in Brazil, Norway

Reactions to the stalled REDD negotiations in Doha

REDD negotiations in the UN climate negotiations in Doha have ground to a halt. The sticking point was the verification of emission reductions from forests.

During long negotiations at the end of last week (Friday’s negotiations finished at 4:30am, followed by an all day session on Saturday), rich countries pushed for results-based actions to be “verified through an independent, international verification process, undertaken by experts drawn from the roster of experts”. Tropical countries argued that verification should be carried out domestically.

After the negotiations had broken down, the chief negotiator for Brazil, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, told Point Carbon that,

“No developing country will have international verification of its actions, especially those that will be national policies.”

Rich countries meanwhile insist that verification is crucial. Henrik Harboe, Norway’s chief negotiator told Point Carbon that,

“We are willing to pay as long as we can be sure that we are paying for actual emission reductions. Donor countries need credible figures as a basis for asking their parliaments for money for this.”

NGO reactions to the breakdown in negotiations varied. The Tropical Forest Group’s Culley Thomas, posting at 5:10 on Saturday morning blaming Brazil:

“Donor nations sent the signal loud and clear that finance to save forests would require verification. Catastrophically for our planet, Brazil refused to listen.”

Bruce Cabarle of WWF-US described it as a “colossal breakdown in communications.”

“If the issue of verification was going to be so important to the Norwegians, I think the message was not received beforehand by the developing countries. All the good work was held hostage over these two issues.”

A couple of days later (and presumably after a few hours of sleep), the Tropical Forest Group seems to have calmed down somewhat:

“Both sides have legitimate positions. Donor nations want robust verification to ensure that the funds they provide result in real protection. The G77 nations do not see why they should commit to strong external verification requirements when the donor nations themselves are major greenhouse gas emitters and are not yet subject to similarly stringent verification.”

Meanwhile, FERN’s Kate Dooley blames the North:

“Rich countries are shirking any of their responsibilities to provide financial support and are placing increasingly onerous requirements on developing countries regarding [measurement, reporting and verification].”

Raja Jarrah of CARE International echoes FERN’s view:

“By insisting that forest emissions have to be ‘verified’ before pledging money for reducing deforestation, it seems that rich countries are holding forested countries hostage, and effectively saying: ‘allow us to use your forests to offset our own pollution in the future, or we won’t give you any money to protect them.’”

During CIFOR’s Forest Day 6, Tony La Viña, one of the facilitators of the REDD negotiations, said that,

“The honeymoon period is over for REDD+, we are down to the nuts and bolts of the mechanism. The things that matter most on the ground: verification, how payments will be made, the inclusions of non-carbon benefits, the implementation of safeguards … continue to discussions.”

If there is no breakthrough on verification in Doha, it will be discussed at the next SBSTA meeting in Bonn, in June 2013. The COP President could take up the unresolved issues in the SBSTA text, if he thinks that a ministerial level discussion might lead to compromise. “We don’t consider it likely there will be an agreement on this here,” Norway’s Harboe told Point Carbon. That would mean that no decision on MRV (and the other SBSTA REDD issues – forest monitoring systems, reference levels, safeguards information systems and drivers of deforestation and forest degradation) could be agreed until the next COP, in 12 months time.

PHOTO credit: Green Africa Directory.

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  1. Does anyone else smell a rat?

    Do we all really believe that tropical forest countries entered into negotiations on REDD 4 or 5 years ago in a forum which, at the time, was based on binding and internationally verifiable reductions of fossil fuel and other industrial emissions, believing that somehow they were going to be exempted from any obligations even to verify any supposed reductions in forest carbon emissions?

    Do we not think that, if they had non-negotiable objections to international verification of REDD then perhaps they could have raised this 4 years ago and saved everyone am awful lot of wasted time and effort (and carbon emissions) arguing about all the other details that have been discussed in the intervening years?

    Sure, one can question the motives behind the rich countries’ demands for certain types of carbon verification but then again, in any honest assessment of past experience, countries such as Norway would have good reason to be cautious about what their funding actually achieves, whether in terms of carbon reductions or any other improvements. The past performance of governments such as those of Guyana and Indonesia has shown precisely why close monitoring and verification is required, of carbon or anything else for that matter.

  2. @X Witness (#1) – Thanks for this comment. Of course, this isn’t the first time that MRV has been discussed… MRV was also up for discussion in Durban, one year ago. It almost made it into the SBSTA REDD text, but at the last minute the text was dropped. MRV was discussed again in Bonn in May 2012.

    How come the text about results-based actions being “verified through an independent, international verification process, undertaken by experts drawn from the roster of experts” only appeared in Doha? Why on earth wasn’t this issue introduced over a year ago?

  3. Who verifies the roster of experts? Who are they? How did they acquire their expertise?

  4. very clear that the rich countries deliberately wanted to create a deadlock, because the calls for an international verification against countries that deserve payment will increasingly make them stay away from the obligation to donate his wealth to fight emissions, though, they get rich with sources that produce emissions.*(REDD monitor coallition of Central Sulawesi)

  5. In a paper released last week, Tony La Viña, Leticia Labre, Lawrence Ang, and Alaya de Leon from the Ateneo School of Government in the Philippines, reviewed the progress of REDD negotiations from Durban to Doha. They mention that verification was a controversial issue before the Doha SBSTA discussions started:

    “Most of the SBSTA meetings comprised negotiation on draft text on MRV and NFMS [national forest monitoring systems]. Discussions on MRV revealed points of misunderstanding and discrepancies on how Parties viewed verification, in particular on international vs. national verification, and whether it should be stricter for REDD+ than for other NAMAs.”

    It is perhaps surprising that more wasn’t done before Doha to attempt to resolve this issue. I think Bruce Cabarle of WWF-US has it right – this was a colossal breakdown in communications. The question is, why?

    This dispute is at least in part between Brazil and Norway. The Amazon Fund has been operational since 2008. Surely at some point in the last four years Norway has discussed with Brazil when and how the US$1 billion that Norway has pledged might be released?

    In a 2009 US cable leaked by WikiLeaks about the Amazon Fund (available here), the US Embassy in Brasilia makes clear its understanding of how the Amazon Fund is intended to work:

    “It is the Government of Brazil’s (GOB) preferred mechanism for channeling international financial support to reduce deforestation. The GOB particularly likes that (1) Brazilians – and not the donors – decide how to use the funds within certain guidelines spelled out in the decree establishing the fund, and (2) the emissions reductions resulting from the funded projects cannot be used as credits or offsets by the donors. To make the fund more attractive to donors, the GOB agreed to only make disbursements if the rate of Amazon deforestation is lower than a base line (for now it is compared with a high initial base line figure).”

  6. Brazil is in favour of MRV, of course. Also verifies through a committee of 6 renowned experts the results measured and reported using the national forest monitoring system in place since 1988.
    So, Brazil is strongly in favour and is actually deploying MRV for real. Environmental integrity is a principle translated into concrete actions.
    But the idea of an extra-verification should be carefully analysed and I agree with those who have commented that this is not only a technical requirement thing, but an issue related to adequate support and results-based finance maturation these days.