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World Bank on REDD: “We have made great achievements in 2015 and we’re now focussing on implementation”

Oslo REDD ExchangeThis week sees the Oslo REDD Exchange 2016. Previous REDD Exchanges took place in 2011 and 2013, and almost 500 people are attending the third REDD Exchange. The presentations are being live-streamed and posted on Norad’s YouTube account.

Presentations cover a wide range of topics, including: REDD+ post Paris; international partnerships; REDD in Brazil, Indonesia, Liberia, Mexico, Democratic Republic of Congo; results-based finance; indigenous peoples’ rights; REDD and peace processes; supply chains; monitoring; and so on. There will be talk of the green economy, sustainable forest management, natural capital, scaling up carbon pricing, landscape approaches, and low carbon economies.

Not on the agenda, predictably enough, is a discussion about carbon trading’s failure to address climate change. Or the fact that baselines cannot be verified, or that additionality is a meaningless concept. Talk about the fact that the Amazon is losing its capacity to store carbon is taboo. No one will mention the disastrous impacts of neoliberalism. And of course no one will point out that REDD is a neoliberal project.

While there is no panel session in Oslo specifically dedicated to the World Bank’s REDD programme, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (although tomorrow morning there is a panel on the Mai Ndombe Emission Reduction programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo), the first plenary session included a presentation by Paula Caballero, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Environment and Natural Resources, under the title “REDD+ Post-Paris: National implementation”.

To coincide with the Oslo REDD Exchange, the Rights and Resources Initiative and the Environmental Investigation Agency have published separate reports looking at the FCPF. Both reports look in depth at the proposals submitted by countries to receive funding from the FCPF’s Carbon Fund. Both reports are critical of FCPF.

Here’s the EIA:

As the financial base of the CF continues to expand, certain problems with the FCPF approach to REDD+ remain unresolved, increasing the risks its programs will not protect forests, will hurt indigenous and forest dependent people and create “hot air” credits that do not represent sequestered carbon.

Of course Caballero can’t be expected to have read RRI and EIA’s reports (at least not yet). But if she’s aware of any problems with the World Bank’s REDD programme, she’s certainly not talking about them. In fact, she only mentions REDD once. Frances Seymour from the Center for Global Development, who moderated the session, manages to mention REDD four times in her introductory questions to Caballero.

Here’s a transcript of Caballero’s talk. I’ve posted it in full, because I think it’s important to have a record of how the World Bank talks about its involvement in forests, particularly as the shambles of its REDD programme is exposed.

You can watch the full panel session here:

SeymourFrances Seymour, Center for Global Development: Finance is certainly critical for REDD, and in fact we’re going to have a session later today on financing options for REDD+. And the Bank recently issued a new Forest Action Plan, the FAP, and my reading of the FAP is as follows. The document certainly mentions REDD+ finance as being relevant to forests, but it seems that the centre of gravity of the document is about the role of the Bank in getting recognition for forests as a contribution to development objectives. So, am I reading it right, and maybe you can explain to us what that means for what the Bank is going to do differently.
CaballeroPaula Caballero, World Bank: Thank you very much and it’s really a pleasure to be with you today. As Eric [Solheim] said, maybe this is an audience of the converted, but sometimes it’s nice to be among the converted.
It’s also wonderful to be in Oslo and I really want to join those who have commended Norway for the vision and for the leadership, because we really need that kind of a push to move these agendas forward.
We have made great achievements in 2015 and we’re now focussing on implementation and that is I think the entry point to answering the question you’ve posed for us, because it really has to be about implementation done very, very differently. It can’t just be business as usual with just minor adjustments, which is what we’ve sort of done in the past and called sustainable development.
This is about major structural shifts. And that’s why I’m really pleased to be on a panel with governments that are trying to do major systemic shifts, as well as with leaders from indigenous communities from forest dependent peoples, and I fully agree, coming from the World Bank I would say it’s not about the money. [Before Caballero spoke, Abdon Nababan from AMAN had said that REDD is not about the money, it’s about rights.] It’s about everything else, it’s about really how we ensure the forests are understood, not to be in the way of development and not to be marginal to development but to be at the very core of development.
And I think that in very eloquent and different ways it’s what we have heard from the leaders that are joining me on this stage today.
The Bank has actually adopted two, I think, far reaching documents this year. One is the World Bank Group’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for climate smart land use for the period of FY16 to FY22. And in that same period we have the Forest Action Plan, which we now call the FAP.
And that is really important because it focusses on sustainable forest management. But very critically, it also talks about the need to engage with other sectors, what we call forest smart investments. With transport, with agriculture, with energy, with mining, with really switching and looking I think also to what Eric was saying about how he used to see private sector and private sector as being really an ally and a driver for moving this agenda forward, how we need to work with these sectors, to really turn the tables on deforestation, and look at forests as really embedded in productive landscapes.
The goals that we have adopted whether it’s 1.5 or eradicating poverty, we talk, for example, about leaving no one behind. I would say my message is really simple.
We’re not going to be able to deliver on any of those goals if we leave the forests behind.
And not leaving the forests behind means that we are going to have to learn, if we are going to deliver on the ambition of Paris, which is so eloquent and so clear on embedding sinks into the delivery of achieving those sustainable trajectories, how we can better manage competing land uses, so that we don’t end up with that sort of zero sum equation which we have still ended up with and I remember that slide you just put up where we said, so many said, it’s really the vested interests that are still that driving deforestation, how we’ve driven that around.
And what Eric was talking about, the economics. How do we account for the full value of forests and how do we account for the full value that society pays for the externalities of forests. And it’s not just now. I always like to ask, sure we’re eradicating poverty, what are you doing about tomorrow’s poverty? And deforestation has to be part of that equation of responding to tomorrow’s poverty.
The thing is that, you know Frances, this is really complex. It’s very complex. It’s multi-sectoral. And it’s also long term vision. It’s having to overcome that knee-jerk reaction of the short term cycle, right, budget cycles, electoral cycles, that’s what ultimately we’re used to, that’s why ambition pre-2020 is so hard and we’re all looking at post-2020, because that’s easier to contemplate. So how do we do that? And that’s where the Forest Action Plan comes in.
What we’re trying to do with the Forest Action Plan is really getting all constituencies, private sector, governments, municipal authorities, communities who understand what are the upfront costs of different types of land use, of different policy and investment decisions. And what we’re aiming for is that if we can show the full value, if we can show scenarios of what those different investments and policies look like over the longer term, we will be able to allow decision-makers to make investments that minimise those externalities and don’t undermine both the development gains of the present and above all the development options of the future. Keeping those development options open.
For example, in the Congo Basin, the Bank has developed a new tool that is going to enable and offer a standardised and scientific way of doing an environmental assessment of the risks of infrastructure investments and road construction. So this will allow decision-makers to taylor investment in infrastructure in a way that you can maximise the economic benefits, the market access, the poverty eradication, but minimise the ecological impacts, direct and indirect, short and long term.
So you can have the road and you can have the economic development but in a way that’s really minimising those other externalities. And that’s what the Forest Action Plan is really about.
The Bank has really worked hard I would say over the last 20, 15 years, to support countries such as those on stage and others that are here to really secure the forest assets. Over the last, since 2002 to 2015 the Bank’s invested about US$15.7 billion in forest related projects. So the FAP is not, the Forest Action Plan, is not coming out of the blue, it’s really building on what we have worked on.
And it has to do not just with the finance, but also with the expertise. A lot of the governance issues, a lot of the issues that Abdon was talking about, the tenure, the land rights, the governance, the community based participations, small and medium forest enterprises, we’re bringing that, plus the finance to the table.
And as a way of prioritising these forest smart investments one of the issues, one of the approaches that we are looking for in the Forest Action Plan is the pooling of different types of resources. And this is really also where climate finance and development finance have got to come together and by pooling the different sources for finance we come to what we’re calling the programmatic approach.
Now there will be different specific financing packages for countries depending on their priorities for different types of programmes, but the idea really is of how we can blend and sequence development finance, climate finance, to bring together a much greater added value, to move away from the fragmentation and to help countries, such as those that we’ve heard talking about green growth strategies, talking about embedding this is their development plan, how we can put that finance to work there.
A very good example will be on Wednesday, there’s a panel on the DRC. We have a very, the DRC has a very large REDD+ programme, and the programmatic approach there that we’re rolling out is really trying to see how we can align these different types of financing.
Very importantly, it’s also public-private partnerships that we’re trying to develop. Ethiopia on coffee, and cacao in Ghana. Columbia sustainable beef and soy production.
So the Forest Action Plan is really trying to make sure that we bring all stakeholders on board. And it’s an invitation for everybody to help us move it forward.
[ . . . ]
Frances Seymour: I’m going to ask Paula to help me out with what I see as something of a paradox.
So Paula, over the course of 2015, we saw most governments of the world come forward and endorse the Sustainable Development Goals. And, as has been mentioned several times, forests are key to those SDGs.
Then in the run up to Paris we saw almost all the governments submit their INDCs, and many, many countries had you know land use and forests in particular as part of their NDCs.
And yet, unless I’m misinformed, it’s my understanding that these same governments are not beating down the door of the World Bank to ask for investments in protecting their forests.
And yet as Abdon just told us, you know, REDD+ is investment. So how do we reconcile the commitments to do something about forests from the lack of demand on the part of your client countries and how are we going to bridge that gap?
Paula Caballero: Thank you. It’s a great final question and I’m really privileged to go after Abdon because I think he’s answered a lot of, his response has a lot of the answers that you want.
You said previously that I had said that it’s not about the finance. I actually said it’s not only about the finance. And it’s not only because it is precisely about everything else. 85% of those NDCs focus or include adaptation. 109 of them include land use change and forests. And what we need to look at is what I said earlier, these co-benefits. It’s about the governance, it’s about the land rights, it’s about community participation, small and medium enterprises, it’s about how we show that forests deliver on food security, on water security, basically on planetary security.
If we want to deal with peace, if we want to avoid ethnic conflict, if we want to look at conflict resolution, your looking at the forests.
I like to say sometimes, if you want to deal with poverty, go build many roads and you know do all the development you need. But if you want to look at the extreme poverty, if you want to tackle it, come talk to me, because it’s where we’re working, on the margins of the forest, in the forest, in the coast with the artisanal fishermen, that’s where we really need to be if we’re going to deliver on these agendas.
And these agendas therefore are not really about SDG 15, on terrestrial systems, it’s about delivering on all of these other SDG goals. For example, on jobs, on productivity, on gender. And that’s where these two agendas come together, and what we’re trying at the Bank is really to show what is the value of these forests, what is the value of the natural capital?
So that you start to see, contrary to, or in line with what Eric was saying earlier, that forests are a central part of that development, and the good news is that we are getting a lot of requests, we are getting requests from governments to help think through what the NDC implementation, to help them develop forest accounts. So there’s a real change.
I see Ministers of Finance, I’m having really invigorating conversations with Ministers of Finance who understand that deforestation is warping their development plans and their trajectories.
So this is really not seen only and exclusively any more as some obscure environmental issue. It’s becoming more and more mainstreamed. And I think that there’s a historic opportunity and homework in the best sense for all of us here to help bring that convergence of those two agendas together. It’s the climate finance, the development finance, but it’s also the technical assistance, it’s the technology, it’s the capacity building. And that’s in our hands.


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