It has been twelve weeks since the conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún. There were mixed feelings on the Cancún outcome. While many felt that, in substantive terms, not much was achieved, the agreement was also perceived as process-saving, especially when compared with the Copenhagen debacle a year earlier, and thus the closing session in Cancún met with thunderous applause.
The main outcome to emerge from the climate discussions is a series of COP decisions that have collectively been called the ‘Cancun Agreements’. The Decision that is relevant to REDD is contained in the Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) that includes, among other things, a section on paragraph 1 b iii) of the Bali Action Plan on ‘Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries’. Section III C, as it is titled in the document, is the culmination of three years of negotiation on REDD and is not substantively different from the draft decision in Cancun. At just under two pages long and containing only 12 paragraphs of text and a short preamble, Section III C does not provide a concrete framework for how REDD should work but instead offers a set of clear guidelines (elaborated in Annex I of the Decision) and a work plan for the coming year (in Annex II).
Going through almost 100 pages of Cancún Climate Agreements and another 100 of analysis from both the media and academia was not a delightful task to do during last month, given that the summit didn’t reach any genuine results. The more you dig, the more disappointed you become. The “set of focused” agreements was celebrated as building blocks for a real comprehensive agreement next year. This is a truly over-optimism. Unless serious negotiation rounds take place throughout 2011, there will be no final effective agreement signed in CoP17, Durban. We will be faced with either a gap period of delayed post-2012 action, or a virtual gap of weak and ineffective action; that is a continuation to Kyoto Protocol (KP) or a similar form of agreement.
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.
Despite not agreeing legally binding commitments to reduce emissions, the Cancun conference does give more momentum to global, regional and local efforts to address climate change. As a result, the creation of incentives, penalties and trading arrangements in various forms in different markets becomes more likely.
⇒New Scientist (by Fred Pearce):
...Cancún's climate conference was largely a diplomatic triumph. No nations promised to up their emissions reduction targets from those pledged in Copenhagen. The compromise text that the delegates applauded was only work in progress, full of pledges to settle differences later – differences like the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, legally binding emissions targets and the role of carbon markets. The firmest commitment was to meet again next year in Durban, South Africa....
The hope is to incorporate such schemes into the UN climate agreement's own programme for channelling western money into forest conservation, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
The rules for REDD were broadly agreed in Cancún. But Daniel Nepstad, a leading forest ecologist now with the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, said REDD could go ahead even if the wider UN deal falters, funded by carbon traders in the EU, California and elsewhere.
Some key building blocks of the climate pact saw subtle but significant changes in Cancun.
In the scheme to slow deforestation in poor countries in return for cash, known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, language to safeguard indigenous peoples' rights was strengthened, advocates said.
"After three years of hard negotiations we have a basis for combating deforestation integrated in an agreement on climate which marks an important step," said Rosalind Reeve, forest campaign manager for Global Witness, a London-based nonprofit...
Despite such unpromising backroom diplomacy, the Cancún summit ended with Germany agreeing to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2020. That would be well ahead of pledges made by the EU bloc as a whole, which only agreed to reduce emissions by 20 percent. Indeed, Der Spiegel reports that "other countries in the [EU] club are appreciative of Berlin's pledge -- but none have followed the example." For Cancún to be effective Germany will have to cajole other member states to make deeper commitments, but already there are indications, in the words of Der Spiegel, that the central European powerhouse "no longer wants to be the model EU pupil."
Heads of the three UN agencies involved in the UN-REDD Programme (FAO, UNDP and UNEP) call the REDD+ agreement a positive step forward in the conservation and sustainable management of the world's forests...
John O. Niles, director of the Tropical Forest Group, a forest policy group, said that while the outlook for market-based REDD remains uncertain, the agreement is a step forward for forest protection.
“The Cancun Agreement includes new decisions that encourage donors and the private sector to continue deploying billions of dollars for countries that lower rates of deforestation,” Niles said in a statement. “These decisions include clear signals that investing in tropical forest conservation will one day pay off.”
Nations launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the poor and the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures. And they agreed to launch concrete action to preserve forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward.
While the Cancún Agreements represent significant progress, the breadth of needs that must be met to make REDD+ operational, technically and socially, across the tropics, are daunting. Nonetheless, the Rainforest Alliance delegation departs from Cancún on a highnote, committed to re-doubling our efforts to make REDD+ work.
Forests Will Be the Low-Hanging Fruit for Climate: One of the benefits of the post-Copenhagen realism is the dawning comprehension there will be no single “big-bang” deal for climate change. The politics are simply too complex and the problem itself too wicked for any one treaty to solve it. In the future we'll instead see multiple organizations tackling different strands of the problem in a parallel fashion—yes, the UNFCC will play its role, but so will the World Bank on climate finance, or the G-20 on carbon mitigation. That's more effective, and it prevents climate action as a whole from being bogged down if one stream clogs.
The Parties’ agreement in Cancun on a text for policy approaches and positive incentives in issues relating to reduction of deforestation and degradation (known as REDD+) answers a number of questions that have been prominent since the Bali Action Plan in 2007.
- It addresses the overall goal of the activities to be undertaken – to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss – and the scope of what will be considered relevant activities.
- It also provides some initial guidance with regards to “readiness” by listing the activities REDD+ countries should undertake (and for which they should be supported) as part of engaging in actions to achieve REDD+ emission reductions.
- It supports a phased approach to countries reaching their objective.
- Finally, it makes the role of developed countries clear. First, they should provide financial support. Second, they should address their own actions that drive deforestation. Both of these are important steps forward.
While many questions were answered in Cancun, there are still many more that need to be resolved before a REDD+ framework will be operational. For example:
- Who will use the information about how safeguards are being promoted and supported?
- How will the information be used to ensure real change happens on the ground?
- Will this empower REDD+ parties and donors to work together to track improvements in governance as part of the development of national monitoring systems?
Other questions have also been left open, including how reference emissions levels should be set, the definition of forests and degradation, and the relationship between this section of the text and nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs). Questions about what types of finance will ultimately be used are also still unanswered, yet important.
Parties will need to work on these issues as they head to the next round of climate talks in Durban, but this agreement shows that countries are willing to have difficult discussions and still come to agreement, which is a good start, given the discussions ahead. (Florence Daviet, Fred Stolle)
An increasingly wide-ranging REDD
For Alain Karsenty, if the talks are marking time, it is largely because "the range of activities eligible for REDD+ has broadened under pressure from various public and private interest groups ". REDD initially concerned deforestation alone. Then as the talks went on, degradation, forest management, tree planting, and lastly carbon stock conservation were added. "The ongoing extension of the scope of REDD+ is presented as a step forward by people who are confusing progress and a blind determination to forge ahead. In reality, each of these activities has blown apart the initial relative consensus between three distinct interest groups: a group that gives priority to carbon, another that is concerned about biodiversity, and a third that defends the interests of local populations ." This is compounded by the head-on collision between those in favour of including REDD+ in the carbon market and those in favour of a global fund fuelled by an international taxation system to be set up.
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.
Some additional info...
- Politico: Cancun Ends with Modest Climate Deal.
- New York Times: "Climate Talks End With Modest Deal on Emissions"
- Washington Post: "193 Nations Sign Climate-Change Package"
- AFP: "Cancun Reignites Climate Talks Flame"
- AP: "UN Climate Meeting Oks Green Fund in New Accord"
- Xinhua: "Cancun Climate Talks Send "Positive" Signals: Chinese Delegation"
- Reuters: "Analysis: Climate Talks: 18 Years, Too Little Action?"
- National Journal: "Breakthrough Made in U.N. Climate Talks"
- Reuters: "SNAP ANALYSIS: Climate Talks Win Lifeline, But May Sink in 2012"
- Press Trust of India: "Jairam Ramesh 'Built Bridges' in Cancun Climate Talks"
- CanWest: "Building Blocks To Green Treaty"
- Australian: "Labor To Push Carbon Agenda"
- Accra Daily Mail: "Climate Change Financing Will Benefit All, UN Chief Tells Cancún Meeting"
- Telegraph: "Cancun Climate Conference: What It All Means"
- Telegraph: "Cancun Climate Change Conference Agrees Plan To Cut Carbon Emissions"
- National Journal: "Breakthrough Made in U.N. Climate Talks"
- Time: "5 Lessons from the U.N. Cancún Climate Summit"
- Reuters: "Climate Talks End With Modest Deal and Standing Ovation"
- Jakarta Post: "Cancun Talks Make Modest Progress"
- NRDC: "Final Results at the Cancun Climate Talks: Clear Progress on Climate Finance"
- Voice of America: "UN Climate Talks End With Limited Agreements"
- Grist: "Cancun Climate Breakthrough: It's Not Perfect, But It's a Deal"
CANCUN: The results regarding REDD - a summary