Cancun: The inside REDD Story
As a national delegate to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Party-16, I had an opportunity to witness interesting and rigorous deliberations on “climate change disputes” among the 194 parties. These deliberations sometimes seemed worthless, and sometimes thought provoking. At the end of the meeting, the parties surprisingly reached an agreement which was welcomed by all except Bolivia. I would like to reveal the “insider disputes” because of which the parties took 13 days to create an agreement based on the text provided by the September meeting in Tianjin, China. As I was following only the forestry related negotiations, I limit myself to the disputes related to REDD (reducing emission from deforestation and degradation).
The first dispute was whether REDD activities of the developing countries should be subject to international monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV). The second was whether the social and environmental safeguards should be subject to international MRV. The third was whether the developing countries should be permitted the option of adopting a sub-national approach to REDD. Fourth, whether to allow market-based approaches to REDD (i.e., trading); and lastly, how activities under the REDD+ mechanism would relate to REDD activities under NAMAs (nationally appropriate mitigation actions).
Other than these disputes, there were several country-specific issues floated during the meetings. They include the party’s obligation to the low carbon strategy (Saudi Arabia—reservations); the party’s voluntary involvement in the REDD scheme (Bolivia—agreeing); dilemma on environmental and social safeguards proposed on REDD mechanisms (Bolivia—seeking clarity); ambiguities in defining the drivers of deforestation (Brazil, India—seeking redefinition); creating voluntary reference level for carbon inventory (Brazil—agreeing); force majeure (natural disturbances) and harvested wood products as the exceptions of carbon account (Ghana, Bolivia—reservations); clarity on financing (India—seeking assurance); the role of forests in carbon vs. social and environmental benefits (Bolivia, Indonesia—seeking valuation); indigenous people’s rights (Bolivia—seeking security); assurance of financing during third phase of REDD financing based on results following the implementation (India—seeking a package deal).
A clear distinction in views expressed between Annex 1 Parties and the developing world regarding MRV of REDD activities was discernible. A domestic approach of MRV was preferred by the developing world while the developed countries said verification should involve an independent review under the UNFCCC framework. The developing countries related these issues to national sovereignty as they argued that independent verification would mean UNFCCC inspectors entering their country. However, the developed countries think MRV refers to the process of independently checking the accuracy and reliability of reported information or the procedures used to generate information, which does not constitute breaching national sovereignty.
A sub-national approach was generally opposed by the developed parties. They think that once a REDD activity is in place, deforestation may simply shift from one province to another with no overall reduction in the national deforestation rate. However, developing economies such as Indonesia argued that a sub-national approach would allow a faster start-up of REDD.
The major concern of the developing countries including Bolivia was that private investors may place pressure on governments to allow the generation of market-based credits without first fully addressing the environmental and social impacts of REDD projects. On the other hand, countries which are in favour of market largely think that the market-based approach can mobilise significant revenue from private finance into the REDD market. There is uncertainty on how REDD-plus activities will fit into NAMAs. The developing countries can nominate their NAMAs under the Copenhagen Accord. However, it is not clear whether REDD activities are considered to be the same ongoing activities.
We should be excited with the agreement made in Cancun, but we have only half-way achievements on REDD+. The agreement provides guidance on how countries should implement REDD+ and establishes guidelines and safeguards for REDD+. The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) will continue working in this direction and will develop a work programme providing further details on issues such as modalities for carbon accounting. As such, much of 2011 will be spent developing more detailed guidelines for REDD+.
Negotiations will continue in 2011 with the aim of building off of the Cancun Agreements to be transformed into more comprehensive agreements. The legal form of those agreements will also be devised in 2011. The SBSTA, Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), Ad-hoc Working Group for Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and Ad-hoc Working Group for Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) will convene in Bonn from June 6-17, 2011 and COP 17 will take place in Durban, South Africa from Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2011.
Summarising those disputes and the timeline for action, and linking them here to our context, a few remarks are in order. Nepal is already ready for REDD+ and is going to pilot REDD+ as early as possible. Therefore, all these disputes and ambiguities should be official concerns of Nepal. Nepal should make its stand clear on all the disputes and ambiguities mentioned above, and on all issues which may emerge in the future.
For this, Nepal should immediately form an efficient negotiating team comprising people from GOs, NGOs, and CSOs. National deliberations on the disputes, ambiguities and concerns should be started. The upcoming negotiation—which is expected to cover all technical and legal aspects of REDD+ mechanisms with a specific timeline—is an important event. Therefore, this upcoming event needs to be seen as a target event to envision a national forest strategy. Very importantly, members of the upcoming negotiating team need to show enough accountability and professionalism towards the nation and the people.
(Sapkota is Member-Secretary, Forest Sector Strategy Development Taskforce, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation)