there is a chance that this may yet get in by the end of the year? And what would it mean if it does not?