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The Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus: The decision on national forest monitoring systems

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The Warsaw decision on national forest monitoring systems allows governments to decide for themselves how they define “forests”. A better way of undermining what little legitimacy REDD had is difficult to imagine.

Negotiators at COP19 in Warsaw last week agreed seven decisions relating to REDD – the “Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus”. You can find each of the decision texts, as they came out of COP19 in Warsaw here.

This post looks at the decision on national forest monitoring systems, or, to give it its full title, Modalities for national forest monitoring systems (pdf file, 55 KB).

Before looking at the text itself, here’s a summary of the Warsaw decision on national forest monitoring systems followed by a comment:

    REDD needs adequate and predictable funding. National forest monitoring systems should take into account the methodological guidance on REDD that came out of Copenhagen. Subnational monitoring and reporting is OK as an interim measure.

    The data and information should be transparent, consistent over time, and suitable for measuring, reporting and verifying forest-related emissions and forest-area changes as a result of REDD.

    Governments can define “forests” themselves.

    National forest monitoring systems “may provide, as appropriate” information on how safeguards are “addressed and respected”

An annex to the safeguards agreed in Cancun went some way towards preventing the conversion of “natural forests”, but this is seriously weakened by this Warsaw decision to allow governments to define the word “forests” themselves. The text states that national forest monitoring systems should,

Enable the assessment of different types of forest in the country, including natural forest, as defined by the Party;

This leaves the door wide open for including oil palm plantations, fast growing industrial tree plantations, and clearcuts in the REDD mechanism, as different types of “forest”.


The following is the text of the “Advanced unedited version” of the Warsaw decision on national forest monitoring systems. After each paragraph are my comments (in bold). Following that are links to the previous decisions referred to in the Warsaw text. (You can find all the decisions reached at each of the COPs, by using the search page on the UNFCCC website.)


The Conference of the Parties,
Recalling
decisions 2/CP.13, 4/CP.15, 1/CP.16, 2/CP.17 and 12/CP.17,

Every time the UNFCCC takes a decision, it has to remind itself that this isn’t the first time its made decisions relating to this topic.

    2/CP.13 is the 2007 Bali Decision, “Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action”.

    4/CP.15 is the 2009 Copenhagen Decision, “Methodological guidance for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”.

    1/CP.16 is the 2010, “Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention”.

    2/CP.17 is the 2011 Durban Decision, “Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention”.

    12/CP.17 is the 2011 Durban Decision, “Guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards are addressed and respected and modalities relating to forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels as referred to in decision 1/CP.16”.


1. Affirms that, consistent with decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 71, the activities referred to in this decision are undertaken in the context of the provision of adequate and predictable support, including financial resources and technical and technological support to developing country Parties;

REDD needs adequate and predictable funding, this includes funding for national forest monitoring and the other things that need to be done before REDD can go ahead.

    1/CP.16, paragraph 71 sets out what developing countries are supposed to develop under REDD:

      (a) a national strategy or action plan;
      (b) a national forest reference emission level (or subnational forest emission levels as an “interim measure”);
      (c) a national monitoring system for REDD;
      (d) a system for providing information about how safeguards are being addressed and respected;

2. Decides that the development of Parties’ national forest monitoring systems for the monitoring and reporting of the activities, as referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70, with, if appropriate, subnational monitoring and reporting as an interim measure, should take into account the guidance provided in decision 4/CP.15 and be guided by the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance and guidelines, as adopted or encouraged by the Conference of the Parties, as appropriate, as a basis for estimating anthropogenic forest-related greenhouse gas emissions by sources, and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks, and forest carbon stock and forest-area changes;

COP19 decides that national forest monitoring systems for monitoring and reporting of REDD “should take into account” the methodological guidance on REDD that came out of Copenhagen. The phrase “take into account” is not defined.


UPDATE – 15 December 2013: As Peter Dam points out in the comments, the use of the word “should” rather than “shall” makes this in practice optional, and therefore a very weak decision.


National forest monitoring systems should be guided by the most recent IPCC guidance and guidelines. (This text about the IPCC is cut and pasted from the Copenhagen decision 4/CP.15, paragraph 1(c).)

Subnational monitoring and reporting is fine as an interim measure. How long “interim” is is not specified.


3. Also decides that robust national forest monitoring systems should provide data and information that are transparent, consistent over time, and are suitable for measuring, reporting and verifying anthropogenic forest-related emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks, and forest carbon stock and forest-area changes resulting from the implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70, taking into account paragraph 71(b) and (c) consistent with guidance on measuring, reporting and verifying nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties agreed by the Conference of the Parties, taking into account methodological guidance in accordance with decision 4/CP.15;

National forest monitoring systems should provide data and information that are transparent, consistent over time, and suitable for measuring, reporting and verifying forest-related emissions and forest-area changes as a result of REDD.

    1/CP.16, paragraph 70 in the Cancun Agreement describes REDD.

    1/CP.16, paragraph 71(b) and (c) refer to the need for developing countries to develop (b) a national forest reference emission level (or subnational forest emission levels as an “interim measure”), and (c) a national monitoring system for REDD.

    4/CP.15 is the 2009 Copenhagen Decision, “Methodological guidance for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”.


4. Also decides that national forest monitoring systems, with, if appropriate, subnational monitoring and reporting as an interim measure as referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 71(c), and in decision 4/CP.15, paragraph 1(d) should:

    (a) Build upon existing systems, as appropriate;
    (b) Enable the assessment of different types of forest in the country, including natural forest, as defined by the Party;
    (c) Be flexible and allow for improvement;
    (d) Reflect, as appropriate, decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 73 and 74;

National forest monitoring systems (or intermin subnational systems) should:
(a) build on existing systems;
(b) allow for assessment of different types of forest. Governments can decide for themselves what they mean by “forest”;
(c) be flexible and allow for improvement;
(d) reflect the fact that REDD will progress in stages depending on national circumstances and the amount of funding received.

    1/CP.16, paragraph 71(c) refers to the need for developing countries to develop a national monitoring system for REDD (“with subnational monitoring and reporting as an interim measure”).

    4/CP.15, paragraph 1(d) is a request from COP15 in Copenhagen for developing countries to establish national forest monitoring systems (and sub-national systems, if appropriate) that:
    (i) use remote sensing and ground-based measurements to estimate human caused forest-related emissions “by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks and forest area changes”;
    (ii) provide transparent, consistent, accurate (as far as possible) estimates “taking into account national capabilities and capacities”;
    (iii) are transparent and their result are available and suitable for review as agreed by the COP.


5. Also acknowledges that Parties’ national forest monitoring systems may provide, as appropriate, relevant information for national systems for the provision of information on how safeguards in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are addressed and respected.

National forest monitoring systems may provide information on how safeguards are “addressed and respected”. Then again, if the government feels that isn’t “appropriate”, they may not.

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Leave a Reply

  1. Thanks for your postings series on the REDD+ agreement. Very helpful!

    Just want to check with you on the following remark, as I am not a native English speaker:

    COP19 decides that national forest monitoring systems for monitoring and reporting of REDD “should take into account” the methodological guidance on REDD that came out of Copenhagen. The phrase “take into account” is not defined.

    Your concern seems to be with “take into account”, which I thought is straightforward and means you have make sure the methodological guidance has to be part of your MRV system.

    My concern is with the use of “should” in stead of “shall”, which I understand makes it optional.

  2. @Peter Dam (#1) – Well spotted! I think “take into account” is weak, because it doesn’t necessarily mean doing anything (I could take your comment into account, but that doesn’t mean I need to take any action – by replying, or updating the post, for example).

    But you’re right that “should” is weaker than “shall”. Shall means must, whereas should just means is encouraged to.

    I’ve updated the post to include this point. Thanks!

  3. Hi Peter,
    Your summary of the COP19 decision on national forest monitoring systems was helpful. Does the new decision make having the national forest monitoring systems mandatory or only encourages, as usual, the REDD+ countries?