Cancun’s ‘rushed’ forest deal
From the start of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Cancun, a global agreement to curb carbon emissions by stopping widespread deforestation was expected to be one of the talks’ main achievements.
But on the sidelines many feared the pressure for a deal on the long-awaited REDD scheme might reflect no more than the pressure for some kind of outcome from the talks.
The REDD scheme is intended to mitigate climate change by paying developing countries to conserve their forests, so preserving the carbon locked up in them that might otherwise be emitted. The negotiators had sought to include several safeguards to ensure that natural forests and biodiversity really will be protected, and to care for people’s rights as well, particularly those of indigenous forest peoples.
At the end of Cancun’s first week, Philippines climate negotiator Antonio LaViña forecast that an agreement on REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation – would be reached.
True enough, negotiators did on the talks’ last day agree a text to protect forests. But observers said it was hazy on two issues: a scheme to finance REDD, and a monitoring process for the agreement’s safeguards. They called it a rushed deal.
One development NGO, Care International, said a REDD deal represented an easy win for the negotiators, who should be careful not to come up with one simply so that they could say that Cancun had produced an outcome: “We will see here how strong the political urge is for an outcome at all costs,” it said beforehand.
Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, another Philippines negotiator, said there had been attempts to water down the deal’s safeguards during the negotiations.
Saudi Arabia, she said in an interview, had pushed for the removal of provisions requiring the monitoring and reporting of compliance with the safeguards. It had insisted on regarding the safeguards as “additional obligations”, although it does not even receive payments under REDD.
“It was quite surprising that they were questioning the standards we want included in REDD when the country does not have any forests,” said Tauli-Corpuz.
But maybe even more unexpected was the opposition of forested countries who will directly benefit from the REDD programme.
Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness, an NGO, told reporters the REDD negotiations had still been deadlocked in the last few days of the talks as Papua-New Guinea and Brazil resisted the safeguards.
She said the two rejected any language about the safeguards as it related to their national sovereignty. Put simply, she added, there was no consensus on how developing countries could account for their logging activities.
“We’d like to have Brazil and Papua-New Guinea be more supportive of environmental safeguards and integrity provisions. If we do not break these barriers of sovereignty, we can never solve climate change,” said Reeve.
With the agreement reached, forest nations, with the help of funding from rich economies, will in the next few months start implementing REDD. We shall soon see whether a text which left critical details and debates unresolved will damage REDD in the long run.