Forest Day 3: Safeguarding the Nitty Gritty

Forest Day 3, a now annual event hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) at every COP since Bali in 2007, opened Sunday with a brief and beautiful musical performance of Danish folk tunes and Ave Maria. Equally as impressive as the line-up for keynote speakers were their messages about the importance of local ownership, the need to involve multiple sectors in REDD planning and implementation but also to strengthen the link between forestry research and policy, and REDD+ as part of a larger sustainable development agenda.

“We must ensure that this COP can reach agreement on how we will actually build the architecture for MRV, financing, capacity building and REDD. We need a foundation of an outcome from the COP that makes sense environmentally, economically, ecologically and socially in order to prepare for when the spotlight shifts away from the Bali Roadmap.”
– Yvo de Boer, UN Climate Change Secretariat

“We need an adaptive policy process. Top-down policies do not work.”
– Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University

“We cannot fall into the trap of looking at forests through only one lens: carbon.”
– Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair, IPCC

“There are few areas where the mutual interests of developed and developing countries are as closely aligned as REDD.”
– Gro Harlem Bruntland, UN Special Envoy on Climate Change

“We need to work out how we can bring tangible, short-term benefits for decision-makers, otherwise we are fighting a losing battle.”
– Augus Purnomo, National Council on Climate Change, Indonesia

“Without a framework for monitoring safeguards, a REDD agreement is not worth the paper it is written on.”
– Roz Reeve, Global Witness

Citing a key finding of a recently published study, “Trade-offs and synergies between carbon storage and livelihoods benefits from the forest commons”, Dr. Elinor Ostrom presented the compelling case that when local users have forestry rights, forests are managed more sustainably. She further highlighted the importance of trust and the risks of not involving indigenous peoples and local communities in REDD.

The morning session on mitigation offered a refreshingly balanced range of views on mitigation. Arild Angelsen (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) challenged his audience to be optimistic, but at the same time, to ask the “uncomfortable question” when considering mitigation options:  Are we creating mechanisms that truly are effective (i.e. yield additional emissions reductions), or are we allowing the “money game” to influence our thinking too much?

Vicky Tauli-Corpus shared the status of the REDD negotiations from the perspective of indigenous peoples (see previous REDD update post). An unusual voice in discussions on REDD, Sara S. Kendall of Weyerhaeuser, urged participants to keep all mitigation options ‘on the table,’ recognizing the role of forest products in mitigation efforts. Finally, Augus Purnomo of the Indonesian National Council of Climate Change reminded his audience of the challenge that governments face in shepherding both the great scientists, community leaders, businesses, etc. and their not so great counterparts in the right general direction, and the according need for resources without too many strings attached to allow governments to manage this diversity.

What next according to the panelists? A few key points:

  • We need interim financing starting as early as next year to provide incentives to areas that are ready. Those who are ready should not be “held hostage to those that are not.”
  • REDD is not only government to government. The private sector will be involved and we should capitalize on the ability and diligence of the private sector with respect to monitoring investments and ensuring returns on the ground.
  • Projects need to be aligned with national policies. Many projects fail because they go against the current of national policies.
  • There is a crucial need for more people educated in and experienced with forestry to be involved in REDD planning and implementation.
  • Developed countries need to commit to funds capacity building in developing countries.

When asked the question heard time and time again – Whenever big money has been part of the picture, local people have been pushed aside, so what is different about REDD? – panelists pointed to the following:

  • We are changing the logic of what it is that is being paid for – i.e. not cutting down trees
  • Funding is performance based
  • There are a lot of watchdogs involved to monitor how money is spent

All of the morning sessions closed with a voting on 4 questions. 55% of respondents in the session on mitigation cited a lack of equity as the greatest risk to to successful implementation of REDD.

In the afternoon session, Measuring and Monitoring, Baselines and Leakage, Fred Stolle of the World Resources Institute started off by emphasizing the need to include monitoring of safeguards in MRV systems. He further stressed the need to think about the legal frameworks of the country one is operating in when developing an MRV system, and the critical challenge of integrating MRV into the policy framework and decision making processes of a country. He cited long-term planing and funding as conditions for success.

In relation to the question of monitoring and reporting on adherence to safeguards, SBSTA has agreed that there will be a workshop held to inform guidelines for ensuring the that rights of local communities and indigenous peoples are respected in REDD implementation. This is a major concern for civil society groups here in Copenhagen. In the words of Roz Reeve of Global Witness: “Without a framework for monitoring safeguards, a REDD agreement is not worth the paper it is written on.”

The session included presentations on the various approaches for designing and implementing MRV systems with examples from Vietnam’s national REDD program development, Community Forestry International’s design of a VCS compliant methodology in Cambodia, and successful and inexpensive community-based forest monitoring initiatives in Central Africa.

The late afternoon session, Governance and Institutional Capacity for Adaptation and Mitigation, offered a very balanced panel once again, with panelists coming at the issue from a range of perspectives.

Key take-away messages from the presentations included:

  • All REDD projects should recognize and if necessary request the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples before a project begins. This is a critical way to reduce risks associated with REDD+.
  • Considerable work building transparency, monitoring performance and ensuring effective enforcement are all essential in order to make the vast majority of current ‘REDD countries’ appealing to investors.
  • Developing countries need to know the scale and schedule of the funds that will flow from developed countries in order to determine the institutional needs to manage REDD funds.
  • South-south collaboration funded by Annex 1 countries is the best way to go.
  • It important to work with national and local NGOs in order to build up capacity in developing countries.

The day closed with Yvo de Boer’s own reflections on Forest Day and the wider negotiations. Mr. de Boer highlighted some of the unique characteristics of the UNFCCC process giving cause for optimism, including a strong scientific basis, a broad understanding of the challenges the world is facing and a resounding political willingness to come to grips with them.

However, his optimism was immediately tempered with an acknowledgement of the urgency of moving forward in the negotiations and the fleeting nature of the political will required: “This opportunity will not come again. If there is no agreement this week, the political spotlight will move elsewhere.”

Commenting on the persistent deadlock over the Kyoto Protocol (responsible for a temporary halt in the negotiations the following day ) the Executive Secretary observed that: “In the course of shifting to a focus on the Kyoto Protocol, I think we have forgotten a lot of what the larger convention addresses. The Bali Roadmap is an opportunity to return to the broader sustainable development agenda of the Convention.”

Mr. de Boer closed with an appeal to observers and delegates present to “safeguard the nitty gritty,” and ensure that the politics do not obscure the fundamental need for an architecture to achieve what is laid out in the Bali Roadmap as an essential outcome of the COP.

Posted by Allison Bleaney, REDD-Net

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