REDD+ Debates in Full Swing at Durban

Jim Stephenson, RECOFTC Program Officer for People, Forests, and Climate Change, provides some highlights from the first few sessions at COP17 in Durban.

COP17 in Durban is now in full swing – as are the discussions on REDD+, which are set to produce results by Saturday. The Norwegian delegation announced at a packed contact meeting yesterday that they had “already been for a jog this morning and had a double espresso” which is just as well given that the REDD+ negotiators will be up night and day to have text agreed by Saturday.

This should give the REDD+ crowd plenty to chew over by the morning of Forests Day on Sunday, and following on from my last post this means my Sunday morning speak will be more REDD+ finance, reference emission levels, and safeguards, rather than my usual caveman mono-syllables.

Over in the Durban Exhibition Centre (DEC) – the designated stomping ground for us NGO types – there has been a bombardment of REDD+/forestry side events. Navigating this festival of intriguing events is a tricky task, and like Glastonbury it means you always miss out on star acts. Highlights for me so far have been:

  • The Environmental Investigation Agency providing sobering reminders of the mammoth task afoot in improving forest governance (one slide showed entirely fabricated forest inventories approved all the way through the Peruvian forest agency). This ‘Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Measures’ event led to an energetic debate on whether strengthening enforcement penalizes the ‘little-guy’ when REDD+ should really be used to address corruption and criminal activity further up the value chain.
  • CIFOR’s ‘How is REDD+ unfolding on the ground’ event showed that REDD+ Developers are hedging their bets in light of future REDD+ market uncertainty. An interesting side effect has been that some developers choose not to use the phrase ‘REDD+’ in their outreach to communities, as they don’t want to raise false expectations. This is a justified approach, and avoids a problem now being faced by many projects in limbo where previously promised carbon finance is not forthcoming. However, CIFOR highlighted that this has reduced the ability to carry out full Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as communities are not told and therefore cannot agree to selling the carbon in their forests. As a sneak preview, this issue crops up in our new policy brief ‘Are capacity building services meeting countries’ needs?’, launched here on Thursday, 1December with UN-REDD.
  • The ‘Status of monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) in setting up REDD+’ presentation within the CIFOR event stimulated challenge from the floor. These challenges were on what MRV should cover, and if countries are ‘jumping the gun’ on using large chunks of limited readiness funding on MRV, rather than addressing the massive forest governance challenges they face. Admittedly, the last challenge came from yours truly. The sensible reply was that we need to strike a balance between addressing both MRV and forest governance, with the admission that often MRV takes up donor readiness money because it is easier to show progress, as opposed to the greater difficulty in clearly showing forest governance results. I walked away feeling slightly worried that the need to show clear results for donor money may mean that the ‘high risk/high reward’ options get sidelined in favor of less ambitious aims.

My highlights list will have doubled or tripled in length by the time you read this and I’m sure my fellow bloggers will cover the issues they raise. For those of you at Durban we look forward to seeing you at RECOFTC’s Forests Day booth and our upcoming side event. If you aren’t here please stay tuned for more blog posts soon!

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