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REDD+ biggest success in climate change talks, Norway says

Norway has pledged to invest US$500 million each year in REDD+.

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Erik Solheim speaks at a UN gathering. Photo courtesy of Emma Lydersen/ Norway UN Mission.

DURBAN, South Africa (12 December, 2011)_Norway’s Environment and International Development Minister said that REDD+ is the biggest success story so far in global climate change negotiations, but he called for countries to be “more daring” in their efforts to cut emissions and slow global warming.

“The main lessons learnt are that…(reducing deforestation) can only be done realistically with governments of developing nations in the driving seat, and that payments should be results-based,” Minister Erik Solheim said on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa. “Governments are the key drivers. Private sector of course has to be involved, but without the governments, nothing will happen.”

Norway has pledged up to US$2.8 billion in bilateral and multilateral funding under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), according to a November 2011 report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Heinrich Boll Stiftung. Aside from contributing to multilateral funds such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, it has made bilateral funding commitments, most notably to Brazil, Indonesia and Guyana.

Solheim, the only minister who combines the environment and international development as his portfolio, called on developed governments to be “more able to take risks and more daring” in designing development strategies. He said he believed that the new way of doing foreign assistance was by having governments of developing countries in the driving seat and giving compensation based on results, with minimum interference on how they spend the funds.

However, this new approach has received some criticism. Guyana, for example, plans to use part of its climate funding from Norway to build a 165 megawatts hydroelectric dam, which is estimated will lead to 4,500 hectares of forest loss, prompting public outcry. Responding to this, Solheim said that the dam will allow the Latin American country to remove oil-based generators, resulting in a net emission loss. As long as it’s within the agreed parameters, “it’s for the government of Guyana to make a decision on how to spend the money,” he said.

“‘Hands off-ness’ can be good and bad,” said Smita Nakhooda, Research Fellow at ODI and co-author of the policy brief titled REDD+ Finance Delivery: Lessons from Early Experience. Lack of interference, combined with investment in developing national institutional frameworks, can support the emergence of a nationally-driven robust agenda, which is likely to deliver both social and environmental benefits, she said. “That will be more the case in some countries than in others.”

Norway has taken the lead in supporting forest protection in developing countries since 2007, when it pledged to spend up to NOK3 billion (US$500 million) per year on REDD. Financial commitments such as those provided by Norway are “critical for forest countries to mobilise and sustain political will and in-country capacity for REDD+ activities over other national priorities,” according to the ODI policy brief. The report further recommended that developed countries “commit to provide significant, sustainable financial support for faster moving forest countries.”

– With additional reporting by Michelle Kovacevic

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Climate talks