in Indonesia, Norway, USA

Made in the USA, paid for by Norway: The New York Declaration on Forests

The New York Declaration on Forests was funded by Norway. It was part of a contract between Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative and the Meridian Institute, a US-based consulting firm.

Thanks to Norway’s Freedom of Information legislation and its Electronic Public Records database, we know that the New York Declaration on Forests was part of Task Order 25: “Advancing REDD+ at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Leaders Summit and other Major Climate Events in 2014”.

The Meridian Institute sub-contracted part of this work out to Climate Advisers, another US-based consulting firm. Climate Advisers is working on another Norwegian-funded project aimed at “Creating demand for REDD+”.

A Memorandum dated 9 September 2014 from the Meridian Institute asks for further funding from NICFI and explains Climate Advisers’ role:

“Climate Advisers has been serving as the primary negotiators and drafters for the parties to finalize the New York Declaration on Forests and its associated Action Agenda.”

The Memorandum also reveals that the “point of contact for coordination” at Climate Advisers for this work is Andreas Dahl-Jørgensen, a Managing Director at Climate Advisers.

The revolving door syndrome

Dahl-Jørgensen started his career at the World Bank, where he was a carbon finance analyst.

From there Dahl-Jørgensen moved to NICFI, where he negotiated the US$1 billion REDD deal with Indonesia. He represented Norway in the UNFCCC negotiations on REDD, and was on the boards of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the Forest Investment Programme.

And then Dahl-Jørgensen went through the revolving door again, this time to Climate Advisers. But at least part of Dahl-Jørgensen’s salary still comes from the Norwegian government.

His hourly rate at Climate Advisers is US$262.80. That’s not bad, but it’s considerably less than his boss, Nigel Purvis, whose hourly rate is US$639.

Here are the billable rates for Climate Advisers staff working on the Norwegian-funded project “Advancing REDD+ at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Leaders Summit and other Major Climate Events in 2014”:

After the Climate Summit, Nigel Purvis told Scientific American that, “I think the forest agreement was one of the biggest things that happened here.”

Presumably it just slipped his mind to mention that Norway had paid Climate Advisors to work on the declaration and was paying the company to promote the declaration, and REDD generally.

Norway bends the truth. Then breaks it.

On 23 June 2014, Per Fredrik Pharo, the director of NICFI, wrote to Heru Prasetyo, head of the Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency about the New York Declaration on Forests.

Pharo’s email explains that Norway saw a “key role” for Indonesia in promoting REDD at the UN Climate Summit. (Brazil didn’t have a key role and didn’t sign on.)

Pharo’s email provides an interesting insight into the way Norway pushed the New York Declaration on Forests. It’s a “a legally non-binding political declaration” and the action agenda is “Purposely crafted to be non-binding and illustrative”. Which is another way of saying that the declaration is all bark and no bite.

Pharo claims that the declaration is “intended to be ambitious, and not represent the lowest-common denominator”. That is bending the truth. The reality is that the declaration’s targets are weaker than the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the current draft of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Pharo doesn’t tell Prasetyo about Climate Advisers’ role in writing and negotiating the declaration. Neither does he mention Norway’s funding. Instead, he tells Prasetyo that “UNDP has … developed an outline of what a forest announcement may look like”.

That is simply not true.

Fra: Pharo Per Fredrik Ilsaas
Sendt: 23. juni 2014 19:30
Til: Heru Prasetyo
Kopi: Traavik, Stig Ingemar; William Sabandar; m kuntoro
Emne: UNSG Summit – Request for Indonesian support for the New York Declaration on Forests

Dear Pak Heru,

I hope this e-mail finds you well. As Pak Heru and Minister Sundtoft recently discussed in Bonn, both our countries want to secure a positive outcome on climate and forests at the UN Climate Leaders Summit in New York on 23rd September. As our Minister mentioned, we believe the Climate Summit will be an important opportunity to demonstrate real momentum on REDD+ and that Indonesia could play a key role in making that happen.

The UNDP is in charge of organizing the forest platform at the Climate Summit on behalf of the Office of the Secretary General. As countries who are actively involved in REDD+, I believe we share the view that our countries can play a special role in supporting the UNDP to achieve a successful forest outcome at the Summit. The UNDP has, based among other things on the discussions in Abu Dhabi, where Indonesia played an active part, developed an outline of what a forest announcement may look like (enclosed). This draft is currently being shared through various channels with a select number of very dedicated countries. Given Indonesia’s leadership on REDD, you are a natural part of the core group who could help push this forward.

There are three parts to the announcement that has been prepared:
1. A Joint Declaration (”The New York Declaration on Forests”);

  • This is intended as a vision statement for those who are leading on the issue. It intends send a signal to the world about what needs to be done to take action on forests.
  • It is intended to be ambitious, and not represent the lowest-common denominator.
  • UNDP’s goal is for about 30 nations, 30 companies and 30 NGOs to sign on.

2. An Action Agenda

  • Intended to highlight progress to date, and to present voluntary actions that companies, civil society, indigenous peoples and governments could choose to pursue.
  • Purposely crafted to be non-binding and illustrative.

3. A List of Specific Implementation Commitments

  • An opportunity for individual countries/companies, or coalitions of countries/companies/civil society to present new commitments/actions on forests.
  • In our view this is a critical part of the announcement and where most of the effort should be concentrated ahead of the September summit.

The attached New York Declaration on Forests is intended as a legally non-binding political declaration that leaders can publicly support. Those governments and entities that are willing to publicly support the Declaration would be listed by country, company, or organization (similar to the approach that is being taken for other statements for the Summit there will be no signatures or names). If your government is willing to publicly endorse the Declaration at the Summit, you will be asked to provide written confirmation from a senior official within your government by e-mail to Charles McNeill at UNDP ( stating your willingness to associate your government with the Declaration. There will not be a signing ceremony, but the Declaration will be highlighted during the forest track session at the Summit.

At this point, what we are hoping for is a general commitment that Indonesia supports the main messages of the enclosed document – which covers bullets 1 and 2 listed above – and that you would be willing to be among the core group of particularly dedicated countries that works to assemble a broad coalition around this vision in the months up to the Summit. We welcome a further discussion with you on how we can leverage the Summit to gain traction on specific commitments in your country under the third part of the announcement. In particular, it is important that the world hears the message from forest nations that there is strong commitment to take ambitious action to reduce deforestation and increase restoration, and that for this to happen ambitious partnerships with significant contributions from others are needed.

In addition to the enclosed document, Norway, along with Germany, the United Kingdom and other countries, are working to present a strong message at the Climate Summit on donor support for REDD+ up to and beyond 2020, including partnerships with ambitious forest countries, such as Indonesia. These will be among the commitments launched under bullet 3. above, and we look forward to working with you on this over the next few months.

We look forward to discuss these issues in more detail with you in the near future, and are available for any questions or comments you may have. It would be extremely helpful for the momentum of the process if we could have your general endorsement of the enclosed document in the near future, so that we together can work to expand the circle of countries committed to this ambitious climate and forest platform. If there are any issues on which you need clarification or that you want to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Per F I Pharo
The Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative
The Norwegian Ministry of the Environment


Leave a Reply

  1. Dear Chris, with due respect, this post is disgusting. I always read your blog thus I´ve seen a previous post where you use anonymous sources to indicate there was a problem with the Declaration process. I am really eager to know who have benefited from this campaign of mis-information and defamation.
    Who would be interested in such kind of fingerpointing? Maybe those who have not signed the declaration because they do not wish to support indigenous peoples and forest communities in countries like Brazil and China.

  2. @Carol Pin – I’m sorry you find the post disgusting. But there are no anonymous sources in this post. Neither is there any misinformation or defamation in the post (as far as I’m aware), and you didn’t point out any in your comment. If you believe there are any factual errors in the post, please let me know.

  3. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for all the relevant information you have given to us concerning the preparation process previous to the NY Declaration on Forest´ launching. it is not the first time that our governments (from developing countries) are under pressure or are being the target of financial offers in order for them to endorse developed countries´s initiatives aiming at not reducing their national emissions domestically, but through ineffective, non additional, temporary and leakage-prone measures, such as REDD-plus schemes, climate-smart agriculture, blue carbon or organic carbon soil sequestration. Would it be possible for REDD-monitor to obtain and upload the final version of the NY Declaration on Forest with the names of the signatory countries?

  4. Dear Chris, it is difficult for me to catch the directions of the article. Can you clarify further ? I am guessing that you are saying actually there is a hanky panky game going on between Norwegian and Indonesian REDD+ Agency officials in the mode of ‘You scratch my back and I scratch yours’. These will allow both parties continue producing papers and concept notes without clear intention to finalize all design components and necessary govenment’s decisions/policies so REDD+ can ACTUALLY start in Indonesia. If this is true then the main beneficiaries are the Norway-affiliated consultants and the people in REDD+ Agency who love to work without obligation to finishing the work. And, of course, the Norway government who seemingly supporting something.

  5. @Yvette Aguilar – The most recent version of the New York Declaration is here. Here’s the list of countries that have signed on so far (the UN is still inviting endorsements, so the list could change):

    1. Belgium
    2. Burkina Faso
    3. Canada
    4. Chile
    5. Colombia
    6. Costa Rica
    7. Cote d’Ivoire
    8. Democratic Republic of the Congo
    9. Denmark
    10. Dominican Republic
    11. Ethiopia
    12. The European Union
    13. France
    14. Germany
    15. Guyana
    16. Indonesia
    17. Japan
    18. Kenya
    19. Liberia
    20. Lithuania
    21. Mexico
    22. Mongolia
    23. Nepal
    24. Netherlands
    25. Norway
    26. Peru
    27. Philippines
    28. Republic of Korea
    29. Togo
    30. United Kingdom
    31. United States of America
    32. Viet Nam

  6. @Tombak Sipulopulo – I think you’re reading more into the post (and Per Pharo’s email) than is actually there.

    I’ve written lots of other posts about REDD in Indonesia (including about Norway’s role). One of the key problems is that REDD exists in parallel to business as usual, and isn’t addressing the causes of deforestation. See this press release from December 2013 from Indonesian NGOs.