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Guest Post: Is it still possible to rectify the negative impact of REDD-plus? A view from Central America

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Despite the criticisms of El Salvador’s REDD readiness process, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility has accepted El Salvador’s Readiness Preparation Plan. Nevertheless, groups and activists in El Salvador continue to question the process.

This Guest Post, written by researcher Yvette Aguilar, asks whether the negative impacts of REDD can be rectified. Only 2% of El Salvador’s primary forest remains – the lowest figure in Latin America. Nevertheless, the total area of forest (including mangroves) amounts to more than 15%. Aguilar is opposed to a REDD mechanism that would allow the North to buy REDD credits and avoid meaningful action to reduce the burning of fossil fuels:

Activities under REDD-plus schemes should not be eligible as a means of offsetting emissions from developed countries, because it does not ensure effective climate change mitigation.

Is it still possible to rectify the negative impact of REDD-plus at the present course of current negotiations? A view from Central America

By Yvette Aguilar[1], 29th April 2013
Reviewers: Maritza Erazo and Francisco Soto

It is a verifiable fact in several countries and regions, that governments have prioritized, formally or de facto, the adoption of REDD-plus schemes as a central instrument of its climate change-related policy, as in the case of the Central American region, among others. This policy orientation is a clear expression of the utilitarian approach that has prevailed throughout the negotiations within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) multilateral process, at the expense of the environmental effectiveness that should govern policies and measures taken to slow the pace and extent of global climate change, which is the ultimate goal of this international instrument.

The offerings of supposed plentiful, fresh and fast-track financial resources that accompanied the promotion of REDD-plus[2] schemes; provoked gradually the enthusiasm of the forestry and agriculture sectors, biodiversity and desertification fields, forest communities and indigenous peoples, among others, in developing countries. One by one, the governments of these countries were entering the group of countries participating in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility[3] (FCPF) of the World Bank and UN-REDD[4], becoming promoters and defenders of REDD-plus within the multilateral negotiations and in their respective national contexts, with a view to obtaining financial resources rapidly without worrying about the shortcomings of such a mechanism, ineffective for climate change mitigation.

To better sell their product, namely REDD-plus, it has been reaccomodated by its promoters, with new and diverse packaging, to counter the serious opposition it has faced ince its launching, by some States, regional and country groups, actors of the scientific communities and social organizations, among others. However, its inherent nature has remained: “a mechanism for offsetting emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by developed countries, under which they pay monetarily to developing countries for activities that prevent or reduce emissions, or absorb or store forest carbon”. In the regulated market under the UNFCCC, which eventually would take effect from 2020, REDD-plus schemes be financed through sale and purchase transactions of carbon credits in the international carbon markets, in the form of direct contracts between the parties, intermediary firms or carbon funds, as the FCPF.

However, according to current developments and projections[5] of the regulated carbon markets, funding in this way for REDD-plus would be high risk, and therefore, its viability would be threatened. The promoters of that mechanism, concerned about the imminent collapse of these markets and the consequent failure of REDD-plus, are launching new reaccomodations for the rescue of their deteriorating product, calling upon the architecture of the Green Climate Fund (from which they always disassociated REDD-plus), for the inclusion in this of a specialized window for financing such schemes. At the same time, they maintain their strong opposition to REDD-plus mechanism to be addressed as part of the National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), mandatory for all developing countries, in order to prevent REDD-plus be subjected to technical and regulatory requirements already adopted for NAMAs, which could hardly meet.

REDD-plus is distorting national policy frameworks

Although all the countries of Central America have been gradually adopting REDD-plus schemes, in the case of El Salvador, the government has addressed the national strategy for REDD-plus[6] as the cornerstone around which are being developed, a posteriori, all climate change policy instruments, such as the national climate change strategy and plan. This dynamic has distorted the guiding and leading role of a national strategy and plan on climate change, as these instruments are being tailored to REDD-plus, going against the required prevalence that adaptation measures should have, and weakening the coherence, synergy and subordination of mitigation measures (particularly for REDD-plus) with respect to the strategic objectives of reducing the vulnerability of human populations and natural systems, to increase their resilience and capacity to adapt to climate change.

The government of El Salvador has ignored the technical-scientific and ethical-political dimensions of climate change, as it has not made ​​visible the illegitimacy of the interests behind the promoters and beneficiaries of REDD-plus. This has meant that the various actors and sectors are prone or easily induced to adopt utilitarian approaches to address climate change, which is expressed in the primary search of business opportunities or local benefits for groups, institutions, sectors and people, even at the expense of weakening the multilateral climate change regime and the worsening of the global problem.

The challenges for 2015 negotiations

In light of the serious setbacks and threats that continue to face the REDD-plus schemes with regard to financing, in addition to their ineffectiveness for climate change mitigation; negotiators and lobbyists genuinely looking to redirect the course of the multilateral negotiations towards the achievement of the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC, are faced with the challenge of breaking the current inertia that misleadingly magnifies the role and contribution of REDD-plus to climate change mitigation.

In that effort, REDD-plus should be resized, and addressed under the same technical and methodological standards as other mitigation measures. To this end, the national REDD-plus strategies should be designed and implemented as part of the NAMAs in the use and land use change, and be subject to the same rules and modalities adopted for other mitigation measures in the energy, agriculture, industry and waste sectors. As is the case of decisions adopted on national GHG inventories; international registration, consultation and international assessment, national or international monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems for the NAMAs, among others. Also, funding for REDD-plus strategies should be governed by the decisions taken for the NAMAs, within the financial architecture to be defined for the Green Climate Fund, within which the more appropriate modalities, criteria and procedures would be articulated for its financing.

Also, and not least, it is the necessary decoupling REDD-plus from the quantified GHG emission reduction targets to be adopted by developed countries as part of the new protocol, other legal instrument or agreed conclusion that would be negotiated by 2015. Activities under REDD-plus schemes should not be eligible as a means of offsetting emissions from developed countries, because it does not ensure effective climate change mitigation due to the problems of its intrinsic nature, characterized by impermanence of biogenic carbon, leakage and non additionality. This, in addition to the local socioeconomic and environmental impacts, widely documented[7] and attributable to REDD-plus which could hardly be avoided due to the laxity of adopted safeguards for the REDD-plus mechanism.

Beyond decisions already made on the REDD-plus mechanism, developing countries States still have the prerogative to decide in a sovereign manner on the most appropriate modalities to fund their NAMAs and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Such decisions could contribute to addressing the wrong course of the ongoing multilateral negotiations, and to correct the shortcomings of the relevant decisions on REDD-plus.

In the case of the Central American States, the future climate change scenarios project higher temperatures, more frequent heat waves and intense hurricanes, more severe droughts, higher frequency of more intense rainfall events and reductions in rainfall in some areas, which could be exacerbated during wet and dry decades associated with multi-decadal and interdecadal variability typical of Mexico and Central America[8]. The projected climate change could generate significant negative impacts on forest ecosystems, which would become net carbon emitters. Thus, the carbon cycle dynamics would dismount the precarious yet sophisticated gadgetry, by which it has tried to convince on forest carbon measurability for verification and commercialization under REDD-plus schemes.

On that basis, the governments of the region should prioritize the conceptualization and implementation of adaptation strategies for forest ecosystems in the context of their NAPs, and subordinate any land use and land use change mitigation option to these strategies, as well as ensure that their funding is channeled through a window for adaptation under the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund[9]. Such strategies would require the development of in-depth assessments of current and future impacts of climate change on the various forest ecosystems in each country, which is still a major pending task.

Assuming the challenge to contribute slowing the pace and magnitude of climate change, both governments and other social actors of developing and developed countries should rectify their negotiation strategies and positions, as well as their policy measures, adopting proposals to reorient wrong approaches prevailing under the multilateral negotiations, and in the public and private policy arena at the national level.


[1]

[2] Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation of tropical forests including forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

[3] The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility http://bit.ly/ZYfJMv.

[4] UN-REDD América Latina y Caribe http://bit.ly/10mIjqT.

[5] The price of carbon credits has dropped by 40% to €2.63 ton of carbon, the lowest price so far achieved, and projecting further price declines in the coming months, it would come to €1 a ton (New Energy Finance, quoted in Bloomberg on the 16th April 2013: “Carbon Falls Most Ever After EU Parliament Rejects Fix” – http://bloom.bg/ZeGIEz), and at the end of the decade, to € 0.5 a ton (Point Carbon, quoted in Business Green: http://bit.ly/1300tB5)

[6] El Salvador, The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility http://bit.ly/11vXPmD.

[7] REDD-monitor (http://www.redd-monitor.org/) and World Rainforest Movement (http://www.wrm.org.uy/)

[8] (1) Tebaldi et al 2006: An Inter-comparison of model-simulated historical and future changes in extreme events; (2) Méndez & Magaña V 2009: Regional Aspects of Prolonged Meteorological Droughts over Mexico & Central America; (3) IPCC 2012: Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation, Special Report of the IPCC; (4) CEPAL 2010: The Economics of Climate Change in Central America, Synthesis 2010.

[9] Whose possible links would be established in the Green Climate Fund architecture.
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