Moving REDD+ forward: more structured discussion on the drivers of deforestation is needed
Tackling the drivers of deforestation (and let’s not forget the drivers of forest degradation) is key to move towards REDD+, but it requires progress on three key issues:
- land use planning that allows agriculture to meet food needs, as well as the multiple forest conservation objectives under REDD+
- national REDD+ strategies that recognise and balance the needs of development and economic growth, such as infrastructure development, extractive industries and biofuel opportunities, that have, historically, opposed the conservation of forested land,
- reduction in consumer country demandfor forest products, or those that drive forest losses such as meat, soy and palm oil that often exceed consumer needs.
The second REDD+ Partnership meeting of 2012, held prior the UNFCCC Bonn intersessional, should be commended for its acknowledgment and frank discussion on these important issues. I left the meeting, however, without a clear sense of the pathway to progress. As the last panellist of the day, speaking on how project REDD+ finance addresses drivers, the message I wanted to convey is that a more structured discussion is needed if we are to move this agenda forward and if the REDD+ partnership is to play a role in delivering solutions.
Talking is not enough: what practical steps can we take?
Diverse experiences in addressing drivers have emerged from a long history of forest conservation measures. Costa Rica reflected on their Pagos por Servicios Ambientales scheme, which established a legal framework and economic incentive scheme to encourage the preservation and planting of forests: the first payments for environmental services were made in 1997. Early ODI analysis indicates that project-level activities of the Congo Basin Forest Fund and the Amazon Fund do seek to address drivers such as improved law enforcement and land tenure reforms.
But we need to consolidate methods and approaches to address the drivers -- approaches that recognise capacity and country context as the starting point for a response that operates at the scales required for REDD+. With the Partnership meeting discussion jumping between local level and international drivers of deforestation, coordination at scale is also clearly important. If the world stops eating beef, for example, emission reductions from deforestation for pasture are likely to be generated in cattle-producing countries. Project-level efforts to address drivers must link to national-level REDD+ strategies, and these strategies must link to consumer country and more international efforts to address the drivers of deforestation.
But it won’t be an easy task...
In order to actually implement the consolidated methods and approaches requires the ‘right’ actors to be involved in decision making - stakeholders, sectors and ministries all need to be at the table. We also need to understand what incentives drive their decisions – for example, what roles do multiple policy objectives, political tenure and power all play? With forests having an impact on livelihoods, energy, food, and water, this table needs to seat a broad range of actors across all sectors to manage the mix of climate, growth, development and conservation goals. Reconciling these multiple policy objectives in REDD+ takes substantial political will. Indonesia indicated that donor pledges helped generate such will, and established influential political structures: for example, the REDD+ Task Force of Indonesia reports to the President.
It was also clear from the Partnership meeting that if sustaining economic growth is not part of national REDD+ strategies they won’t fly: while the Rio +20 zero draft might lack explicit text on forests, the reality is that sustainable development goals cannot keep forests off the agenda. It is only once the methods, scale and space in which to make progress can be identified, that we can answer the question of where the finance will come from to address the drivers of deforestation.
Previous ODI commentary posed five questions for progress on addressing the drivers of deforestation at the UNFCCC talks in Bonn. The REDD+ Partnership meeting didn’t really grapple with the first: ‘What challenges are being faced and what lessons learned or solutions have been identified?’
There is, however, consensus for the continuation of the REDD+ Partnership. It clearly has an important role to play as it provides a forum for contributor countries, recipient countries and civil society observers to network, talk without restraint, and to share challenges, opportunities and frustrations on the journey towards REDD+. It has made achievements, including a voluntary registry of REDD+ activities, and the annual work plans have allowed reports to be commissioned to explore important questions, thus increasing understanding of the challenges associated with REDD+. But, as Costa Rica and the US take over as chairs of the partnership, they should consider how to get the most out of the experience in the room, to bring other relevant actors into the room, and to do this with focus and efficiency.