Reading between the lines – what the Durban text means for REDD+ in 2012
Will McFarland is REDD-net coordinator (acting) and programme officer in the Climate Change, Environment and Forests team at Overseas Development Institute.
The high-level politicking of international climate negotiations can sometimes hide the nuances of the issues being discussed. During the calm weeks following the storm of negotiations in Durban we have had an opportunity to assess what all 36 decisions that came out of the conference will really mean for climate change practitioners. In this blog I identify key areas for activity in the next 12 months for those working towards a fair and equitable REDD+.
REDD+ practitioners and followers of the REDD+-related negotiations at CoP17 were treated to great behind-the-scenes commentary, thanks to the twitter account of lead facilitator Tony La Viña. So, while the various decision texts adopted at Durban made (some) statements that strengthen and advance what was agreed at Cancun, La Viña helped us read between the lines. Understanding which actors shaped the final text, and the overall dynamic of the negotiations, can give us greater insights into what is in store for REDD+.
In confirmation of what many expected before the conference, the role of markets in financing forest conservation was hotly debated, with the last hours of negotiation ‘hanging on just one word’. The end decision was that the door enabling market mechanisms to finance REDD+ was left ajar: for the first time in a CoP decision text, market mechanisms were explicitly mentioned as an option. However, according to La Viña, this inclusion was still too cautious for many; while for others, its very presence was anathema. Over the next few months we need rigorous assessments of the impacts that different finance methods will have on shaping REDD+, subsequently determining its success both in terms of carbon mitigation, as well a broad range of social issues such as improving governance and recognising indigenous peoples rights.
Advocacy groups have consistently fought to protect forest communities from negative impacts of REDD+ activites, aiming to mitigate potential harm through application of safeguards in the design and monitoring of REDD+ policies. Concerns were raised pre-CoP about how much the World Bank really wanted to retain its commitment to its operational safeguards, and, building on Cancun, these safeguards were another key area of debate at Durban. While a restatement of the importance of safeguards ‘regardless of the source or type of finance’ was included in the final text, a lack of progress over defining these safeguards angered some observers. Instead of a text defining the performance levels that need to be be achieved, the outcomes primarlily document the steps by which a process forreporting safeguards will be decided upon. Despite such reservations, the feeling inside the negotiations was one of progress on safeguards, perhaps as energies were saved for the finance discussions.
In 2012 the technical bodies of the UNFCCC have a lot to do: reviewing financial options and putting in place systems for monitoring and reporting performance against safeguards, and, of course, emissions reductions. In parallel, a global audience must be engaged in establishing safeguard definitions that protect forest communities from the negative impacts of REDD+ activities. At REDD-net, our regional partners will be engaging key stakeholders in identifying appropriate safeguards, as well as defining the role of local CSOs in monitoring safeguards at both the planning and post-implementation stages of REDD+ activities.
These conversations muct however be framed by the wider context of the UNFCCC process, and expected developments for the Kyoto agreement and carbon markets. With little movement expected until 2020, market demand may not be a significant concern after all. What will be more worthwhile is ensuring that if the trend of increasing bilateral finance to forestry projects continues, adequate safeguards are consistently applied across many different actors and we do not allow the lack of international agreement to let safeguards slip.
An addition I didn’t expect, but welcome, is the potential development of ‘joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for integral and sustainable management of forests’. Although there are few details, this is significant because the more that REDD+ is integrated into other national priorities, the more likely it is to be embraced by affected parties. For example exisiting climate-induced economic and social impacts in Africa are making adaptation a priority, and if REDD+ can support adaptation too the case will be strengthened for reducing emissions from deforestation. This approach could also open up access to finance under the Green Climate Fund given that the GCF’s funding is to be ‘balanced’ between both mitigation and adaptation activities. REDD-net partners continue to explore the synergies between adaptation and REDD+, and were present in Durban for our side event on just that theme. The potential spectrum of positive benefits that would derive from maximising the links between mitigation and adaptation through REDD+ could be just the catalyst needed to ensure that REDD+ works coherently to protect forests and the people that live within them.
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Photo of carbon measurements in tropical forest. Courtesy of: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture.