REDD+ draft texts postpone financing decision to 2012, water down safeguards

DURBAN, South Africa (4 December 2011)__ Latest draft texts on REDD+ that will go forward to a plenary session for approval have postponed a decision on financing to next year and watered down safeguards requirements, leaving REDD+ projects in limbo and indigenous groups unprotected.

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Photo courtesy of UN Climate Change/flickr.

DURBAN, South Africa (4 December 2011)__ Latest draft texts on REDD+ that will go forward to a plenary session for approval have postponed a decision on financing to next year and watered down safeguards requirements, leaving REDD+ projects in limbo and indigenous groups unprotected.

The UNFCCC’s ad hoc working group on the Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) asked the secretariat to prepare a technical paper to review what kind of financing sources will be suitable for specific REDD+ activities, said Louis Verchot, leading climate change scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “REDD projects have to go another whole year without any clear indication as to how this whole system is going to be financed,” he said at the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Durban.

Another disappointment is in the scientific sub-committee SBSTA’s “very weak” text on safeguards to protect local communities, indigenous peoples and biodiversity. The draft reduces requirements from collecting data and measuring impacts of REDD+ to merely reporting how developers implement safeguard measures, said Verchot. “Safeguards aren’t going to be safeguards.” (see the text in two parts here and here)

The decisions, or lack thereof, were made in “a void” as negotiators struggle to agree on what will happen after Kyoto Protocol, the current legally-binding climate treaty that doesn’t include REDD+ and that expires in 2012. “We have no idea how to fund” REDD+, said Verchot. As such, “we don’t have an objective, we don’t have a means to an objective. We’re going to make all the decisions about all the rules of how we’re going to get to our objective, but we don’t even know where we’re going.”

REDD+ aims to reward developing nations for reducing emissions by protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests. AWG-LCA prepares the draft text on REDD+ finance (see pages 30-31 here) while the Subsidiary Body of Scientific and Technological Advancement (SBSTA) makes recommendations to the Conference of the Parties on how to measure, report and verify carbon emissions as well as on safeguards.

Financing decision in 2012

The AWG-LCA wants to know what sources of financing including public and markets can do for the different kinds of activities under REDD+, such as to reduce deforestation, reduce degradation, and manage forest in a sustainable manner, said Verchot. The ad hoc group will make a recommendation for REDD+ financing based on this information next year.

While acknowledging that such a review is good to have, “we’re seven years into REDD and we’re still looking at what the options are. We’re not making the hard decisions.” Asia Pacific negotiators, including China, said that they hoped to reach an agreement on financing for REDD+ in Durban.

The crux of the matter is that there’s no certainty on whether any binding agreement to cut emissions will replace Kyoto, said Verchot. “REDD is sort of cut loose…  it’s being launched into the world, it’s out there, but how it relates to anything else is not clear.”

Very weak safeguards

The final draft of the text suggests that countries would only have to submit qualitative information on how safeguards were implemented, said Verchot. “We have no way of actually measuring impact” of REDD+ on communities, which requires collecting and comparing before-and-after data, said Verchot.

The weakened safeguards text was probably adopted to accommodate developing countries’ frustration towards donors’ complex and costly requirements, which often differ from one agency to the next, at a time when only little money is flowing in for REDD+, said Verchot. “The feeling among developing countries is that they need to start getting something out of the program and there needs to be fewer hoops to jump through before receiving the promised support,” he said.

The current text significantly lightens the load for forested nations. “At the same time, there’s a need to ensure that local communities are not being harmed,” said Verchot. In the current form, safeguards are merely principles to adhere to, he said. “If we’re performing or not performing, it’s not going to matter, because we’re not going to measure it.”

Other issues, such as reference emissions levels, did not change much from the previous draft (see CIFOR story on these here). SBSTA is going to ask the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to reformulate their existing methods and guidelines for measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) to meet the need for REDD+. This will help to ensure that the forest carbon accounting is consistent with the national emissions accounting guidelines, said Verchot, who estimated this process to take two years.

For other reports from COP17, visit the blogs of these organizations:
The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC)

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