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Global Forest Coalition intervention in UN biodiversity meeting: “Forest policy is much more than REDD+”

Global Forest Coalition intervention in UN biodiversity meeting: Forest policy is much more than REDD+

Since the last UN meeting on Biodiversity two years ago Nagoya, Japan, less than 10% of the countries have taken action to implement the Aichi targets on reducing biodiversity loss.

From 8-19 October 2012, the Convention on Biodiversity is meeting again in Hyderabad, India. Before the talks started, Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, and Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, wrote about “The Biodiversity Bargain”. They argue that US$40 billion is needed to halve the rate of deforestation by 2020 and explain that this is a bargain compared to the cost of failing to address deforestation.

Steiner and Dias may well be correct, but they pick a strange example to illustrate their point. Deforestation in Kalimantan is reducing river flows, they write, “making it difficult in some months to transport goods by barge”. As it costs US$10 a ton to transport goods by barge compared to US$60 a ton by road, Steiner and Dias argue that “REDD+ offers a chance to hold down greenhouse-gas emissions while preserving an economically important sector”. Of course they don’t mention that one of the “goods” transported by river in Kalimantan is coal, one of the major drivers of climate change, or that fuel oil from barges has caused widespread river pollution.

One of the Aichi targets focusses on deforestation:

By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.

REDD is among the issues for discussion in Hyderabad, which raises the issue of parallel REDD discussions taking place in two different UN meetings: Biodiversity (CBD) and Climate (UNFCCC). The Responding to Climate Change website reports that on the second day of the Hyderabad meeting, Brazil pointed out that the CBD REDD text was out of date, since two UNFCCC COPs had taken place since the Nagoya meeting:

“A great deal of progress has been made on REDD+ since COP10 [in Nagoya Japan]. The outcomes of Cancun [UNFCCC COP16] and Durban [UNFCCC COP17] should be considered so as not to threaten the work being carried out under the UNFCCC and to ensure the CBD mandate is fulfilled.

“We must always take REDD+ negotiations in the context and the logic of climate change… This leaves a good part of the recommendations here redundant. We risk creating barriers to REDD+ rather than use it to its full objective. We should not forget that it was created for the needs of the UNFCCC.”

REDD presents a threat to biodiversity if the definition of forests fails to discriminate between native forests and industrial tree plantations and if the rights of indigenous peoples are not fully recognised. But the role of the CBD is not just to provide suggestions for biodiversity “safeguards” for REDD to the UNFCCC. As Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition pointed out during the REDD discussion in Hyderabad, “forest policy is much more than REDD+”:

GFC’s intervention during REDD+ discussion at CBD’s COP11

Global Forest Coalition, 10 October 2012

Thank you Madam chairperson for allowing me this opportunity to speak.

We share concerns that REDD+ might not necessarily contribute to biodiversity and that the discussion should focus on preventing potential negative impacts of REDD+ on biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women. However, from an international legal point of view, we are well aware that any recommendations of this Convention to the UNFCCC can only be in the form of non-binding advice. We also share the concerns highlighted by the delegate of Bolivia and note that the REDD+ discussions are taking place in an FCCC working group that has not yet concluded its work, so the advice is rather premature, especially in the light of the current dire state the FCCC negotiations, which also has significant impacts as far as the expectations for financial support for REDD are concerned. It is highly unlikely that REDD+ will end up to be the gold-spinner it was originally assumed to be.

In that light we are highly surprised by the unbalanced approach that has been taken towards the implementation of these decisions of the 10th COP of the CBD, and the implementation of the decisions that relate to forest policy in general. The draft decision on forest ecosystems has even been deleted from the package of draft decisions, and under agenda item 5.2 we only find a bracketed decision noting that the very important decisions of COP10 could not be implemented due to lack of funding. We see this as an indicator that the question of which COP decisions are being implemented and which not is more and more dependent on the willingness of donor countries and private sector donors to provide voluntary contributions, thus giving a disproportionate influence of these donors over biodiversity policy making.

We fully support the observation by Brazil that forest policy is much more than REDD+, and we thus call upon countries to ensure sufficient financial resources for forest policy in general, including the expanded program of work on forest biodiversity of the CBD itself, and we hope this will be discussed on Thursday, when the CBD is expected to discuss its own forest work program. It is clear the secretariat needs sufficient core budget to be able to implement all COP decisions in a balanced manner, including in the field of forests, where we feel that implementation of the decisions of COP9 and COP10, including the decision to contribute to the elaboration of appropriate forest definition that excludes monoculture tree plantations, should be a first priority of the CBD. Synergy between conventions is highly important, but this requires integrated approach to the implementation of the CBDs expanded program of work on forest biodiversity and any other forest-related policies rather than providing non-binding advice to non-binding safeguards.

Lastly, in the interest of time we would also like to briefly address agenda item 11.2 and express our support to the position of the CBD Alliance, which calls on Parties to Reaffirm and strengthen the de facto moratorium in 2010 by NOT permitting open-air geoeongineering experiments that impact biodiversity; and affirm that there is currently no transparent, global and effective regulatory structure for oversight of geoengineering activities, and the CBD is the appropriate body to oversee governance of geoengineering.

Thank you.

Simone Lovera
executive director
Global Forest Coalition

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