Analysis and reaction: REDD deal hailed for forests
An agreement on tropical forest protection is being hailed as a significant success of the UN climate conference in Cancún, finding broad support among major international social and environmental NGOs. The agreement creates a framework for REDD+, a global mechanism to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, and enhance forest carbon stocks. The framework involves a three-phase process for developing, mainly tropical, countries to reduce deforestation, to have those actions financed by developed countries, and to protect forest peoples and biodiversity in the process.
The three phases are:
- the development of national strategies or action plans and capacity buildin
- the implementation of national strategies or action plans that could involve REDD pilot projects
- the mobilisation of funds from developed countries, with financing mechanisms yet to be decided
The biggest critic of the agreement was Bolivia, which led a Latin American protest against the agreement, opposing the use of carbon markets to fund forest protection. Bolivia voiced the opposition of a number of indigenous rights groups that the agreement would open the way for forest people to be exploited in the turning of forests into a financial-market commodity. In the face of strident opposition, negotiators set aside the question of how the billions in payments needed to halt deforestation and degradation should be financed for now.
Work will go on in the
process over the next year to explore different financing options for the full implementation of the range of REDD+ actions outlined in the agreement, to be considered at the next annual UN climate conference in Durban. The financing question is one of carbon markets versus government and multilateral funding. Like other aspects of climate change financing, there is a feeling that market mechanisms will ultimately have to be embraced if anything like the many billions needed annually is going to be marshaled to the task.
Despite the Bolivian-led opposition, broad agreement appears to have been found on the range of social and environmental challenges that implementing an avoided deforestation scheme throws up for developing countries and their people. The text demands REDD national strategies and action plans address “the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, land tenure issues, forest governance issues, gender considerations and the safeguards … ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders [including] indigenous peoples and local communities”. This, of course, is only the framework and the devil is still to come in the detail as REDD national strategies are developed and programmes rolled out.
The final agreement also retains allowance for so-called “subnational” baselines, which had been a thorny issue a year ago in Copenhagen. This goes to how actions to reduce deforestation should be measured. The thrust of the REDD concept is that deforestation should be measured and tackled nationwide, rather than region by region, to minimise the potential for
within developing countries. The agreement allows for “subnational” baselines if appropriate for national circumstances, as an interim measure only in the early years before national approaches can be established.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) welcomed the agreement as a major step toward eliminating tropical deforestation as a major driver of climate change. “Historic changes are happening in conference halls and in the Amazon that can end tropical deforestation in our lifetime,” said Doug Boucher, director of climate research and analysis at UCS.
Environment group Conservation International (CI) welcomed the REDD+ agreement and the overall Cancún package, saying the decision converts what have been piecemeal efforts on deforestation into a global endeavour. “This is truly a historic moment - after years of conversation, we now have a global framework for action to halt deforestation, provide for adaptation by vulnerable human and natural communities and reverse dangerous climate challenges,” said Fred Boltz, the climate change lead for CI.
The environmental science foundation, Bellona, said the REDD+ deal would ensure the sustainable management of forests. “In a historical perspective, emissions related to forests is the area that has seen fastest development in the climate negotiations. Ten years ago, no one thought forests were going to be a part of a climate deal,” said deputy chairman of Bellona Europa, Tone Knudsen. Knudsen said progress at the political level has been hastened over this time by technological advances in forest measuring and monitoring methods.