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What came out of Lima COP20 on REDD? Part 1: “REDDlock”

“We are deeply disappointed at the lack of meaningful progress on REDD+ here in Peru, one of the countries with the most forests in the world, with many Indigenous Peoples. We expected at least SOME progress, but there has been no substantial outcome on REDD+.”

That’s Ronny Hansen of Rainforest Foundation Norway expressing his disappointment with the negotiations on REDD at COP20 in Lima as the SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) contact group on REDD+ failed to reach any conclusions.

Before COP20 started, Chris Meyer at EDF provided a useful overview of REDD at Lima. SBSTA discussed two REDD issues last week: Safeguard Information Systems; and a Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Approach.

(Two other items relevant to REDD are still on the agenda in Lima: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions; and whether forestry and land use will be included in the post-2020 climate regime – and if so how. I’ll look at these in a future post. REDD-Monitor isn’t in Lima and this post relies on reports from people who are there. Follow the links for sources.)

Safeguard Information Systems

In 2010, at COP16 in Cancun, the UNFCCC agreed on safeguards in the REDD text. But the text explains that safeguards “should” only be “promoted and supported”. And the safeguards themselves are tucked away in an appendix.

Three years later, at COP19 in Warsaw, the UNFCCC agreed that REDD countries should provide some sort of reporting about how they are promoting and supporting these safeguards. Here’s a detailed analysis of the Warsaw decision on Safeguard Information Systems.

The REDD+ Safeguards Working Group, a large network of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ organisations, describes further guidance from the UNFCCC on safeguards reporting as “essential”. Before COP20, the RSWG put out a seven-page paper describing what they hoped might come out of last week’s negotiations.

Dr Rosalind Reeve of the Climate Justice Programme described SBSTA’s failure to progress on safeguards reporting as “REDDlock”:

“The deadlock we witnessed last week in SBSTA – let’s call it REDDlock – increases the risk that the safeguards may not be complied with. Greater risk means less funding for forest protection.”

Third World Network produced a blow by blow account of the SBSTA discussions on safeguards reporting. The Philippines, Sudan, the EU, Bolivia and the US spoke in favour of further guidance on safeguards reporting.

Ghana (on behalf of the African Group) said that the Cancun safeguards were simple, wasy to understand and country driven. The African Group does not believe that more guidance is needed, but a review could be conducted in the next few years to see whether additional guidance is needed.

Guyana, Tanzania, Fiji, Colombia, China, Thailand, Mozambique, Indonesia, India, and Cameroon agreed.

Panama, on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations said that now is the time for implementation of REDD, not developing further guidance. No prizes for guessing the name of Panama’s recently signed-up Special Envoy for Climate Change and Development. Yes, it’s Kevin Conrad.

That’s the same Kevin Conrad who in Cancun managed to weaken REDD safeguards by replacing a proposed system for monitoring safeguards with a self-regulatory system for providing information on safeguards. (Back then Conrad was Papua New Guinea’s Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment and Climate Change.)

Third World Network reports that the SBSTA co-chairs would provide a draft text on additional guidance on safeguard information systems that will be posted on the UNFCCC website on 10 December 2014.

Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Approach

Bolivia submitted a conference room paper titled “Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Approach for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests – JMA“. Bolivia first introduced this idea in August 2012.

The proposal builds on the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth which rejected REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.

Third World Network reports that in the SBSTA discussions Boliva explained that it was interested in moving the debate forward on methodological guidance for non-market-based approaches.

In its conference room paper, Bolivia puts forward three guidelines for the methodological guidance needed for JMA:

  • Development of joint mitigation and adaptation actions is based on the promotion and support to the integral and sustainable managements of forests, ecosystems and environmental functions taking into account the holistic views of indigenous peoples, local communities and local resource users about environment and Mother Earth, and the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.
  • Identification of financial needs for joint mitigation and adaptation actions, as a non market-based approach, including ex-ante financing, technological support and capacity building.
  • Monitoring and evaluation carried out through the use of quantitative and qualitative information, as appropriate, for mitigation and adaptation according to national circumstances and capacities of countries and oriented towards building adaptive management and enabling learning.

In an interview with CIFOR, Diego Pacheco, a REDD negotiator for Bolivia, explains the JMA proposal. Pacheo argues that “Forests have a dual role in both mitigation and adaptation”, and that both roles “need to be reinforced simultaneously”.

Pacheo also explains his concern about the financing of REDD:

“The concept of REDD+ ‘results-based payments’ moves beyond the spirit of the Convention about financing, which clearly states that developed parties have commitments for the provision of finance to developing country parties for the achievement of their mitigation actions under the Convention. Results-based payments cannot be considered as part of the UNFCCC commitments for finance by developed countries to developing countries.”

And his concerns about the focus of REDD on the carbon stored in forests:

“Since REDD+ has been structured as an instrument for receiving payments for tons of carbon absorbed by forests, this approach paves the way for moving in the future to market-based schemes, promoting the commodification of the environmental functions of Mother Earth.”

Third World Network reports that in the SBSTA meeting, Bolivia said it looked forward to a constructive discussion. The US responded that it would be unable to accept Bolivia’s paper as a basis for negotiation. The US further explained that all REDD countries can develop an approach that is best for them. Finance can go to different approaches, including linkages to adaptation funding. The US added that most forest finance is currently non-market.

Norway said that the current guidance on REDD already includes non-market-based approaches, and that funding is available from the Green Climate Fund and Global Environment Fund. The EU and Australia agreed with this position.

Predictably, proponents of carbon trading aren’t keen on Bolivia’s proposal. At the end of the first week of negotiations, Steve Zwick of Ecosystem Marketplace held a discussion about the REDD talks in Lima, with Gus Silva-Chavez (Forest Trends), Chris Meyer (EDF), Josefina Brana-Varela (WWF) and Delegate X (a delegate who preferred to remain anonymous). Here’s the part of the discussion about Bolivia’s JMA proposal:

Steve Zwick: I’ve never been able to understand this JMA thing. To me, it just seems like REDD minus the mechanism. Why is it still kicking around?
Gus Silva-Chavez: Because Bolivia won’t let it go. They’re keeping it hostage. Most of the time, whenever a Party comes up with a proposal that is not supported by a handful of Parties, they withdraw it, but Bolivia has just stuck to their guns, and they’re not going to back down.
Chris Meyer: We should make it clear that they don’t seem to be gaming the UNFCCC process by holding this so they can swap it for something else in another spot. They truly believe it’s different from REDD and this is the way to go.
Gus Silva-Chevez: The other issue is that nothing that has been agreed to so far prevents Bolivia from getting what they want out of mitigation and adaptation. So that’s where a lot of countries are coming from. They’re saying, ‘Hey, if you talk to a donor and convince them to pay for JMA, go for it. What you can’t do – and that’s what they’re trying to do – is impose your views on everyone else.’
Chris Meyer: The Danes are already putting money into Bolivia to finance this exact proposal. And that’s been a message that’s been given to them numerous times: ‘You already are receiving support to develop your mechanism.’
Josefina Brana-Varela: But we also have to recognize is that all parties in Doha agreed to include the alternative policy approaches in the text, and they recognized explicitly the JMA, so Bolivia has the support that it needs to keep this discussion going.
Delegate X: Bolivia did have help from some other countries, who drafted a text that they put forward. My understanding is that it would have exempted them from some of the requirements of the Warsaw package on REDD. In exchange, they would be willing to close this issue. It said they would encourage other Parties to contribute to these alternative approaches and support them. But also that they wouldn’t be held bound by all the decisions of Warsaw.

Further on up the road…

The SBSTA contact group on REDD+ will pick up both of these issues again at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings in June 2015.

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  1. The lesson that should be learnt from current COP-20 outcome on REDD+ by indigenous peoples and by those NGO´s that supposedly are supporting them in lobbying for a “more equitable REDD+”, is that most of the government delegates from developing countries are actually opposing to further guidance concerning safeguards information systems and reporting, and related to the Joint Mitigation & Adaptation approach by Bolivia. This again is a clear signal that REDD+ host countries are not interested in accomplishing even the lax safeguards package as it was agreed in Cancun. They are just motivated in the supposedly REDD+ related businesses, regardless of the global and local negative impacts that could occur. It is time for indigenous peoples, NGOs and governments to change their current negotiating positions, and to become consistent with the scientific and ethical guidence available under the multilateral UNFCCC process.

  2. Thanks for a very useful analysis! Amazing to see how the US and others are adamant on ignoring the role of forests in adaptation, and the scientific reality that this role cannot be distinguished from the role of forests in mitigation. As every Indigenous elder can tell you, forests contribute to both (and please note in this respect that community-based carbon monitoring is yet another top-down approach that disrespects the far more holistic approaches of communities themselves). So the JMA has a more sound scientific basis than REDD+, it just does not fit within the results-based payments format that is the essence of carbon markets. But then, Bolivia is also correct that that results-based payments format is at odds with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. So is it accidental that the same Party that is actively trying to destroy CBDR and other basic UNFCCC principles in Lima is also the Party that is most vehemently opposed to the JMA?