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The draft REDD text: targets gone, safeguards fading

The draft REDD text: targets gone, safeguards fading

On 11 December 2009, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a joint statement. “We believe around 20% of early finance should be allocated to forest protection,” the statement said.

The two leaders called for a “reduction in deforestation of 25% by 2015, leading to a 50% reduction in 2020 and a halt in 2030.” They also mentioned another target: “EU to reduce its emissions by 30% by 2020”.

On the same day, Lumumba Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping, Chair of the G-77/China, spoke to NGOs in Copenhagen. In a moving speech, he called for rich countries to cut emissions 52% by 2017, 65% by 2020, 80% by 2030 and well above 100 by 2050, with the goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5°C. “2 degrees Celsius is certain death for Africa, is certain devastation of island states,” he said.

Late on Friday night a draft REDD text was leaked to observers in Copenhagen. The draft REDD text has no mention of targets for ending deforestation and includes only weakened language on safeguards. One of the reasons for the removal of targets, according to the Accra Caucus, is anger from tropical countries at the North’s failure to commit to dramatic reductions in emissions.

This arguing about targets and numbers matters, of course. Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Hadley Centre of the UK’s Met office spoke at a press conference in Copenhagen last week. “Roughly around a billion tons of carbon a year comes from deforestation across the planet, compared to around 8.5 billion tons from fossil fuel emissions,” Betts said. “Deforestation matters if we are to stabilise climate change at low levels.”

If we were to stop all emissions from fossil fuel use immediately, Betts explained, but allow deforestation to continue “we will definitely see the two degree target exceeded and maybe even the three degree target.”

Things are not looking too good, in other words. The North refuses to commit to meaningful emissions reduction targets. The South retaliates by taking targets out of the REDD text. REDD safeguards are fading fast.

Here are two press releases about the draft REDD text, from the Accra Caucus and the Ecosystem Climate Alliance:

Statement from the Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change

12 December 2009, Copenhagen

A robust agreement in Copenhagen to save rainforests is stripped of a global objective on halting deforestation and operative safeguards, as developing country governments react to lack of commitment by rich countries.

Non-governmental organisations from around the world today strongly condemned negotiators at the Copenhagen climate summit for removing key content from a draft agreement aimed at protecting the world’s rainforests, and downgrading language protecting local communities and indigenous peoples in the text.

In the draft text, released late last night by government negotiators following three days of closed-door discussions, the objective for reducing deforestation by at least 50% by 2020 that had been included in an earlier ‘pre-Copenhagen’ draft of the agreement has now been removed.

“It’s hardly surprising that developing countries won’t agree to commit to global targets for reductions in deforestation, when rich countries aren’t prepared to commit to global targets for reductions of industrial emissions and adequate financial commitments. We are watching an historic opportunity turn into a monumental disaster” said Kate Dooley of FERN, speaking on behalf of the Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change [1].

The loss of the specific target for reducing deforestation is believed to have come about as a result of pressure from tropical countries, who have been angered at the lack of financial commitments from the rich world to help them develop without destroying their forests and the lack of binding and adequate commitments to reducing industrial CO2 emissions by those responsible for creating the climate crisis.

Moreover, safeguards that would have protected biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples have been severely weakened, by moving them from the operative part of the agreement to a non-binding preamble [2].

“Parties have to use the last chance to make REDD a way of securing rainforests and its peoples’ rights, and not to create a narrow carbon accounting mechanism. We risk getting a REDD agreement which would not have any strong provisions to prevent violations of forest-dependent peoples rights and the replacing of natural forests by industrial tree plantations”, said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace SEA, Indonesia.

As developing countries rally around the call for emission reduction targets that will keep temperature increases below 1.5 degrees, so the need for tougher targets for REDD become critical if REDD is to be a part of a meaningful outcome from Copenhagen.

“The key to saving forests and the climate is that binding targets to reduce industrial emissions, as well as long term financial commitments from developed countries, must be struck at the same time as a deal to reduce deforestation”, said Natalie Unterstell of Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Brazil.

“The outcome of the negotiations of REDD under the UNFCCC will be crucial for the future of tropical rainforests and forest-dependent peoples. If we lose the battle against deforestation we lose the battle against climate change,” said Jerôme Sitamon of Maison de l´Enfant et de la Femme Pygmées (MEFP), Central African Republic.

[1] The Accra Caucus consists of over 100 non-governmental organisations from 30 countries, (including all the major countries with tropical rainforest).

[2] The former text stated “parties shall”, but the new wording removes a specific obligation on ‘parties’, and simply says that safeguard activities should be promoted without specifying by whom.

The statement is available here (pdf file 36 KB)

Ecosystems Climate Alliance press release:

New REDD Text Drops Targets; Downgrades Critical Safeguards to Mere Suggestions
Ministerial Level Action May Be Necessary To Ensure A Final Deal to Protect Tropical Forests

12 December 2009

Copenhagen – Text leaked to observer groups late last night on REDD, the portion of the proposed climate treaty meant to reduce the approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, has removed all targets for ending deforestation and significantly weakened safeguard language.

“Without targets, REDD becomes toothless,” said Peg Putt of the Wilderness Society. “The so-called safeguards will be nothing but fancy window dressing unless they are given legal force.”

Targets for deforestation in the prior REDD text, which is expected to be one of the stronger parts of a climate deal, aimed to cut deforestation by 50 percent by 2020 and eliminate it by 2030. Start-up costs for REDD are estimated to be €15-25 billion (£13.6-22.7 billion; $22.4-37.3 billion) from 2010-15 to support preparatory activities, although some experts challenge those figures as far too low.

“It’s hardly surprising that developing countries won’t commit to global targets for deforestation when rich countries haven’t yet provided the necessary financing for REDD or global targets for deep reductions of industrial emissions,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Rainforest Foundation UK.

Of equal concern, language ensuring critical safeguards for biodiversity, forest conversion, indigenous rights and monitoring has moved from operational text into the preamble.

“Limiting safeguards to the preamble weakens the agreement and deprives it of any assurance of compliance,” said Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness.

Despite the support of key countries, current text on the underlying drivers of tropical deforestation is among language moved to the preamble, recognizing consuming countries’ role in fueling deforestation but putting no obligation on them to address the problem.

“Global demand for forest commodities like illegal timber and palm oil is one of the leading causes of tropical deforestation around the world,” said Andrea Johnson of Environmental Investigation Agency. “If we don’t address the causes of the problem, how can we find a solution?”

Protection of natural forests appears explicitly in the text for the first time, and a safeguard on conversion of natural forests to plantations has reappeared, but both are still not required actions.

Still missing in the text is any provision to protect and restore the world’s peat soils, which account for 6 percent of all global C02 emissions

“Peat soils are a key part of many countries’ plans to reduce their emissions, including large emitters like Indonesia,” said Susanna Tol of Wetlands International. “If peat soils are not in REDD, these efforts will go unsupported.”

A weak REDD deal will fail to reduce emissions from deforestation, threaten the indigenous peoples who rely on forests for their livelihoods, and have severe negative impacts on biodiversity.

“Currently, an acre of forest is cut down ever second, depriving the world of critical carbon reservoirs and creating huge emissions bursts into the atmosphere,” said Stephen Leonard of the Australian Orangutan Project. “A REDD without global deforestation targets or safeguards makes it much more likely that the orangutan and other critical species that rely on the forest will become extinct.”

While text can still be changed, ministerial level actions beginning next week may be required to reinsert targets and safeguard language.

“Clearly, everyone agrees that the world’s tropical forests need to be protected,” said Bill Barclay of Rainforest Action Network. “But good intentions aren’t enough, they have to be paired with action. Ministers must act to strengthen the REDD text next week if we have any hope of a REDD that will be effective in protecting tropical forests.”

The press release is available here (pdf file 101 KB)

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