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What came out of Warsaw on REDD? Part 2: Some reactions

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“Amid cheers and applause negotiators announced the completion of the REDD+ program design.” That’s Pipa Elias, REDD+ and agriculture expert for the Union of Concerned Scientists, responding to the Warsaw REDD decisions on Friday.

This is the second of REDD-Monitor’s posts about the REDD decisions agreed during COP19 in Warsaw last week. The first provides links to the texts of the decisions. This post looks at some of the reactions to the decisions. Between the posts, are some of questions and comments that I’ll attempt to deal with in future posts (in bold). Please feel free to add to (or answer!) these questions in the comments below.

Agus Sari (Indonesia) and Christina Voigt (Norway) co-chaired a contact group on results-based finance for REDD+. Here’s Sari’s comment on Twitter when the contact group reached agreement:

Stian Reklev, a Reuters journalist, reported the REDD decisions as follows:

U.N. negotiators on Friday agreed rules on financing forest projects in developing nations, paving the way for multi-billion dollar investments from governments, funding agencies and private firms in schemes to halt deforestation.
 
The agreement on “results-based” funding for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) was a rare breakthrough at the climate talks in Warsaw, where negotiators are struggling to make progress in discussions on emissions cuts and climate change aid.

This is carefully worded. Reklev doesn’t write that the REDD decisions will result in “multi-billion dollar investments”, but that by making the decisions in Warsaw, negotiators are “paving the way” to investments.

But how likely are such investments, particularly in the absence of a global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions?

And are these “investments” anticipated to come through carbon trading mechanisms?

Pipa Elias’ from the Union of Concerned Scientists is enthusiastic about the REDD deal:

“Amid cheers and applause negotiators announced the completion of the REDD+ program design. We now have a complete definition of what the program is, how it works and how participants will be paid. This program is a fabulous example the U.N. climate process in action. Parties came together, worked through the tough spots and negotiated a program that will effectively address climate change. REDD+ will save forests, benefit communities and reduce emissions.”

This suggests that REDD is not going to be a carbon trading mechanism, because REDD can only reduce emissions if it is not a carbon trading mechanism. Otherwise, REDD may lead to reduced emissions in one place, but trading carbon credits will allow emissions to continue somewhere else.

BBC News reported Elias as saying that,

“The biggest issue is that developed countries still need to ante up the $20-$35bn a year necessary for a global Redd+ programme. But, in the meantime, developing countries can get started now. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this outcome.”

So, “developing countries can get started now”, but there is no guarantee that rich countries will finance REDD – and rather a lot of money is needed, according to Elias. Given the money to be made from replacing forests with oil palm plantations, why is this a good deal for the Global South?

Christian del Valle is a founder and Managing Partner of Althelia Ecosphere and Althelia Climate Fund GP. This is his comment:

“The Warsaw decision legitimizes REDD+ as an asset class, constructing the gates through which finance can flow to forest countries. The fact that private sector finance is mentioned explicitly along with public and other sources in the text is important. Now governments are free to design the architecture for performance-based finance that is deeply needed to change the way forests are managed and conserved in the developing countries.”

Del Valle says that “finance can flow to forest countries”. One of the concerns about REDD finance is the fragile state of many REDD countries. And what about REDD finance going to Indigenous Peoples and local communities?

Dr Rosalind Reeve, senior fellow, Ateneo School of Government, Manila, made the following statement on the REDD+ Safeguards Working Group website:

“This is a landmark decision on safeguards. There is now a clear requirement that countries must submit a report on how they are implementing safeguards before they can receive results-based finance for their REDD+ activities. We’ve been battling since Cancun in 2010 for meaningful guidance on safeguards, and have finally achieved some basis on which to judge whether the REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected. But it’s not over yet – next year in Lima negotiators will determine what goes into safeguards reports.
 
“While we’ve achieved a milestone in Warsaw, there is still important work to do next year to ensure that the Safeguards Information System is effective and the reports will be comprehensive. This is essential to provide assurance to indigenous peoples and local communities, civil society and investors that safeguards are really and truly addressed and respected before countries can access results-based finance.”

Surely safeguards should be addressed and respected before REDD projects or programmes start, rather than “before countries can access results-based finance”.

Environmental Defense Fund describes what came out of Warsaw as a “strong agreement to protect forests”. Here’s Nathaniel Keohane, EDF’s Vice President for International Climate:

“The Warsaw Framework sets down deep roots for REDD+, and sends a clear signal that REDD+ will continue to be a crucial tool for conserving forests and protecting the climate. We can’t solve climate change without saving our forests – and this agreement ensures that protecting forests and the people who depend on them will be an important part of the toolbox for climate action.”

Neither can we solve climate change without leaving fossil fuels in the ground, but this was not on the agenda at COP19. EDF acknowledges that even within its limited agenda, COP19 made no progress: “Outside of the agreement on forests, countries failed to make significant progress.”

There’s an interesting take on the REDD Warsaw deal on the UK Woodland Trust’s blog. While the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is happy to finance the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says “it is unable to fund any new woodland expansion or management grants in England until 2016″.

So if DECC can fix it for forests overseas, let’s see whether Defra can fix it for England’s forests too. Without any new grants for the next two years, any modest momentum on woodland expansion will be lost and vital progress towards creating more resilient woodland will be delayed. For the sake of about £5-6 million per annum we are in danger of undermining credibility overseas as well as the long-term health of our own modest forest resource.

BBC News reported Paul Bledsoe, an energy research fellow at the German Marshall Fund, as saying that,

“The ministers have been working for almost 10 years to finalise the rules which will allow donors to invest in forest management practices in the developing world and get a way to verify the emissions reductions.
 
“I think this agreement allowing for investments in forests in developing countries is probably the signature achievement of these talks.”

RoadFree suggests getting REDD+ right by keeping forests free of roads:

While REDD+ negotiations achieved a breakthrough at the COP19 in Warsaw, scientists and policy makers gathered at the RoadFree side event [1] to demonstrate that forest protection can be more effective by prioritizing REDD+ funding towards roadfree forests.

This is a good point. Between 2004 and 2007, 50,000 kilometres of roads were built in the Brazilian Amazon. Roads are often a precursor of deforestation. How will REDD address the drivers of deforestation?
 
UPDATE – 26 November 2013: I’m going to update this post as I come across new reactions – so if I’ve missed any, please let me know via the comments.

Here’s Jonah Busch, a Research Fellow at the Center for Global Development:

“Warsaw ended up being the COP that more or less finished writing the international rulebook for REDD+, the UNFCCC mechanism for payments to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Negotiators flew through an impressive seven decisions on REDD+. For those cheering along at home, these seven decisions were on finance; reference levels; measuring, reporting and verification (MRV); safeguards; forest monitoring systems, institutional arrangements; and addressing drivers of deforestation.
 
“Why was this important? Coalitions of countries and sub-national jurisdictions are moving faster than the wider UNFCCC on payments to reduce tropical deforestation, through a collection of initiatives involving Norway, Brazil, Indonesia, Guyana, Germany, and California, Acre (Brazil) and Chiapas (Mexico). Boosted by agreement in Warsaw, these initiatives can now move ahead using a common international rulebook.”

 

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  1. Thanks for this Chris. A few more opinions (including your own in the Climate Capture Statement!), in case anybody missed them.

    Corporate Europe Observatory (http://corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2013/11/eu-and-big-polluters-ignore-climate-action-pushing-expand-carbon-markets-cop19):

    The EU aims to expand carbon markets that would benefit big polluters at the UN climate talks, COP19 in Poland, says a Statement signed by 135+ groups, movements and networks from all over the world. The Statement denounces the corporate capture of COP19 by the same companies that stand to profit.

    Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute (http://corporateeurope.org/blog/cop19-guide-corporate-lobbying):

    ‘Big business, industry and finance, keen to set the agenda and shape the rules in the interests of their profits – and at the expense of climate justice – have infiltrated COP19.’

    ‘COP19 is the first UN climate talks to have corporate sponsorship, with some of the biggest climate crooks as official “partners”, including ArcelorMittal, Alstom and BMW.’

    Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International:
    “The Polish government has done its best to turn these talks into a showcase for the coal industry. Along with backsliding by Japan, Australia and Canada, and the lack of meaningful leadership from other countries, governments here have delivered a slap in the face to those suffering as a result of dangerous climate change.”

    Winnie Byanyima, director of Oxfam International:
    “We are walking out of these talks because governments need to know that enough is enough. People around the globe have a right to know about the desperate state of these negotiations. The stakes are too high to allow governments to make a mockery of these talks”.

  2. Why would anyone buy a forests conservation offset when there is no obligation to reduce emissions to meet any meaningful target?

    Assuming carbon finance will be the finance method of choice for REDD+ at global scale, the lack of any substantive global cap on emissions makes emissions trading pointless. Warsaw certainly delivered no cap, so why would it deliver the trade?

  3. REDD+ will make payments for results according to the Reuters report.

    Assuming results means maintaining carbon biomass stocks in the form of natural forests then where will the money come from to pay for that to happen, and pay to put in place social safeguards and all the MRV?

    Dr Reeve refers to results-based finance. Isn’t that something of a contradiction, even an oxymoron?

    Finance usually seems to be credit advanced to do something which will produce a given result generating a return to repay the finance and produce a profit.

    As Chris notes it does not seem to be about carbon trading. It’s payments for results. It’s not clear who or how activities will be funded to deliver the desired results.

    Also little seems to be said about how all this is going to be enforced in coin tires where the rule of law is weak and corruption a way of life.

    If Norway is having problems in Indonesia what reason is there to believe REDD and it’s private investors (if they materialize) will fare any better?

  4. All the results reporting in the world will matter little if the indicators being tracked are weak, or only partially relevant. While safeguards are obviously important, they do not cover the gamut of social issues that will need to be factored into the design of REDD+ activities that actually work, where work is understood to be in the development interests of people. If local peoples end up simply “not being hurt” by REDD+, e.g. are being “safeguarded”, but the opportunity costs to them are higher than alternative land/resource uses, than the sustainability of the REDD+ activity will be suspect, long after all the REDD+ finance has flowed through the various project developers and technicalintermediaries.

  5. Thanks Chris. It would be useful (for us to collectively…) analyse what is still left, and why, and what an expected resolution could be. Reference levels are still tbc are they not? Seems like the low hanging fruits have been dealt with but some large obstacles left!

  6. Chris, the following statement you make shows a fundamental misunderstanding about REDD+ projects:

    This suggests that REDD is not going to be a carbon trading mechanism, because REDD can only reduce emissions if it is not a carbon trading mechanism. Otherwise, REDD may lead to reduced emissions in one place, but trading carbon credits will allow emissions to continue somewhere else.

    REDD+ projects most prove ‘additionality.’ If a project is ‘additional’ it means that the benefits for the project would not be realized if credits are not verified and awarded. That is, if the project does not receive and sell carbon credits, the project will not be financially viable.

    In the absence of the REDD+ program the polluter will emit carbon dioxide and the project will not exist and therefore there will be no reduction in emissions – so, net positive emissions. With the program, the polluter emits carbon dioxide and buys carbon credits from a project which reduces emissions. The net result of the transaction is net zero emissions as the emissions of the polluter is offset by the reductions by the project. Compared to the scenario without the project, emissions are reduced.

  7. @Dave (#8) – Thanks for this. Of course, it depends what your comparing your emissions reductions with. If you use a business as usual approach, then anything better than business as usual becomes a reduction. That’s a helpful description of what’s wrong with carbon trading – it makes a failure to reduce emissions look like a reduction. And it’s a dangerous distraction from addressing climate change, which requires that we reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, dramatically and starting immediately.

    Without carbon trading, REDD might reduce emissions (but does nothing to keep fossil fuels underground). With carbon trading, REDD results in zero net emission reductions (assuming no problems with leakage, additionality, permanence, or measurements) and allows continued emissions from fossil fuels.

  8. I just came across this graph from a recent UNEP report that illustrates very well why reducing emissions compared to business as usual is way off meeting even a 2°C target:

    Brad Plumer on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog writes:

    Now look at the line in the big chart above marked “Case 4.” This is a scenario in which the world’s nations actually follow through on their most ambitious pledges and obey strict greenhouse-gas accounting rules — in other words, no cheating with gimmicky offsets. Even then, the world wouldn’t be on pace to meet its 2°C target by 2020.

    The difference between meeting the 2°C goal and the world’s actual policies is known as the “emissions gap.” As the gap gets bigger each year, the U.N. report notes, the task of meeting that 2°C target gets harder and more expensive.

    “Failure to invest today in best available technologies and options not only represents a lost opportunity to reduce emissions,” the report argues, “it also curtails our ability to reduce them in the near future as high energy use and emission patterns are locked-in for several decades.”