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REDD at COP18, Doha: At a crossroads or stuck in neoliberalism’s dead end?

REDD at COP18, DohaREDD negotiations came to a grinding halt at the end of the first week of COP18 in Doha when Brazil and Norway disagreed over the verification of emission reductions from forests.

There were two tracks of negotiations on REDD in Doha: the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

The following items were on the agenda in Doha – explained in more detail here:

  • SBSTA: Reference levels; MRV and forest monitoring systems; Safeguards information systems; and Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.
  • LCA: Finance and REDD.

The dispute over verification took place in the SBSTA negotiations. The Final SBSTA Text (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.31) consists of “Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair” – no decisions were made in Doha. The discussions will continue at the next SBSTA meeting, that will take place in June 2013 in Bonn. However, no decision on the SBSTA agenda items will be taken until COP19 at the end of 2013.

Louis Verchot, of CIFOR, comments that,

“Many countries don’t have technological capacities of Brazil or Indonesia and this is going to hold them up in being able to move forward to the REDD+ implementation phase in a few years time. Countries will have to come to a compromise on the scope of international verification. Perhaps the sticking point is deciding how independent the process needs to be and how much can be achieved through bilateral agreements.”

But a more serious problem, as Simone Lovera, of the Global Forest Coalition, points out, is that the issue of verification may be little more than a trojan horse for carbon markets.

The LCA negotiating track closed in Doha. The Final LCA Text (FCCC/AWGLCA/2012/L.4) did not make a decision on how REDD should be financed. Instead, the LCA decided,

to undertake a work programme on results-based finance in 2013, including two in-session workshops, subject to the availability of supplementary resources, to progress the full implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70;

(Decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70 is the Cancun LCA text on REDD, and is discussed here.)

After five years of negotiations, then, the LCA has decided to set up a “work programme” to discuss how REDD could be financed.

The co-chairs of the work programme (one from the global North, one from the global South) are to coordinate the work programme with the REDD discussions under SBSTA. The LCA invites Parties and observer organisations to submit their views (by 25 March 2013) on coordinating and implementing REDD, providing “adequate and predictable” finance and technical support, and the institutional arrangements required for REDD. The first “in-session workshop” will take place during the next SBSTA meeting, June 2013, in Bonn.

The work programme is to close at COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, unless the COP decides otherwise.

The work programme is to consider “ways to incentivize non-carbon benefits”. According to Ecosystem Marketplace this could include water filtration, biodiversity preservation, and the support of forest peoples. And according to the Ecosystems Climate Alliance it could include community benefits, ecosystem resilience, and governance improvements.

The LCA Text also requests that SBSTA considers “how non-market-based approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation” could support the implementation of REDD. This is a reference to Bolivia’s proposed alternative to REDD. Bolivia made several powerful statements opposing REDD as a carbon trading mechanism during the negotiations in Doha.

“REDD+ is at a crossroads,” says Bruce Cabarle, of WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative,

“[T]his marks the first time in the history of UNFCCC negotiations that the Parties were not able to issue any guidance whatsoever on how to make REDD+ work, despite having produced several pages of good draft text on the critical building blocks needed to define national forest monitoring systems, MRV and reference levels.”

But is REDD really at a crossroads? EDF’s Gus Silva-Chavez thought so back in 2009. The reality is that the negotiations are stuck in a dead end of neoliberal market-based false solutions to climate change. Perhaps the negotiators will turn around and follow Bolivia’s lead out of the dead end.

Jose Antonia Zamora Gutierrez, Bolivia’s Minister of Environment and Water, said in Doha:

“We denounce to the whole world the pressure from some countries for the approval of new carbon market mechanisms, although these have shown to be ineffective in the fight against climate change, and that only represent business opportunities. This is a climate change conference, not a conference for carbon business. We did not come here to do business with the death of Mother Earth betting on the power of markets as a solution. We are here to protect our Mother Earth, we came here to protect the future of humanity.
“Yesterday forests were turned into carbon markets businesses, and the same was done with the land, they tried to oceans and, worse, to agriculture. Agriculture is food security, employment, life, and culture. Agriculture is along with the land, mountains and forests, the house and the food of our indigenous and peasant communities.
“We will not allow the replacement of the obligations of developed countries with carbon markets. The planet is not for sale, nor our life.”


Leave a Reply

  1. Chris

    Has Nicholas Stern (former Chief Economist at the World Bank, lest we forget) responded to you yet as to whether he still believes, in his inestimable wisdom, that REDD is the quickest and cheapest solution to climate change??

  2. @TreeFellas (#1) – No. I’ve reminded him (again).

    From: Chris Lang
    Date: 14 December 2012 20:32
    Subject: Re: A few questions from
    To: Nicholas Stern

    Dear Nicholas Stern,

    Occasionally, I get comments on REDD-Monitor asking me whether you have responded to the questions I sent on 4 October 2012 (and again on 30 October 2012). Another such comment arrived today.

    After the failure to make any progress whatsoever on REDD at Doha, have you reconsidered the statement you made six years ago that, “Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has the potential to offer significant reductions fairly quickly.” Six years is a long time.

    Recently, Louis Verchot of the Center for International Forestry Research commented that, “[I]t does look like forests and REDD+ are going to be considered as an integral part of the next international treaty on climate change in 2020.”

    Verchot seems to be putting REDD another eight years away.

    Do you still believe it to be the case that curbing deforestation is “highly cost-effective” and “has the potential to offer significant reductions fairly quickly”? If so, what evidence do you have to back up your statement?

    It would be great if you could respond to the questions I previously sent (which are below). I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards, Chris Lang

  3. @Chris

    You don’t think he might be avoiding you, do you? Possibly too embarrassed to admit what a major error of judgement he made, which has helped send the climate negotiations down a dead end for the last five years??

    No, surely that’s impossible. A former Chief Economist of the World Bank couldn’t possibly make such grave mistakes, and then decline to be answerable for them…