By Chris Lang
Last week saw the 14th meeting of the Carbon Fund, part of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. At the meeting Costa Rica and the Democratic Republic of Congo presented their REDD programme plans. The Carbon Fund approved both country’s REDD plans (called Emissions Reduction Program Documents in the World Bank’s jargon).
Here’s the Carbon Fund’s decision on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s REDD plan:
The Carbon Fund Participants … Decide to provisionally include the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ER-PD into the portfolio of both Tranche A and Tranche B of the Carbon Fund, provided that any commercial terms (such as advance payments, price etc.) included in the ER-PD are subject to subsequent negotiations of the Emission Reductions Payment Agreements (ERPAs)
The next step is the negotiation of the Emission Reductions Payment Agreement. These negotiations are private and will take place between the World Bank and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So the World Bank is going ahead with its first attempt at jurisdictional REDD. The Mai Ndombe REDD programme is the largest forest landscape conservation project ever in Africa. The Mai Ndombe REDD programme covers all of Mai Ndombe province, a total of 12.3 million hectares, of which 9.8 million is forest.
DRC’s ER-PD was largely written by Wildlife Works Carbon and WWF – both of which stand to benefit from the REDD programme. WWF has been working on the Mai Ndombe REDD programme since 2010, with funding from Norway, the USA and Germany. Meanwhile Wildlife Works Carbon runs the Mai Ndombe REDD project, a REDD project covering an area of about 300,000 hectares in Mai Ndombe province.
Last week, the World Bank wrote about the decision on its website under the headline, “Taking Climate Action from Paris to the Rainforests”.
“Tropical forest loss contributes 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions protecting and restoring tropical forests is vital to help mitigate climate change.”
True, in its 2007 report, the IPCC estimated that deforestation accounted for 17% of emissions. But in 2014 the IPCC produced its 5th Assessment, which states that in 2010 emissions from Forestry and Other Land Uses accounted for 11% of emissions. Here’s the graph from the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (page 7):
As well as showing that the World Bank is just making things up when it comes to the amount that deforestation contributes to greenhouse gases globally, the graph clearly shows that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel and industrial processes account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. And the emissions from burning fossil fuels is increasing dramatically.
Climate change is already having a serious impact on forests’ ability to store carbon. A paper published in March 2015 in Nature concludes that the Amazon is losing its capacity to absorb carbon. In the past decade, the carbon absorbed by the Amazon each year has decreased by about one-third.
While protecting people and their forests is crucially important, as a way of addressing climate change it is far less important than leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
Mai Ndombe and the Paris Agreement
According to the World Bank, the Mai Ndombe REDD programme signals DRC’s “momentum to deliver on their national climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement (referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions)”.
DRC submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC in August 2015. Although REDD is mentioned in the INDC, there is no mention of the Mai Ndombe REDD programme. Most of the INDC reads like a funding proposal.
Here is a rough translation of the short section from the INDC that explains what DRC intends to do in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:
3.4. Reduction in GHG emissions
The DRC is committed to reducing its emissions by 17% by 2030 compared to emissions scenario of the status quo emissions (430 Mt CO2e), a reduction of just over 70 Mt CO2e avoided (Ministry Environment, 2009).
Indeed, the national context is as follows: (i) forest area in the DRC of about 152 million ha in 2010 (MEDD, 2015), (ii) deforestation rates observed between 1990 and 2010 of order of 0.32% (MEDD, 2015); (iii) deforestation and forest degradation mainly caused by commercial agriculture (~ 40%) and food (~ 20%) and cutting firewood (~ 20%). It is expected the support of projects to plant about 3 million hectares of forest at the latest in 2025 as part of afforestation and reforestation programs, which would sequester approximately 3 million tons of CO2.
How much will the World Bank’s Carbon Fund actually pay?
The amount that the World Bank will pay has not yet been agreed. That will be part of the private negotiations between the World Bank and the DRC government.
However, the Emission Reductions Programme Document includes the following:
While the programme will run for 20 years, the Emission Reductions Payment Agreement runs for only five years (2017 to 2022). The programme anticipates emissions reductions over this five year period of 25 milllion tons of CO2.
In addition to the results-based payment for the emissions reductions, the DRC needs US$80 million up-front investment finance.
And DRC is proposing that the Carbon Fund pays for 15 million tons of CO2 reductions.
So how is DRC’s fund-raising coming along? At the Oslo REDD Exchange last month, Ellysar Baroudy, coordinator of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility at the World Bank, spoke about DRC’s REDD programme.
She said that the DRC had raised a total of US$54 million, from the Central African Forest Initiative, the Forest Investment Programmes, GEF, USAID and KfW. In addition, DRC has raised US$10 million from the private sector, and “anticipates” a further US$15 million.
That’s the up-front investment almost covered, apparently. With the results-based payments, things get a little more tricky.
In June 2014, at the 10th meeting of the Carbon Fund, the particpants discussed how much they would be willing to pay per ton of carbon. The chair’s summary of the meeting stated that “Carbon Fund Participants note their current willingness to pay up to US$5/t CO2e.”
But the ER-PD includes an “indicative benefit-sharing plan” which uses a figure of US$6.50 per ton of CO2 (a total of US$97.5 million, with an addition US$9.75 million in “ERPA up-front payments”):
That’s considerably more than the Carbon Fund has said it is prepared to hand over. (Paying US$5 per ton for 15 million tons gives a total of US$75 million.) The actual figure is likely to be still lower. In Olso, Baroudy talked about a “ball park” figure of US$50 million.
Who will benefit?
One major question is where this money will actually end up. A recent report by the Rights and Resources Initiative looks at community rights and tenure based on an assessment of 13 countries submissions to the FCPF, including DRC.
The Rights and Resources Initiative points out that DRC “did not conduct a robust land and resource tenure assessment in the selected accounting area”, as part of its Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (part of the “Readiness Package” for the FCPF). All of the forest in DRC is government administered, with no land specifically designated for (or owned by) indigenous peoples and local communities.
A major focus of the ER-PD is on reducing deforestation from shifting cultivation. Without legal tenure, there is a serious risk that indigenous peoples and local communities will see their customary rights and use of the forests curtailed – without receiving any benefits from the REDD programme.
Nevertheless, the World Bank’s article announcing its approval of DRC’s ER-PD includes a quotation from Marie Dorothee Lisenga, of REPALEF (Network of Indigenous Peoples for the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in DRC):
“The Mai Ndombe program is important for us. Our role in protecting forests is respected in the benefit sharing arrangements. It further puts a focus on land tenure in Mai Ndombe. We have been waiting for this.”
Contrast this statement with Rainforest Foundation UK’s research under its Mapping for Rights project. “Community mapping data indicates that entire area is likely to be subject to occupation and customary rights and usages of local forest communities,” Rainforest Foundation’s Joe Eisen wrote in 2014. There are at least four overlapping rights in some parts of the project area: a national park; oil permits; logging concessions; and all are on top of existing customary claims.