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How the REDD+ Partnership unravelled in Tianjin

How the REDD+ Partnership unravelled in Tianjin. PHOTO: IISDEven the most optimistic observers could not help noticing that the REDD+ Partnership became totally dysfunctional during last week’s UN climate meeting in Tianjin, China. The meetings were spent arguing about the agenda and civil society participation. By the end of the week, little or no progress had been made. The only important decision taken was to cancel the Partnership’s next meeting.

There has been much finger-pointing and blaming for the REDD+ Partnership shambles. But for anyone who had been observing the process, what happened in Tianjin was painfully predictable, given the record so far. Federica Bietta of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Junya Nakano of Japan as co-chairs have allowed (or even encouraged) the process to become a closed shop, taking place as much as possible behind closed doors.

RECOFTC’s Ben Vickers was in Tianjin, reporting on the REDD+ Partnership meetings. On Monday, 4 October 2010, he took part in his first REDD+ Partnership meeting:

I can now officially report that it is indeed as dysfunctional as I’ve heard, and perhaps more so than I expected. My sunny, optimistic outlook has taken a severe hit.

Vickers reports that an hour into the meeting, a delegate suggested moving onto the second agenda item. As there were only two agenda points, this seems like a reasonable suggestion. However, the co-chair pointed out that some delegations deserved the opportunity to agree to this, “for a second time,” as Vickers notes, adding dryly that “Perhaps it was the nature of that second agenda item itself – stakeholder participation – that was the sticking-point.”

After four hours, delegates had only talked about the agenda and had not dealt with any points on the agenda. In the following day’s meeting, the delegates also failed to agree on the agenda. Meetings were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday.

The REDD+ Partnership has consistently failed to address the issue of civil society participation in its meetings. But it is a crucial point. Ecosystem Marketplace reports one attendee, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying:

“You can’t dive into the substance of a workplan and make decisions on if it if you don’t have agreement on the process of how stakeholders are going to be engaged and how their input is going to be incorporated, if at all. It doesn’t make procedural sense to get into substantive discussions until we finalize how we’re going to involve people in the process.”

Nils Herman Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway, in a statement put out by the Ecosytems Climate Alliance, said that

“The Partnership is illegitimate if it doesn’t find a way to meaningfully involve stakeholders, indigenous peoples and local communities. Forests cannot be saved behind closed doors.”

It’s not just NGOs that are upset. “This process is at risk of becoming a waste of time, and you, co-chairs, are encouraging that, said Peru’s delegate during the REDD+ Partnership meeting on Tuesday, 5 October 2010.

Vickers described Tuesday’s meeting as “a public farce”:

On Tuesday evening, the co-chair of the partnership, representing PNG, infuriated a roomful of delegates and civil society observers by single-handedly blocking – again – any discussions on stakeholder participation. Against the express wishes of the vast majority of delegations, stakeholder participation was at the bottom of the agenda. Two hours went by, agonizingly, as delegates, one after another, proposed discussing the topic immediately and the co-chair, with rapidly diminishing authority, continued to claim a lack of consensus to move forward.

Eventually, Bietta requested a five minute break to discuss the situation with her Japanese co-chair. “Instead,” Vickers reports, she “made a half-hour phone call to a mysterious contact.”

Vickers argues that the Papua New Guinea government should not take too much blame for this mess, despite the fact that Bietta is representing PNG as one of the co-chairs. Bietta is a Director of Finance and Administration at the Columbia Business School and Deputy Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRn). She was raised in Italy and has apparently never set foot in Papua New Guinea. (Kevin Conrad, PNG’s Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment and Climate Change, completed his MBA at Columbia Business School in 2005 – the same year as Bietta. Conrad is Bietta’s boss as Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, which has its secretariat in Columbia Business School.)

Greenpeace puts the blame for the REDD+ Partnership fiasco firmly on PNG. Paul Winn, of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, told Australian Associated Press that:

“The PNG delegation is using its position to keep stakeholders, such as green groups and indigenous people’s groups, away from the meetings in an attempt to keep rules on social and biodiversity safeguards out of the REDD framework.”

Paul Chung, of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, attempted to put the blame for the stalemate on rich countries. He told Ecosystem Marketplace that

“Simply put, there is no money, and donor countries have used the stakeholder issue since the session in Brasilia to stall the negotiations. There is no money for developing countries and … they haven’t even paid the FCPF [Forest Carbon Partnership Facility] and UN-REDD for Secretariat Services.”

But as Ecosystem Marketplace points out, delegates from the following countries asked Bietta to make stakeholder participation the first item on the agenda: USA, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Germany Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Clearly, this is not a North-South divide.

And, as Vickers notes, Chung’s argument that “there is no money” is disingenuous:

Indonesia, Nepal and Viet Nam have all received multilateral funds. CfRN [Coalition for Rainforest Nations] officials, on behalf of PNG, have actively stalled the initiation of the UN-REDD country program. It appears that they are unhappy with the scrutiny that UN agencies would have over the funds.

The final REDD+ Partnership meeting in Tianjin started with an announcement from the Japanese co-chair that the next REDD+ Partnership meeting had been cancelled. A workshop and technical meeting proposed for 25 October 2010, in parallel with the tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) in Nagoya, Japan, would now not take place. A delegate from the Dominican Republic summed up the futility of holding a REDD+ Partnership meeting in Nagoya: “I cannot ask my minister to fly 24 hours to announce the launch of a website.”

So what’s next for the REDD+ Partnership? One option is to wait until January 2011 when the current co-chairs will be replaced by Brazil and France. That, of course, would mean waiting until after the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun at the end of this year. RECOFTC’s Ben Vickers has another suggestion:

What can be done to move things along? Perhaps those who achieve great things by asking great nations to move aside should take their own advice…


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  1. Il semblerait que, malgré toutes les argumentations et démonstrations développées par les scientifiques et les techniciens, le changement climatique ne soit pas encore vraiment perçu comme un problème crucial au niveau des décideurs politiques.
    Ces deux catégories de gens ne parlent pas du tout le même langage et semblent raisonner de façon diamétrlement opposée.
    La menace qui pèse sur notre planète est différemment perçue, car on utilise des échelles de valeur très différentes.Est il possible de s’entendre d’abord sur cet aspect avant d’aller plus loin ?
    Car à l’allure où nous allons, j’ai bien peur de donner raison à un certain sage qui a affirmé que : “Le 21° siècle sera éthique ou ne sera pas”. Matière à réfléxion.
    Très humblement vôtre.

    Un observateur qui suit la gouvernance des ressources naturelles.

  2. So now the motive of Kevin Conrad is quite clear.
    Conrad and his PNG cohorts have talked the PM into using the ‘ Columbia Business School ” as the trustee and facilitator of distrubuting PNG funds on behalf of the forest owners of PNG,if PM can meet the REDD+ requirements.
    A problem is that the PM does not own or have any rights to PNG forests.
    Bietta looks and sounds stressed while she trys to demand and then ask for some payments.

  3. Don, where in the article above is it ‘quite clear’ that Conrad wants the Columbia Business School to be trustee and facilitator?

    If the PM is unable to engage in international negotiations on behalf of PNG, or appoint others to do so, who do you suggest should be representing PNG?

  4. What a total misrepresentation of the process — from someone actually there, not just repeating gossip from afar. What total CRAP journalism.

    To be clear, the meeting ended with agreement on the role of stakeholders and included a timeline to complete a workprogram for 2011-2012. Some real progress.

    The whole stakeholder issue was used by the donor countries as a pawn to waste time. In the end, their final agreement was the same as what they started with. The donors duped all of us!

    The only real problem was money. The donors who have pledged $4.5 billion for REDD canceled a workshop because the could not scrap together the needed $190,000. How can developing countries have faith in the process when REDD+ is just more ‘green wash’ from the emitting countries. Also, the workplan itself could have been agreed in Tianjin, but Germany and the US stalled progress so as not to have to actually start funding real demonstration activities.

    Chris, your evil spin was 180 degrees wrong as always. You are so far away from what is really happening and what needs to happen. Forests need to be saved. There is nothing better out there. You are at total disservice to this issue and humanity. What a clusterfuck of twisted misinformation this website is.

  5. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, REDD-Monitor must have a fan working at the state-run Guyana Chronicle:

    Climate Change Highlights – No. 7
    Sunday, 17 October 2010 04:18
    Guyana Chronicle

    The REDD+ Partnership in Tianjin, China

    Even the most optimistic observers could not help noticing that the REDD+ Partnership became bogged down in disagreement during last week’s UN climate meeting in Tianjin, China. The meetings were spent arguing about agenda, the level of ambition in the workplan, and civil society participation.

    There has been much finger-pointing and blaming for the REDD+ Partnership shambles. A workshop and technical meeting proposed for 25 October 2010, in parallel with the tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) in Nagoya, Japan has been cancelled over a funding issue.

    The only workplan that has been agreed is a short term plan to establish a database and do some assessments. Donors are reluctant to scale up the level of ambition of the partnership to deal with REDD Plus actions and financing and results based payments.

    In the end, the Partnership agreed on the modalities for stakeholder participation, and a timeline for reviewing and agreeing on a workplan…

  6. @Redd Observer – Thanks for this. While I’m fully aware that you are not making an official statement here on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations or anyone else, your comment brings to mind John Pilger’s law: “If it’s been officially denied, then it’s probably true.”

    Just to check that I’ve got this right: the REDD+ Partnership held meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. The meetings on Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled. It also had a couple of meetings in Tianjin before the UN climate meeting started. After all these meetings the REDD+ Partnership managed to “agree” to two things: 1. “agreement on the role of stakeholders” and 2. “a timeline to complete a workprogram for 2011-2012.”

    And you think that represents “some real progress”.

    Unless you classify Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Indonesia, and the Philippines as “donor” countries, it was not just “donors” who wanted to sort out the “stakeholder issue”. As you are fully aware, Germany already is funding REDD demonstration projects, in Indonesia, for example. Surely stalling the REDD+ Partnership has nothing to do with Germany’s REDD ambitions.

    We agree that forests need to be saved. I don’t think this is possible without respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples and local communities that live in and near forests. On the other hands, the REDD+ Partnership seems determined to push through a version of REDD that excludes these rights.

    Of course, if you think REDD-Monitor, Ecosystem Marketplace and RECTOFTC’s Ben Vickers are distorting the facts, rather than commenting on REDD-Monitor (I note that you didn’t bother to comment on either of the other two websites), perhaps a better approach would be to get the REDD+ Partnership to post an official version of the minutes of the meeting on its website – as REDD-Monitor has been suggesting for some time. That way we wouldn’t need to argue about what may or may not have taken place in past meetings.

  7. Again, Chris, everything you spew is journalistic crap — you use ‘John Pilger’s Law’ is a basis for the avoidance of using facts? You have serious professional and intellectual shortcomings.

    What does the Coalition for Rainforest Nations have to do with anything written my me. Again, you continually use misinformation and innuendo rather than reliance on the facts. The fact is that an agreement on stakeholders was reached on Friday with all us stakeholders present. So, the quotes by Vickers and EcoSystem Marketplace are outdated and presently incorrect! Simply journalistic integrity requires using the facts!

    And who exactly is advocating not ‘respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples and local communities that live in and near forests.” What facts to you have for such a statement? Again, you throw around ‘hot-button’ issues to divert from fact-less reporting?

    Further, given there was agreement reached: on what factual basis can you contend “On the other hands, the REDD+ Partnership seems determined to push through a version of REDD that excludes these rights.’ The facts are totally the opposite.

    Regarding meeting notes, I think everyone would appreciate this additional transparency. But, I can certainly understand why the REDD+ Partnership would ignore any emails from you!

  8. By the way, your wife is employed by the German REDD+ project, so nice to see your CONFLICT OF INTEREST in full view as you promote a Germans project!!!!!!!

    Transparency, Chris, practice what you preach…

    Again, total lack of professionalism and blatant lack of ethics! May a restate: ‘what a clusterfuck of falsehoods, misinformation [and conflict of interest] this website is…’

  9. @Redd Observer – I’m not promoting a German REDD project. I simply mentioned that Germany is funding REDD demonstration projects, including here in Indonesia – in order to illustrate that stalling the REDD+ Partnership has nothing to do with Germany’s REDD ambitions (as I wrote in my previous comment).

    My wife (predictably enough) and I have some differences of opinion on REDD.

    You ask “What does the Coalition for Rainforest Nations have to do with anything written my me?” I don’t know the answer to that question – perhaps you would like to answer it yourself. You certainly seem very sensitive to any criticism of CfRN or the REDD+ Partnership.

    You ask “who exactly is advocating not ‘respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples and local communities that live in and near forests.'” The REDD+ Partnership has held meetings in Paris, Oslo, Brazil, Bonn and Tianjin. Indigenous Peoples and civil society were effectively excluded from several of these meetings. The REDD+ Partnership Agreement, adopted in Oslo on 27 May 2010 states (as one of the Principles of the Partnership) that

    In their actions under the Partnership, the efforts of the Partners are to: …

    Be inclusive of all committed countries as well as representatives of relevant stakeholders including indigenous peoples, local communities, civil society and the private sector.

    Several of the REDD+ Partnership’s meetings were in breach of this Principle. This statement has now been included in the “Modalities of Stakeholder Participation“. However, this document also includes the following loophole:

    When requested, as necessary, for the purpose of reaching agreement on work plans, recommendations or decisions, a working group of Partners should be convened.

    In other words, any country in the REDD+ Partnership can set up a working group, “for the purpose of reaching agreement on work plans.” These working groups would exclude indigenous peoples and civil society. This means that the real discussions and decisions can take place during closed door meetings with no members of civil society present.

    I hope you will write to the REDD+ Partnership and request that they make the formal minutes of their meetings publicly available via their website. Please let me know how they respond.

    Could you, “Redd Observer”, please explain who you are, and what your interest in REDD is. Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

    By the way, thanks for your last sentence. It’s great. I’m considering changing the tag line of the website from the current bland and dull, “REDD-Monitor: Analysis, opinions, news and views about Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation,” to the catchy and controversial: “REDD-Monitor: A clusterfuck of falsehoods, misinformation and conflict of interest.”

  10. @Chris

    I and no doubt many others do not come on to this site to be confronted with the obscenities, insults, slurs and innuendo peddled by ‘Redd Observer’. Why don’t you just ban them from this site – they anyway have nothing whatsoever to offer but sheer ignorance.


  11. Sorry, Robin, no insults or slurs intended. In summary, just a simple request to stick to the facts and make full disclosure. The articles on this website or generally devoid of fact, full of opinion, and laced with misinformation on a regular basis. This approach is a disservice to the issues as a whole.

  12. Chris, I am from a developing country, work for a home-grown developing country NGO, and have been following the REDD debate with keen interest. As such, I have as much right (maybe more) to comment on this website as anyone else.

    Further, sorry that my frustration with your shockingly colonial approach to REDD manifests itself on occasion. But, really, all I am asking is that you try to stick to facts, avoid your continual ‘spin’ and stop trying to discredit all those in the field actually trying to get things done.

    And to be clear, never in my comments have I defended the Rainforest Coalition or the REDD+ Partnership, nor will I — other than to simply ask you to stay updated and stick to the fact.

  13. I would like to agree with Robin and suggest that the insulting, obscene and distorted comments of redd observor are in the future deleted so that we can use this space for real discussions.

    I was also present at the REDD+ Partnership meetings in Tianjin, and found Chris’s report entirely accurate – the claim that donor countries were responsible for stalling the discussions on stakeholder engagment could not honestly be made by anybody who was in the room.

    With regards to the lack of donor funding for future meetings and activities – what sane government would be convinced at this point to spend thier money on such a shambles?

  14. @Redd Observer – Just about anyone who is interested in REDD has the right to comment on this website. But thanks for explaining who you are (while remaining, I note, anonymous).

    My approach to REDD (or anything else, for that matter) is not colonial. If it were, I suspect I would be very much in favour of REDD and carbon trading. I would approve of the resources (in this case carbon) of the South being transferred to the North. In order to achieve this, REDD proponents need to create a new commodity, carbon, with which they can privatise and profit from the atmosphere. The end result? The North continues to pollute, climate change accelerates and the South loses out.

    For reasons that I don’t understand, you as someone from the Global South, appear happy to go along with this.

    Rather than creating extremely complex carbon markets and new derivatives and ways of cashing in on climate change, a better approach would be for the South to demand that the North repay its climate debt. Bolivia, for example, is doing precisely that.

    I’m afraid your comments do defend the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and the REDD+ Partnership. And you still haven’t explained your relationship with these organisations.

    I’m delighted to read your comment, “no insults or slurs intended”. I wonder how you would have written this (to pick one of your insults, more or less at random) if you were trying to insult me: “Chris, everything you spew is journalistic crap.”

    I wonder whether you happen to know “Jimmy Bohia”? He commented in a similar style to you, a while ago on REDD-Monitor. Like you, he seemed very sensitive to criticism of Kevin Conrad.

  15. Kate, even for someone like me who was observing the formal negotiations for the first time, it was clear that the rich countries were using the ‘stakeholder’ issue to delay talking about the real issues. The whole week was wasted and there was no time for the workprogram and then it became clear there was no money either. For someone from a developing country, it was shameful behavior by the rich.

  16. Chris, I stand my my assessment of your lack of non-existent journalistic skills. Candor not an insult.

    My my my, aren’t we paranoid! You seem to be the one sensitive to criticism. The minute someone points out your low quality and biased writing, you immediately associate them with other groups/people you bash.

    All this is getting very tiresome, goodbye.

  17. @Redd Observer – What is your relationship with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations? I’ve asked you several times without getting an answer.

  18. Again, please try to prepare neutral and factual articles without repeatedly resorting to twisted, colonial, discriminatory opinions and paranoid conspiracy theories.