Learning by doing: practical approaches to REDD-plus
Despite the virtual failure of the Copenhagen UN climate conference to come to a global agreement, the discussion on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD-plus) has continued with force. The current focus appears to be on helping developing countries get ready for REDD-plus technically, politically and institutionally. So how can we most effectively build REDD-plus capacity? ASB strongly believes in learning by doing. Demonstration projects can be the most powerful tool to develop the technical know-how and attract the political buy-in needed to implement a national-level REDD-plus programme.
In March, we convened several workshops for REDD-plus negotiators, key stakeholders and scientists in Asia and Africa, to exchange knowledge and build strategies for moving ahead. The most resounding message from these meetings was that more demonstration projects are needed, and policy-makers/negotiators need to start talking with project implementers, to help link the negotiations to practical experience. Early success is important for leveraging more political and stakeholder buy-in. Practical experiences can allow us to learn much more than we can from reading technical manuals. As such, we recently took a group of scientists to the Rukinga project in Kenya, to see for themselves how REDD can work.
In the recent UN-REDD policy board meeting, UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner highlighted the importance of “learning by doing” and encouraged countries and stakeholders to “focus on recognizing and mitigating risk” when developing REDD-plus strategies (source). The governments of Norway and France have joined with several other countries to contribute at least $4.5 billion of “fast start” funds to help move REDD-plus despite the absence of a UNFCCC decision.
These recent developments need to be targeted first and foremost to demonstration projects. The number of REDD-plus projects in Africa, particularly in the Congo basin forests, is startlingly low. In a global survey we conducted on REDD readiness and demonstration projects, we found that Africa has 5% fewer demonstration projects than Indonesia. As a country, Indonesia has 17.5% of all REDD projects globally. The Congo basin, which is by definition the second-largest continuous tropical forest in the world, does not have more than 5% of all projects in the world.
To prevent a repeat of Africa’s poor performance in the Clean Development Mechanism, there should be no delay in implementing demonstration activities in Africa. The private sector can play an important role, as they do in the Kasigau Corridor REDD project in Kenya. Greater collaboration between the private sector, government organizations and NGOs can help improve the speed of implementation, encourage new projects, and enhance overall REDD-plus success.
We look forward to your feedback on how we can best learn from existing REDD-plus initiatives, and how to truly kick-start the work on the ground.
Peter A Minang
ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins
Written by: Peter Akong Minang