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REDD news from the Conference of Polluters (Durban COP-17): 8 December 2011

REDD news from the Conference of Polluters (Durban COP-17): 8 December 2011

The UNFCCC has been discussing REDD in two fora at its meetings in Durban: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA).

SBSTA has produced draft guidance on reference levels, safeguards and monitoring, reporting and verification. The LCA text includes text on financing of REDD (the text basically postpones a decision – again – by requesting more studies by SBSTA).

The following documents are the most recent versions. (These documents have not yet been accepted by the COP and the LCA text has not yet been agreed. Yesterday’s LCA discussions on financing REDD continued into the early morning. Negotiators disagree about market mechanisms and whether to include carbon offsets and carbon markets.)

  • SBSTA produced two documents, available here (pdf file 40.6 kB) and here (pdf file 47 kB)
  • LCA produced 138-pages, available here (pdf file 1.4 MB). The REDD text on finance is on page 33-34.

The Accra Caucus reacted with a press release saying the the “Durban climate talks put forests at risk”. “The decision made so far in Durban does not deliver the needed guidance for reporting on REDD safeguards, particularly regarding the participation of local communities and indigenous peoples,” said Samuel Nnah Ndobe of Centre for Environment and Development in Cameroon.

John Vidal, writing in The Guardian, picked up the Accra Caucus press release and spoke to others who are critical of REDD:

“It does not address the causes of deforestation, or the conflicts that already exist in forested areas. It will intensify and worsen them,” said Diego Rodriguez from Colombian group Censal.

“This could result in the biggest land grab of all time. It will inevitably promote privatisation of forests and soils through carbon markets. This could commodify almost the entire surface of the Earth,” said Hortense Hidalgo of the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples.

“Governments say that small farmers will benefit from Redd because they will be able to be paid to sequester carbon. But it turn out that they will only benefit if they sign up to a technical package, use GM seeds and grow biofuel crops,” said Alberto Gomez of Via Campesina, one of the largest peasant farm groups in developing countries.

Daniela Rey, Climate and Forests Lawyer for ClientEarth, has produced an overview of the “missing ingredients” in the draft SBSTA text. “The text falls short on providing effective guidance for ensuring the REDD+ safeguards and the Safeguard Information Systems can be effectively implemented,” she concludes.

Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is also critical. He described SBSTA’s guidance as a “very weak” text. “Safeguards aren’t going to be safeguards,” he added. “If we’re performing or not performing, it’s not going to matter, because we’re not going to measure it.” On the LCA’s postponed decision on finance, Verchot said, “We’re seven years into REDD and we’re still looking at what the options are. We’re not making the hard decisions.”

Others were more optimistic, such as Tony La Viña, the facilitator for the SBSTA REDD Contact group. In his presentation at CIFOR’s Forest Day on 4 December 2011, he said,:

“I welcome this decision of SBSTA which actually says ‘We will review what we have on the basis of consistency, comprehensiveness, effectiveness and transparency in the way the information around safeguards is provided. The work is cut out for is the next year to do that, but it is all in the spirit of advancing implementation.”

John-O Niles, Director of the Tropical Forest Group, went further. “This is the best REDD+ decision to come out of this process since the Bali Action Plan, albeit in a world of much lower expectations,” he said. But I suspect that the Tropical Forest Group has spent too long following the UN discussions to make rational comments. Here’s how one of their team described sitting in on a closed negotiation in Durban:

“The implications of changing singular to plural, reference level to reference levels, are at once syntactical, philosophical, and political. It’s hard to believe that word choice reverberates down to a forest, or that the sound of a bulldozer could be heard inside a plenary. But somehow language is the only suitable conduit to connect these disparate points of power and locale.”

In stark contrast to this is a demand from Indigenous groups for a moratorium on REDD. Berenice Sanchez, from the MesoAmerican Indigenous Womens BioDiversity Network in Mexico, said, “The supposed safeguards are voluntary, weak and hidden in the Annex. REDD+-type projects are already violating Indigenous Peoples’ rights throughout the world. We are here to demand an immediate moratorium to stop REDD+-related landgrabs and abuses because of REDD+.”

Durban climate talks put forests at risk

Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change

Durban, South Africa, 7 December 2011

NGOs from all continents have voiced their concern over draft rules on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) finalised over the weekend. The NGOs, gathered in Durban for the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, claim that the draft rules would allow governments to set their own reporting guidelines for social and environmental safeguards, as well as to propose their own reference levels against which to determine emission reductions from deforestation. There is also no process to determine if there are overall global emission reductions from deforestation.

A coalition of around 100 civil society and indigenous peoples organisations from 38 countries, the Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change, warns that the rules agreed so far in Durban create a huge risk for forest dependent peoples when it comes to implementing REDD in tropical countries. The message from business and world leaders gathered in Durban to promote REDD is starkly different. It seems they are expecting a bonanza of carbon credit finance, Executive Secretary to the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, told delegates gathered at Forest Day on 4 December, that “The governments of the world are writing a global business plan for the planet, […] and REDD is its spiritual core.”

REDD is already being rolled out in many countries without safeguards in place. For example, in the Republic of Congo a project was launched in November to create one million hectares of forest and agro-forest plantations, aiming to increase carbon stocks with funding from private investors looking to increase biofuel production. Maxient Fortunin a representative of the Congolese civil society said: “Affected communities have not been informed about the project, let alone consulted. There has been no discussion of how communities will benefit from the project, or any understanding of what REDD is.”

Observers of REDD discussions in Durban have said that the decision taken on safeguards represents a step backwards from what had been agreed in Cancun. “The decision made so far in Durban does not deliver the needed guidance for reporting on REDD safeguards, particularly regarding the participation of local communities and indigenous peoples,” said Samuel Nnah Ndobe of Centre for Environment and Development in Cameroon.

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) safeguard decision is peppered with terms such as “where appropriate” and “national circumstances”, which leaves it to the discretion of governments how they report on the safeguards. “Many countries could effectively never report on their safeguards compliance and yet still be complying with the letter of the decision” said Kate Dooley of European NGO FERN. “The decision provides no incentive for governments to improve the way their forests are governed and poses a great threat to forest dependent peoples”.

The Accra Caucus insists that forests are not commodities, and should not be treated as a business. “Developed country governments gathered in Durban must commit to provide finance for climate change, including protection of forests without selling them as offsets which allows the North to escape their obligations to reduce emissions” said Monica Lopez Baltodano of Centro Humboldt in Nicaragua.

Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life Calls for a Moratorium on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 17th Conference of the Parties, Durban, South Africa, December 5, 2011

The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life calls for a moratorium on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) at the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), until the following concerns are fully addressed and resolved. However, we reserve the right to expand these demands.

Our call for a moratorium is based upon the precautionary principle which says that, “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not established scientifically.” The moratorium that we are demanding is the precaution that must be taken to ensure our rights and our environment because the majority of the forests of the world are found in the land and territories of indigenous peoples.

REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities and could result in the biggest land grab of all time. Based on in depth investigations, a growing number of recent reports provides evidence that Indigenous Peoples are being subjected to violations of their rights as a result of the implementation of REDD+-type policies and programs, including: the right to life of objectors to REDD+, forced displacements and involuntary resettlement, the loss of lands, territories and resources, means of subsistence, food sovereignty and security, and the imposition of so-called “alternative livelihoods” that lead to separation of our people from their communities, cultures y traditional knowledge. Similarly, our rights to free, prior and informed consent, self-determination and autonomy consecrated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPs) are also violated. It is worth noting that the United Nations itself recognizes that REDD+ could result in the “lock-up of forests”. Furthermore, REDD+ is portrayed as a vehicle for strengthening land tenure rights, but, in fact, is used to weaken them.

We denounce that the safeguards contained in the Cancun Accords do not provide a framework that prevents or halts the violation of our individual and collective rights established by UNDRIPs; given that they do not establish legally binding obligations or mechanisms to guarantee our rights, present complaints, or demand reparations. The efforts we have made to strengthen human rights safeguards at COP 17 have been rebuffed by relevant Contact Groups of SBSTA and LCA within the UNFCCC process.

REDD+ and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) promote the privatization and commodification of forests, trees and air through carbon markets and offsets from forests, soils, agriculture and could even include the oceans. This could commodify almost the entire surface of Mother Earth, hurts our relationship with the sacred and violates the rights of Mother Earth. We denounce that carbon markets are a hypocrisy that will not stop global warming.

We also share our profound concern that the sources of financing for REDD+ carbon offsets come from the private sector and carbon markets, which extractive industries are involved in. Carbon markets and REDD+ convert our territories and forests into carbon dumps, while those most responsible for the climate crisis do not commit to legally binding reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and continue to make profits. The World Bank itself has reported that the “financial flows required for climate stabilization and adaptation, will in the long run be mainly private in composition.”

REDD+ not only harms Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but also damages the environment. REDD+ promotes industrial plantations and could include planting genetically modified trees. Perverse incentives are already increasing deforestation and the substitution of native forests with monocultures.

REDD+ jeopardize the human future and the balance of Mother Earth because it entrenches fossil fuel use, which is the major cause of the climate crisis. According to the Director of NASA, James Hansen, the world’s most distinguished climatologist, “industrialized countries could offset 24-69% of their emissions via the CDM and REDD… thus avoiding the necessary domestic cuts that are required to peak emissions around 2015.”

REDD+-type projects lead to conflicts within and between indigenous communities and other vulnerable populations. The loss of traditional use of forest, financial incentives, converting forests into commodities, financial speculation and land grabs undermine our traditional systems of governance, generate conflicts.

Furthermore, every time that a community signs a REDD+ contract in a developing country, which provides pollution credits for the fossil fuel industry and other entities responsible for climate change, it allows environmental destruction and hurts vulnerable communities elsewhere, including in the North. By favoring continued exploitation and burning of fossil fuels, REDD+ allows for the continuation of pollution in industrialized countries, further threatening communities in the North that are already overburdened by these impacts. It is not possible to reform or regulate REDD+ to prevent this situation.

Due to the problems of calculating baselines, leakage, permanence, monitoring, reporting and verification that policy makers and methodology designers are not willing and cannot solve, REDD+ is undermining the climate regime and violating the principle of common but differentiated responsibility established under the UNFCCC. Pollution credits generated by REDD+ obstruct the only workable solution to climate change: keeping oil, coal and gas in the ground. Like the carbon credits produced under the Kyoto Protocol’s CDM, REDD+ is not intended to achieve real emissions reductions, but merely to “compensate” for excessive fossil fuel use elsewhere.

Furthermore, biotic carbon – the carbon stored in forests – can never be the climatic equivalent to fossilized carbon kept underground. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels adds to the overall burden of carbon perpetually circulating between the atmosphere, vegetation, soils and oceans. This inequivalence, among many other complexities, makes REDD carbon accounting impossible, allowing carbon traders to inflate the value of REDD carbon credits with impunity.

Based on the above, we urgently call for the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and human rights organizations to investigate and document the violations from REDD+-type policies and projects, as well as to prepare reports, issue recommendations and establish precautionary measures and reparations to guarantee the implementation of UNDRIPs and other instruments and norms.

In summary, REDD+-type policies and projects are moving too quickly, allowing crucial human rights and environmental concerns to be sidelined or dismissed. We reaffirm the need for the moratorium on REDD+. In conclusion, we emphasize that forests are most successfully conserved and managed with indigenous governance of the collective lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples.

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  1. Apparently a new draft on REDD finance appeared at noon today in Durban. This is still not the final version and negotiators are still discussing the text.

  2. @tin (#2) – No, it’s not the latest text. I’m afraid I’m not in Durban – as soon as I know what came out from Friday’s (9 December 2011) discussions on REDD, I’ll post something. In the meantime, check out the UNFCCC website.

  3. For anyone not in Durban, but desperate to find out what’s happening, as it happens, you can follow #cop17 on twitter. Apparently a new text just appeared…

    One World is providing excellent coverage – they posted this a few minutes ago:

    Alessandro Vitelli, of Bloomberg News, has just tweeted a modern COP psalm — in 160 character bursts — to help pass the time…

    And there were journalists living down in the carpark below, keeping watch over their screens by night. / An angel of the Secretariat appeared to them, and the glory of the Convention shone around them, and they were exhausted. / But the angel said to them, “Stay alert. I bring you off-the-record briefings of great texts that will be for all Parties. / Today in the town of Durban a Mandate has been born to you; it is Such a Mess. / This will be a sign to you: you will find a negotiator from the ALBA group wrapped in a beach towel.” / Suddenly a great company of the delegates appeared with the angel, praising Christiana and saying / Glory to COP in the highest, and in Plenary Baobab, peace on earth to NGOs on whom his favor rests.

    And for a great overview of what went wrong (and right) in Durban, here’s a great interview with Patrick Bond:

  4. Here’s REDDScoop’s latest tweets on finance for REDD from the most recent LCA text from Durban. In short, the decision has been postponed until COP18:

    REDDScoop EcosystemsClimate
    No agreement on carbon markets for REDD. Instead countries set out process for further thinking next year #cop17
    2 minutes ago

    REDDScoop EcosystemsClimate
    Forest protection finance decision drafted and ready for approval #REDD #cop16 pp13-14
    7 minutes ago

  5. Now REDDScoop has removed the tweet about no agreement on carbon markets for REDD and tweeted this:

    REDDScoop EcosystemsClimate
    Some confusion on REDD finance decision with decision on sources reported late last night but not reflected in ‘final’ text #cop17
    1 hour ago

    Meanwhile Guardian journalist Fiona Harvey just tweeted this:

    @fionaharvey: As if the Durban talks could not get any more surreal – a fake text has been circulated in a blatant attempt to sabotage the talks. #COP17
    17 minutes ago

  6. Dear Chris,
    I would like to know if had some documents from Indigenous Caucus.
    THanks a lot,

    Maria de Lourdes Beldi de Alcantara
    Brazil-University of São Paulo/
    Support Group for youth indigenous-MS/Brazil

  7. @Maria de Lourdes (#11) – Here’s a link to a press release from IIPFCC – with their comments on REDD:

    Urgent Appeal of Indigenous Peoples to State Parties: Statement of Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), Durban December 7, 2011

    “In relation to mitigation and REDD+, indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources as well as their right to full and effective participation and to FPIC for all mitigation policies, programmes and actions that affect them must be ensured. Capacity building initiatives of indigenous peoples for mitigation must be supported with adequate finance and through appropriate technologies without conditions.”

  8. And another press release from the Indigenous Caucus:

    Implement safeguards on REDD Plus, indigenous caucus demands

    (15 December 2011) – Indigenous peoples called on the immediate implementation of the safeguards on REDD Plus.

    In a press conference a day before the end of the Durban Climate Change Conference, indigenous peoples belonging to the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) called on state-parties for human rights to be central in any agreement on climate change.

    The recognition of rights, including rights to land, territories and resources, and Free, Prior Informed Consent is crucial for indigenous peoples as this will rectify violation of their rights in the implementation of climate change solutions.

    The safeguards identified in the Cancun Agreement include the “full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders…including indigenous peoples;” respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples, “taking into account relevant international obligation,…noting the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” The other safeguard refers to the conservation of natural forests and biodiversity, and ecosystem services to enhance other social and environmental benefits.

    These safeguards must be implemented to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized, protected and fulfilled in REDD Plus activities.

    The indigenous caucus also clarified its position amidst calls for a moratorium of REDD Plus. Joan Carling, speaking on behalf of the indigenous caucus, said “… this call for moratorium…is not the position of the indigenous caucus [IIPFCCC]” as there was no consensus on this.

    “Our common position is the immediate implementation of safeguards under the Cancun Agreement, which include the respect for indigenous peoples’ rights and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples.”

    She stressed that what is needed is that safeguards are properly implemented. REDD Plus is currently in the preparation stage and what is very much needed is to influence the way REDD Plus is being developed in the national levels. “What everybody feels is an urgency for us to make sure that our safeguards are included in the design of REDD Plus at the national level.”

    “If these safeguards are not part of the national design and this will be implemented, then there is going to be a lot of problems for all the millions of indigenous peoples that are going to be affected by REDD Plus.” States must implement these safeguards now to avoid further violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.

    Jose Antonio Medina of Mexico also called for a “balanced allocation of funds to mitigation and adaptation” and the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the governance structure of the Green Climate Fund.

    In addition, Ms. Victoria Haraseb from Namibia called for “direct access by indigenous peoples to funds on adaptation, as well as to technical support for capacity building initiatives.” In Africa, the impacts of climate change have been profound, causing increased drought, massive floods, destruction of livestock and cattle. Thus, urgent and immediate access by indigenous peoples to these funds, and compensation for their losses, are crucial to their survival.

    Almost 100 indigenous representatives from Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Pacific, and North America who are members of IIPFCC were present in the Durban Climate Change Conference held from 27 November to 9 December 2011 in South Africa.