REDD Alert: Who Can’t See the Wood for the Trees?

REDD Alert: Who Can’t See the Wood for the Trees?

There is a clear consensus around the forest preserving
scheme REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and
it offers the best chance for progress on UN climate change negotiations, said
Louis Verchot, scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research
(Cifor). While WWF Indonesia says officials must consider the safety mechanisms
and financing of REDD+ including the MRV – measurable, reportable and
verifiable – programmes in the country, with special attention paid to the
negotiation process.

Written by Michelle Kovacevic (23 November 2011):

There is a clear consensus around the forest preserving
scheme REDD+ and it offers the best chance for progress on U.N. climate change
negotiations to be held in Durban next week, said Louis Verchot, scientist with
the Center for International Forestry Research.

“REDD+ offers a better chance for progress than other
proposed climate initiatives being discussed at COP17,” said Verchot in an interview.

“Certainly there is a clear consensus around REDD — we’ve
been discussing it for 7 years now and we’ve got a number of decisions that are
already in place that will allow that to move forward.”

REDD+ is a set of steps designed to use financial incentives
in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and
forest degradation. It was first proposed at COP11 in 2005 as a way to tackle
issues associated with land use change emissions which, due to their
complexity, the Kyoto Protocol could not address.

Many countries including the United States, Japan and Russia
have stated that they will not sign up to a second commitment period of the
Kyoto Protocol – a scheme focused on emissions reductions – leaving the door
wide open for decisions on REDD+ to progress at the negotiations.

While many countries
are already implementing REDD+ pilot projects, a number of issues still need to
be addressed, such as how REDD will be financed, how carbon emissions will be
reported and verified, and how safeguards will be reported and enforced. These
will be the focus of negotiations to advance with REDD+ at next week’s

Countries need long-term funds they can count on

“As it now stands,” said Verchot, “there is an agreement on
the part of developing countries to implement REDD+ and reduce emissions, and
on the part of the developed countries to provide financial and technical
assistance to achieve this. But there is not yet an agreement on the mechanisms
for how that’s going to happen – whether it will be market based or publicly
financed — and there is no agreement on the magnitude of the assistance or the
goal for emissions reductions.

“A number of countries are putting in place REDD
actions…they want to know what sort of funds they can count on and what’s the
plan for the long term.”

“At Durban we would like to [see an agreement on] how the
money is going to get into the hands of governments and communities to
implement the program and how we are going to ensure the sustainability of the
financial stream so this is not just a 5 year project, but a long-term
component of the solution to climate change. “

There is also some concern that, in the absence of a second
phase of the Kyoto protocol, market mechanisms may not work in a world where
there are no emissions reductions obligations. Verchot assures however, that
there are legally binding emissions reductions agreements already in place.

“Europe already has legally binding unilateral decisions
about emissions reduction, the North-eastern states of the US have committed to
emissions reductions and California will allow credits from REDD into their
emissions reductions scheme. The question is whether we use markets to help
implement (emissions reductions) and whether REDD can tap into those markets
and benefit from them.”

How do you measure something that does not happen?

Quantifying carbon emissions has been an ongoing area of
research – in the case of REDD+, carbon emissions refer to those that do not
happen i.e. emissions that would have happened in a business-as-usual scenario
without REDD+.

This can then be calculated in two different ways: one
focused on total carbon dioxide emitted due to deforestation, not counting any
uptake by trees that continue to grow; or as the net balance between carbon
dioxide that is currently being emitted by deforestation and forest degradation
and that which is being taken up by the forests.  While this might seem like an arcane
difference, it affects how you set up accounting systems and how you reward
emissions reductions.

“We would like to see some clarity on this issue,” says
Verchot, “and we have put on the table an idea about a tiered approach which is
already in the draft text that’s going to the negotiators.”

The idea behind a tiered approach is that there is a simple
means to estimating business as usual emissions that all countries could do
with existing data, but this approach is not particularly accurate,” explains

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is already
collecting deforestation data from countries but those data are not as actively
updated as would be required for a compliance mechanism.

“But as countries put in place national forest inventories
and begin collecting spatial data on their forests, they could start simply and
progressively set their reference emissions level with greater certainty and
less error, which would then allow them to get into the REDD+ mechanism, said

“We would like to see a minimum standard of what would be
required for a country to enter into the REDD+ mechanism as well as the steps
that countries could go through to get up to what’s considered good practice
for this carbon accounting.”

Safeguards must be reported and enforced

Safeguards are a series of conditions that REDD+ must
respect so community rights, biodiversity conservation and governance are not
compromised under this mechanism. “While all these safeguards have been agreed
upon, there is still disagreement as to how they are going to be reported and
enforced”, says Verchot.

“Countries have agreed that they actually need to report to
the UNFCCC on how they are implementing these safeguards, but there is no
agreement on what that reporting consists of. How will it be monitored, does it
need to be quantitative and do remediated measures need to be foreseen if we find
we are not achieving a certain level of performance?”

Will Durban be a “summit of small steps”?

What seems to be most important, says Verchot, is ensuring
that countries who are already implementing REDD+ will see some progress on
these issues at the forthcoming negotiations.

“Countries are implementing REDD+ already. They need some
assurance that this is not going to all disappear in the rhetoric and discussions.

While we may not get full closure on all of these issues, we
at least need to have some concrete proposals on the table and a deadline for
these activities to start being functional on the ground.”

CIFOR will have a team of experienced writers covering the
climate change negotiations and events of COP17 to be held in Durban, South
Africa from November 28 to December 9.

Source: and


The Jakarta Post (23 November 2011):

Environmental NGO World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia
has urged that improvements be made to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation
and Forest Degradation (REDD+) infrastructure and management.

“The development of those components on the national level
is necessary to accompany any environmental agreements on the international
level,” WWF Indonesia director of climate change and energy Nyoman Iswarayoga
said on Tuesday.

Nyoman added that Indonesian officials should participate in
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa,
this month.

WWF Indonesia suggested that officials consider the safety
mechanisms and financing of REDD+ and MRV (measurable, reportable and
verifiable) programs in the country, with special attention paid to the
negotiation process, at the meeting.

Additionally, WWF Indonesia also asked officials to consider
the dissemination and mapping of climate change and the engagement of civil
society and local communities, to access funds on environmental initiatives in
the country.


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