in Indonesia, USA

Arnold Schwarzenegger and REDD: Terminating deforestation?

SchwarzeneggerWhile the Paris-Oslo process has been getting plenty attention since Copenhagen, another process is quietly taking place in parallel to the UN negotiations on REDD. The Governors’ Climate and Forests Taskforce is a collaboration between the Governors of 14 states and provinces from the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico.

The taskforce’s third meeting will take place in Aceh province in Indonesia from 17-22 May 2010.

The Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Taskforce originated in November 2008, with a meeting called the the Governors’ Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles. At the meeting, the governors of the States of California, Illinois and Wisconsin signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with the governors of six states in Indonesia and Brazil on reducing deforestation. The Memorandum of Agreement is available here. A press release about the MoU from the office of Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, states that “This agreement is the first state-to-state, sub-national agreement focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation (REDD) programs.”

In 2009, with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the GCF Taskforce produced a Joint Action Plan (2009-2010) (pdf file 1 MB). The potential importance of the GCF Taskforce and the agreements between the various states and provinces is illustrated by the following statement from the Executive Summary of the Joint Action Plan:

The forest sector activities proposed in the MOUs and this Joint Action Plan represent the first effort (at any level of governance) to move into what might be called the “proof of concept” stage in the ongoing effort to bring REDD into existing and emerging GHG compliance regimes. As such, the MOU implementation effort carries global significance as a signal to other governmental entities and to the broader climate policy community that this is achievable and that there will be a meaningful process of transnational cooperation among the MOU states and provinces to develop workable frameworks and mechanisms for generating compliance-grade assets from REDD and other forest carbon activities in Brazil and Indonesia and bringing such assets into existing and emerging compliance regimes in the United States and elsewhere.

At the second Governors’ Global Climate Summit in Ocotber 2009, 30 governors, mayors and UN representatives signed a declaration, which according to a UNDP press release committed them “to work together to pursue clean transportation and mobility, support national climate change legislation, include forests in climate policy development, acknowledge the need for adaptation efforts and recognize the role of subnational governments in the discussions on the next global climate agreement being negotiated in Copenhagen this December.”

Two more aspects of Arnold Swarzenegger’s REDD initiative raise serious questions about how, exactly, it fits in with the UN-level discussions on REDD:

  1. By definition, the Governors’ Climate and Forests Taskforce operates at a sub-national level rather than a national level.
  2. California is currently implementing a cap and trade law, the draft rules of which include international offsets.

Further information about the Governors’ Climate and Forests Taskforce:

Below is the agenda for the meeting in Aceh. The meetings on 20 May 2010 is open to NGOs that register with before 12 May 2010. The rest of the meetings appear to be by invitation only. One option is to attend a series of parallel side events (which are supported by Exxon Mobil, Lafarge Cement as well as CIFOR and Flora and Fauna International) – if you can afford it, that is. Registration costs US$250 and if you want a “Deluxe Room” in the Hermes Palace Hotel, where the meeting will take place, the cost soars to US$1,050.[*]

GCF Taskforce Meeting Agenda

Date Time Taskforce Meeting

May 17, 2010

Welcome dinner at Poolside Restaurant

May 18, 2010
09.00 – 12.30 National/Federal Policy Update

Province/State REDD Development
12.30 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 18.30 Working Group I (Standards and Criteria)

Presentation and Discussion

May 19, 2010
09.00 – 12.30 California Air Resources Board

Working Group II (Coordination Mechanism and Accounting Framework
12.30 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 18.30 Working Group III (Needs Assessment)

WG I, II, III, achievement and summary

May 20, 2010
09.00 – 12.30 GCF-NGO Meeting

Summary and Discussion on Working Group I, II, III
12.30 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 18.30 NGO Presentation and discussion

Closing Statement

Minister of Forestry

Governor Statement
20.00 – 22.00 Reception at Meuligoe

May 21, 2010
08.00 – Field Trip

Ulu Masen Trip

May 21, 2010
08.00 – Field Trip

Leuser Trip

UPDATE: 12 May 2010 A colleague sent me the following email from Julie Teel at the University of Colorado. It appears that for the side events, “a number of registration fee waivers for individuals that do not have the ability to pay to attend the side events (small, local, community-based, and/or indigenous NGOs and other individuals).”

From: Julie Anne Teel
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 7:44 PM
Subject: May 18, 19 Aceh side events and May 20 GCF-stakeholder meeting
Dear Colleagues,
I am writing to provide a few clarifications and some new information received from our Aceh partners regarding the May 18-19 side events and May 20 Governors’ Climate & Forests Task Force (GCF) -stakeholder meeting.
First, consistent with all GCF-stakeholder meetings to date, the May 20 GCF-stakeholder meeting is open and free of charge to those interested in attending who have RSVPd (which enables us to make necessary arrangements and ensure we do not exceed the venue capacity). Please RSVP no later than May 12 to if you have not already done so (to date we have 28 confirmations from stakeholders). Also, please let us know if there are others to whom the GCF should extend an invitation (and thank you to all of the groups and individuals who have already provided us with very helpful contacts).
In addition, all relevant GCF materials are and will be available on our official website: As soon as materials developed for the Aceh meeting are available, we will similarly post them for review and input from stakeholders. The GCF is working to develop a provisional agenda for the May 20th meeting, which we will circulate to you and post on the website shortly. We hope that the meeting will provide an opportunity for in-depth discussion of the GCF’s objectives, its Working Group activities and direction, and other key REDD-related challenges and opportunities.
Finally, our Aceh partners, who are organizing the stakeholder side events for May 18 and 19, have informed the GCF that they will provide a number of registration fee waivers for individuals that do not have the ability to pay to attend the side events (small, local, community-based, and/or indigenous NGOs and other individuals). Please get in touch directly with them at and if you are interested in attending the side events and/or if you would like more information about the waiver option. We want to encourage everyone to participate in these side events, so please let us know if you have any remaining concerns.
We look forward to seeing many of you in Aceh very soon, receiving your valuable input, and having a productive meeting.
Julie Teel, Senior Research Fellow
Center for Energy and Environmental Security
University of Colorado Law School
322E Wolf Law Building, 401 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0401


Leave a Reply

  1. A very interesting article, Chris. However, you allow yourself to use wording that rather supposes you think it legitimate to question how a sub-national agreement on REDD “fits in with the UN-led discussion on REDD”. One could turn the thought on its head and be perhaps closer to most people’s experience of democracy. decision-making operates at a low of different levels, many of them democratic. We should not fall into lazy assumptions about sub-national democracy, particularly not where we welcome NGO representation alongside national decision-makers. With best wishes.

  2. @Gill – thanks for this. I was referring to the fact that there is an on-going discussion about sub-national and national REDD, particularly relating to the issue of leakage. The problem is that deforestation might be stopped at a province level, but if it accelerates in a neighbouring province (or country) then nothing has been gained. The work that David Gaveau has done on Ulu Masen is particularly relevant. Then there are the points that Johan Hari raised in his article “The Wrong Kind of Green” about sub-national REDD projects – based in part on Greenpeace’s work on the Noel Kempff Climate Project in Bolivia. I should probably have made more clear in the post that this was the issue I was referring to.

    I have a question for you (or the organisers of the meeting in Aceh next week) about exactly how much NGO representation there is in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Taskforce? One day only appears to be open to NGOs. The rest is by invitation only. How many NGOs have been invited and how were they selected?

  3. @Chris. That’s a helpful clarification. Thanks. I have no idea about the NGO representation at this or other meetings is handled. I welcome NGO involvement, of course, but I recognise that it can be undemocratic and unhelpful as well as being representative and useful – it’s spectrum, as most things are in trying to decide how best to ensure ‘legitimacy’ of those involved in decision-making on our behalf (including everything from local community groups right up to the dizzy heights of those involved in UN-REDD negotitations). best wishes

  4. In February this year, the Governors Climate Forest Task Force published an Options Paper entitled “Regulatory Design Options for Subnational REDD Mechanisms””.

    The paper was prepared by William Boyd of the University of Colorado Law School, who is a GCF Advisor and Project Leader.

    The Paper, “provides an overview of some of the key issues and associated design options that might be considered in the development of regulatory provisions governing the acceptance of REDD offsets into a greenhouse gas (“GHG”) compliance system.”

    While the paper does talk about subnational offsets possibly being “nested” within national or provincial level accounting frameworks, it does not rule out the possibility of “program” level offsets that are not nested in such accounting frameworks.

    The paper is viewable here.