in Guyana, Panama

World Bank bulldozes ahead with REDD in Guyana and Panama

World Bank bulldozes ahead with REDD in Guyana and Panama

The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has approved the readiness plans (R-Plans) for Panama and Guyana, reports the Bank Information Center. In doing so the FCPF ignored the advice and recommendations of its own Technical Advisory Panel. The approval demonstrates that the guidelines and standards developed under the FCPF are effectively meaningless.

From 15th to 18th June 2009, the members of the governing body of the FCPF, the Participants Committee, met in Montreaux in Switzerland. Three R-Plans were on the agenda at this meeting, from Guyana, Panama and Indonesia. Once their R-Plans are approved, countries can tap into grants up to a maximum of US$3.6 million, including a US$200,000 grant which the Bank can provide up front to support the development of the R-Plan.

The World Bank has assembled a Technical Advisory Panel to produce “synthesis reviews” of the R-Plans as they are produced. These reviews are available on the FCPF website, as are the R-Plans themselves. The Technical Advisory Panel reviews the R-Plans against a set of standards and criteria, which were developed by Bank staff and subsequently revised by the Participants Committee (with input from civil society).

The lead TAP Reviewer for Guyana was Jürgen Blaser, Senior Adviser on Forestry and Global Issues at the Swiss organisation Intercooperation. Blaser’s report notes that the R-Plan “deals more with the symptoms of deforestation and forest degradation rather than with the real drivers, i.e., policy and market failures.” Blaser adds that “What needs to be improved in the current R-Plan draft are the presentation of the proposed measures and how they will work and whether the activities as currently presented in the R-Plan will generate a comprehensive REDD strategy.”

The TAP Review for Guyana identified four groups of issues:

    1. Forestry-Centric Approach of the Proposal “the single ownership by the GFC [Guyana Forestry Commission] is of concern.”

    2. Full integration of local stakeholder in the development of the REDD-strategy “With regard to indigenous people, it is unclear how participants in the process are chosen and what their roles in accepting pro-REDD policies and implementing its programs.”

    3. Realistic Future Reference Level Projections “The Plan makes the argument that historical deforestation rates understate future emission levels and that much of the now forested landscape will come under pressure for forest loss and degradation from increased timber demand and conversion to agriculture. This is questionable due to the inherently low fertility of the Guiana shield soils.”

    4. Incorporate Assessment of the Economics of the Major Land Uses causing Deforestation and Degradation “In particular, there is a need to assess the economics of the land uses currently causing forest loss and degradation. Without this information, it is impossible to hold meaningful consultations with stakeholders or develop feasible pilot activities, and to reform policy and put them into practice.”

The TAP review provides a list of 28 recommendations to strengthen the R-Plan. In addition, the review found that the R-Plan did not meet or only partially met five out of nine of the standards set by the FCPF.

The TAP for Guyana recommends “undertaking further planning through 2 or 3 phases with a more targeted emphasis on quality of the outputs to fully prepare a R-Plan and start readiness.”

In the case of Panama, the lead TAP reviewer was David Kaimowitz, Director of Environment and Development with the Ford Foundation in Mexico. As with Guyana, the TAP team found that the analysis of the drivers of deforestation was inadequate. Kaimowitz writes that “The R-PLAN does not present a clear diagnosis of the current situation regarding deforestation and forest degradation, nor a well-developed strategy for using policy instruments to improve forest cover and quality.”

Niether does the Panama R-Plan comply to the standards set by the FCPF: “When the Review Panel went through each of the specific criteria and standards that we were asked to comment on in many cases we found that the R-PLAN the Panamanian government submitted did not meet the standards the FCPF had instructed us to base our conclusions on.”

In other words, the FCPF Participants Committee has approved two readiness plans that are not yet complete and which do not comply to the FCPF’s standards. Reporting from the FCPF Participants Committee meeting in Montreux, Bank Information Center explains how (and why) this happened:

while there was significant debate within the PC around weaknesses in all three R-plans, the political pressure to move the process forward won the day, with approval of the Guyana and Panama plans, and approval pending for Indonesia. . . . Both donor and REDD country representatives on the PC expressed concern that if the PC didn’t approve the plans now, there would be little progress to show in Copenhagen in December, undercutting the ability of nations advocating UNFCCC adoption of REDD to point to real on the ground advances. The World Bank is positioning itself to be the main financial intermediary for climate change aid flows, despite civil society protest. The Bank similarly has strong institutional pressures to move the FCPF process forward and demonstrate capacity and achievements in piloting REDD, and is now essentially competing with other institutions which could play a similar role, such as the UNREDD and the Amazon Fund in Brazil.

The World Bank is bulldozing ahead with REDD. Bank Information Center cautions that this haste could undermine the credibility of both the FCPF and REDD:

Unfortunately, this issue of setting precedents cuts both ways: if the FCPF is seen to support poorly designed REDD projects in countries with significant governance problems in the forest sector, it will not only undermine public confidence in the FCPF, but could undercut the rationale for REDD in the first place.

PHOTO Credit: Guyana forestry by Christopher Frey.

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