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REDD discussions in Barcelona

REDD discussions in Barcelona

On the final day of the UN climate change negotiations in Barcelona, two climate activists walked to the front of the main plenary and held up a banner reading “End CO2lonialism”. “They shouted about the dangers of carbon trading and were met with thunderous applause. They were immediately dragged out by police,” Rainforest Action Network’s Joshua Kahn Russell writes. The protest was one of the highlights of the meeting.

At a mid-week meeting with NGOs, Yvo de Boer, the Executiive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said that it was impossible to craft a treaty in the time remaining before COP-15 in Copenhagen. By the end of the week, de Boer told Bloomberg that “I don’t think we can get a legally binding agreement by Copenhagen. I think that we can get that within a year after Copenhagen.” Negotiations on REDD were no better. “REDD forest agreement hits new low,” the Ecosystems Climate Alliance announced on the last day of the negotiations.

John Vidal reported in The Guardian that Southern governments are threatening to walk out of the Copenhagen meeting, unless the North comes up with meaningful emissions reduction targets. The US and Europe are demanding that the Kyoto Protocol be scrapped, to be replaced by a new treaty. With this background, it is perhaps not surprising that the REDD negotiations are going so badly.

A new “non-paper” on REDD came out of the Barcelona negotiations: Non-Paper no. 39. Ecosystems Climate Alliance pointed out that this “contains no provisions to monitor vital safeguards in developing countries which will receive funding to implement REDD, nor any explicit language that will ensure an objective of protecting intact natural forests in those countries.”

Roman Czebiniak, political advisor on climate change and forests for Greenpeace International, told SolveClimate that “Right now, we have a pretty worthless safeguard and no rules to implement it, at a time when we need strong safeguards and strong rules are needed.” Czebiniak remains optimistic that safeguards and monitoring could still be inserted into a REDD agreement, even after Copenhagen.

But there is precious little evidence that this might happen. During the Bangkok climate change meeting in October, the words “against the conversion of natural forests to forest plantations,” were removed from the text. The EU supported by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, declined to reinstate the text. The wording in the current draft is much weaker, promising only to “promote actions” that “do not provide incentives for conversion of natural forests.”

A series of NGO press releases from Barcelona (in addition to that from the Accra Caucus, already posted on REDD-Monitor) illustrate how badly the REDD negotiations are going wrong.


6 November 2009

No Monitoring, No Protection of Natural Forests Means Continued Forest Emissions

Barcelona – Prospects for a robust agreement to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries (REDD) are on a knife-edge as the United Nations climate change negotiations in Barcelona draw to a close today, according to forest and climate experts from the Ecosystems Climate Alliance.

New REDD negotiating text (Non-Paper No. 39) released on Thursday afternoon, contains no provisions to monitor vital safeguards in developing countries which will receive funding to implement REDD, nor any explicit language that will ensure an objective of protecting intact natural forests in those countries. REDD is intended to help developing countries protect their remaining rainforests and reduce the 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation, forest degradation and peatland destruction.

Vital issues awaiting resolution in Copenhagen are:
— safeguards for transparent forest governance structures and support mechanisms {4(c)};
— safeguards for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities {4(e)};
— safeguards on conservation of biological diversity and enhancement of ecosystem services {4(f)}.
— an objective for protecting intact natural forests.

Gaping holes remain, and, importantly, there are no provisions to monitor compliance with these proposed safeguards should they be incorporated into the agreement. Most countries which stand to benefit from REDD funds have poor legal frameworks and weak enforcement.

“If developing countries want to benefit from REDD, they need to build confidence in the frameworks they put in place, and demonstrate that safeguards are being met. The text as it stands reflects a strong push to receive REDD funds with no oversight,” said Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness, one of nine NGOs which constitute the Ecosystems Climate Alliance. “With no provisions to monitor how countries are implementing REDD and applying safeguards, the REDD agreement is worth no more than the paper it is written on.”

A key safeguard of the REDD text – “against the conversion of natural forests to forest plantations” – which vanished at the Bangkok talks in October, has reappeared in two options but both are severely weakened and in square brackets, so there is no assurance that the provision will remain intact.

“Still missing is the vital objective of protecting intact natural forests in REDD,” said Peg Putt of The Wilderness Society. “A flickering candle for a safeguard against plantation conversion is burning but we are quite concerned that it will be snuffed out in Copenhagen. Without this safeguard, REDD monies projected to preserve tropical forests could instead allow industrial-scale logging and replacement of forests with pulp or palm oil plantations.”

REDD could become one of the few outcomes from Copenhagen, particularly now that the UNFCCC has acknowledged that COP15 will produce, at best, a watered-down, non-binding, “political” agreement. Two REDD options appear possible. Substantial sections of the current negotiating text could be inserted into the COP15 agreement, which is likely to be a version of the “Shared Vision” document (Non-paper No. 33) released on October 23. Most likely, however, is that the COP15 agreement will contain only a short paragraph on REDD and refer to a separate document (the current REDD text, to be further negotiated in Copenhagen) and relegated to a decision subsidiary to the main agreement.

No adjustments to the safeguard ensuring the rights and full and effective participation of indigenous and forest dependent peoples were made in Barcelona, but ECA members say the language is decidedly weak.

“A REDD deal might end up as a greenwashing exercise if there is no legally-binding climate change agreement at Copenhagen,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Rainforest Foundation UK. “Runaway climate change would devastate tropical forests and forest-dependent peoples even if a separate decision on REDD is reached.”

The social and economic forces which drive demand for forest products and result in forest destruction receive scant attention in the REDD agreement.

“Global demand for food, fuel and fiber is driving deforestation,” said Andrea Johnson of the Environmental Investigation Agency, noting that the U.S. has been a leader in raising this issue in the REDD discussions. “All countries must support good governance and forest protection through their own policies and measures, not just cash.”

Essential incentives to reduce ongoing emissions from drained peat forest soils, and safeguards to prevent the conversion of not only forests but also of other natural ecosystems to plantations have not yet been addressed.

“A REDD mechanism that does not provide adequate incentives to protect and rewet organic soils ignores very high and ongoing emissions that result from deforestation and forest degradation (e.g. 500 Mt/CO2/yr in Indonesia). It could also stimulate and reward plantations on yet deforested and drained soils (and other ecosystems) with significant carbon stocks resulting in large emissions,” said Susanna Tol of Wetlands International.

Forest management accounting for developed countries (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry, or LULUCF) has also taken a severe turn for the worse. Parties have put forward various loopholes in the LULUCF text that will allow each to arbitrarily adjust its own reference level for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from forest management, undermining their emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

“Developed countries will bring their Christmas wish lists to Copenhagen,” said Rebecca Ettlinger of Nepenthes, “so developing nations must plan to scrutinize their requests closely to avoid these undermining the integrity of the climate deal by hiding emissions or claiming fraudulent credits.”

Although some type of agreement on REDD may be the most positive Copenhagen outcome, without forest protection and enforcement of safeguards as its key priorities, it will threaten rather than preserve the world’s remaining natural forests.

The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) ( is an alliance of environment and social NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere, in an equitable and transparent way that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. ECA comprises Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Witness, Humane Society International, Nepenthes, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation Norway, The Rainforest Foundation U.K., Wetlands International and The Wilderness Society.


Time’s Up

Climate Justice Now! Network Denounces False Climate Solutions in Barcelona

BARCELONA, November 6, 2009 – The international civil society network Climate Justice Now! deplores the downplaying of expectations for the Copenhagen Climate Summit in Barcelona by industrialized countries, UNFCCC officials and the host of the Copenhagen Summit. On the eve of Copenhagen, there is still no real progress on targets, a naïve and dangerous reliance on market mechanisms, no commitment to human rights, and a frightening context in which some countries are beginning to talk seriously about dangerous climate techno-fixes.

“Instead of discussing practical approaches to rapid emissions reductions — like a massive investment in safe renewable energy and rapid technology transfer — here in Barcelona, the developed countries are downplaying expectations, inching toward weak targets, minimal financing and no meaningful agreements on technology transfer,” said Meena Raman, Legal Advisor of Third World Network. “The attempts to destroy and alter the present legal instruments of the climate regime (Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol), with false and unjust solutions being put forward as part of a weak aggregate target, are destroying the trust and good faith that are needed deliver a strong agreement in Copenhagen” said Raman.

One of the deliverables of Copenhagen was supposed to be a deal on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) but that is liable to end up as a green-washing exercise if there is no legally binding climate change agreement in Copenhagen. “We cannot allow a bad REDD deal to be a loophole that sabotages a genuine solution to climate change. Industrialized countries have a historical responsibility for human-induced climate change and a REDD deal will not work without commitments from these countries to reduce their domestic emissions by at least 40%,” said Alejandro Alemán of Centro Humboldt, Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change.

“The full collective rights of Indigenous peoples consistent to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our full and effective participation in all climate change negotiations must be recognized in any binding climate treaty,” says Christian Dominguez, a member of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change participating in the UN climate talks.

“While global negotiations have been going on here in Barcelona at a snail’s pace, geoengineering has alarmingly moved to the forefront of policy debates in London and Washington,” said Diana Bronson of Canada-based ETC Group. Yesterday, joint Congressional-Parliamentary hearings on geoengineering were kicked off in Washington, giving yet another signal that industrialized countries are not getting serious about meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases. “We are sending a strong message today that putting sulphates in the stratosphere, iron in the oceans and biochar in the land are neither solutions to climate change nor alternatives to securing the binding targets and adequate financing that developing countries are rightly demanding,”

With zero negotiating days left to Copenhagen, the divide between developing countries’ demands and industrialized countries’ actions has led to a breakdown in trust which is undermining the credibility of these negotiations. Climate Justice Now! calls on political leaders to deliver a legally binding deal in Copenhagen – anything less is a political cop-out.

Climate Justice Now! is a network of organisations and movements from across the globe committed to the fight for social, ecological and gender justice.


Forest protection still missing in REDD negotiations

Press Release – 04/11/2009

31 countries lead by signing Forest Pledge; Maldives Vice President calls for leadership

Barcelona – The potential of REDD to deliver real reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in their forest homes hangs in the balance as language protecting forests remains missing from negotiating text for a climate change agreement. In reaction, 20 additional countries, including the Maldives, Ghana, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka have come forward to sign up to the Forest Pledge to protect forest and indigenous rights over the past three days, making a total of 31 nations thus far prepared to make a stand in the REDD negotiations.

Language protecting intact natural forests must be re-inserted into the text in Barcelona, restoring what is popularly understood to be the purpose of REDD.

“REDD as a mechanism needs to prioritize the protection of intact natural forests in order to genuinely make a difference in preventing dangerous climate change,” said Peg Putt of The Wilderness Society and the Ecosystems Climate Alliance. “Otherwise REDD will become little more than a logging mechanism and will quickly lose any public support.”

The safeguard against the conversion of natural forests to plantations was controversially abandoned in Bangkok three weeks ago and awaits discussion Thursday morning, as does strengthening of safeguards to protect indigenous rights and biodiversity that were weakened at the same time. As the stakes have risen, however, negotiations have retreated behind closed doors.

Dr. Mohamed Waheed, Vice President of the Maldives, has signed the Forest Pledge and calls for other countries to follow his leadership. “The protection of the world’s intact natural forests and the rights of indigenous communities who live in forests must be upheld in the Copenhagen agreement,” said Dr. Waheed.

“Concern that REDD must protect forests and indigenous rights has prompted delegates representing almost one-sixth of all nations to sign up to the pledge to make these the core priorities of REDD,” continued Ms. Putt. “The next two days will likely make or break REDD as a mechanism that protects intact natural forests and genuinely makes a difference to dangerous climate change.”

Joseph Ole Simel, the African Indigenous People Focal Point and Indigenous Peoples Caucus Chair on REDD, said: “Any REDD agreement must ensure the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples. The agreement must be legally binding and have a moral, political and social responsibility to ensure that the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples is promoted and protected.”

“The World Bank, northern countries and big international NGOs, under the eyes of the United Nations, are creating carbon cowboys that trample over the rights of indigenous peoples, our land and our forests,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, an international organizational working with indigenous peoples of the world. “The trees of the global south are not a commodity to be openly traded on a global carbon market.”

“The world’s youth are saying to the UN that our future is not negotiable. Without a deal that meaningfully protects intact natural forests, our future is on the chopping block,” said Joshua Kahn Russell from the International Youth Delegation and the Rainforest Action Network. “The current text fails to address the drivers of deforestation, and fails to safeguard indigenous rights.”

At a colourful action held this morning in the conference venue representatives of indigenous peoples, youth, and environmental groups chanted and cheered as more countries signed the pledge.

The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) is an alliance of environment and social NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere, in an equitable and transparent way that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. ECA comprises Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Witness, Humane Society International, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation Norway, The Rainforest Foundation U.K., Wetlands International and The Wilderness Society.

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