UN forest protection scheme heading in wrong direction
“The outcome on REDD safeguards is a step backwards from what was agreed in Cancun last year, which itself was far short of what could have been agreed in Copenhagen. The provisions for safeguards in forest conservation are being shredded”, says Raja Jarrah, CARE’s Senior Advisor on REDD.
"This is bad news for millions of indigenous people and local communities whose livelihoods depend on forests.”
A year ago the Cancun Agreements mandated negotiators to work on guidelines for governments on how to report on the implementation of safeguards in REDD. These safeguards are the provisions to ensure that forests are well governed, that social and economic rights of indigenous people and local communities are protected, and that the environment and biodiversity are not harmed. However, according to CARE the negotiators have produced a very weak outcome.
“Parties basically decided that they should provide summary information at some time yet to be determined, and that they should work over the next year to decide on whether more guidance than that is necessary. This is like a class at school being set a homework assignment, and instead of doing it, they propose a date for deciding on whether they should do it” said Jarrah.
Safeguards are crucial in REDD because the concept of paying for the carbon stored in forests has the potential to do harm as well as good. It could lead to millions of women and men losing their access to forests that they need for their livelihood; to land grabbing by unscrupulous project developers; and to the benefits of conserving forests being hijacked by powerful interests.
Durban also marked a significant step backwards on the technical issue of reference levels, one of the most critical environmental safeguards for REDD. The meeting marked a retreat from what seemed to be an emerging consensus around a system that would reward high deforesting countries which reduce deforestation from historic levels, and low deforesting countries which protect their natural forests at historic levels.
“Instead of basing performance on history and facts, Durban has opened the door to wild speculation,” said Roman Czebiniak, Greenpeace’s Senior Advisor on REDD.
“Countries can now claim that REDD will reduce emissions which haven’t yet happened and which may never happen, regardless of REDD policy intervention. This can lead to situations where REDD is not only failing to reduce deforestation and degradation, but where funding is actually being used to subsidize the continued destruction of natural forests by the logging and plantation industries.”
“An entire year has been wasted, and this decision takes us in the direction where the risks of REDD could soon outweigh its intended benefits.”
“To succeed, REDD+ should deliver real benefits for the climate, people and nature. Parties should not back away from previous agreements to respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, to conserve natural forests and biological diversity, and to reduce the drivers of deforestation,” said Bruce Cabarle, Leader of WWF’s Forest & Climate Initiative.
“Durban must ensure that REDD+ results in real emission reductions, rather than just hot air.”