It’s Championship Time

In the words of Eduardo Braga, the Governor of Amazonas State in Brazil: “It is no longer practice time, we are now in the championship game, and it’s the final three minutes.”

After seeing the revised negotiating text on REDD that will go to the Ministers in the coming days, all signs seem to indicate that negotiators working on REDD have taken the Governor’s words to heart. The text is indeed down to 3.5 pages, with few brackets, though with some critical areas left unresolved.

Finance, probably the most essential element of these negotiations for developing countries and certainly the linchpin of an international REDD agreement, remains an issue of contention. The bottom line – developing countries are not prepared to commit to any emissions reductions targets or to report on their efforts to reduce emissions until the money (from Annex 1 countries) is on the table.

This central message of developing country delegates was echoed by Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of Conservation International, at a panel discussion on REDD this afternoon: “We are not dealing with a technological problem, it is all about political will. We’ve got developing countries that are in agreement and they’re willing to do it at a fair price, and then we’ve got the developing countries who are not willing to put the money on the table.” The mood may have brightened slightly nearing the end of the session, when Thomas Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, made the announcement in his closing remarks that the United States will provide US$ 1 billion over the next 3 years as “an initial investment in REDD+ development.” We hope that other leaders will be quick to follow their lead (even if it is coming a little late in the game.)

Details for the kinds of strategies or plans countries will develop to implement REDD activities, including whether or not sub-national strategies will be part of the agreement, are entirely in brackets. This remains an issue of contention, with Colombia strongly in support of including the sub-national option.

The extent to which the provisions on safeguards have been weakened is not clear. On one hand, the paragraph dealing with safeguards has been moved (along with the principles) back to the operative part of the text. On the other hand, it has been left open whether the document will affirm that the various safeguards are “promoted” or simply “supported.’ The full significance of these changes is beyond my legal interpretive abilities at the moment, but will be elaborated in an analytical summary of the final REDD agreement that REDD-net will release next week. Clear language on rights, transparency, participation, co-benefits and not using REDD activities to convert natural forests are all included in the revised text.

As for incorporating monitoring and verifying of safeguards into counties’ MRV systems, this is there, but in brackets, and is unlikely to stay. A new addition is a footnote (also bracketed), requesting that “the need for sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities and their interdependence on forests in most countries” be taken into account by developing countries when developing their MRV systems.

Developing countries are further requested to “address, inter alia, drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, land tenure issues, forest governance issues, gender considerations and the safeguards … ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and local communities” when developing or implementing their national strategies or actions plans.

Much more can be said about the significance of these outcomes for forest mangers and users and will be in the above-mentioned brief analytical summary of the outcomes from the negotiations that REDD-net will release next week. For a copy of the summary, be sure to visit late next week.

While the content of the agreement seems quite good on balance, those still awaiting a legally binding agreement are likely to be disappointed. According to Stuart Eizenstat, the former United States Negotiator for the Kyoto Protocol, President Obama cannot sign a legal international agreement without the domestic legal basis to support (i.e. the Senate approving the ‘cap and trade’ bill). This condition will not fall into place in the next 2 days. However, Mr. Eisenstat along with Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund and Mark Tercek of the Nature Conservancy, are confident that President Obama will get the support he needs to ensure that he is “armed with legally binding legislation in Mexico City” this time next year.

P.S. I don’t know anything about the protests. All I can tell you is that the Bella Centre where the negotiations are being held, stopped letting NGOs into the building this afternoon and as far as I know, this will continue through to the end of the week.

posted by Allison Bleaney, REDD-net

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