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The Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus: The decision on summary of information on safeguards

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The Warsaw decision on summary of information on safeguards is staggeringly weak. Governments “should” provide a summary report every two years. Least developed countries don’t even have to do that if they don’t feel like it.

In November 2013, negotiators at COP19 in Warsaw 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 is part of a REDD-Monitor series looking at each of the decisions line by line. This post looks at the decision on The timing and the frequency of presentations of the summary of information on how all the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are being addressed and respected (pdf file, 19.2 KB).

Before looking at the text itself, here’s a summary of the Warsaw decision on summary of information on safeguards followed by a few comments:

    Governments “should” provide a summary of information on how they are complying with the REDD safeguards agreed in Cancun.

    REDD countries “should” provide the summary of information every two years “consistent with the provisions for submissions of national communication”.

The word “shall” is not used anywhere in this decision. Neither complying with the safeguards nor reporting on how they are being “addressed and respected” are obligatory. There is no mechanism to verify whether governments are telling the truth in their summary reports about safeguards.


The following is the text of the “Advanced unedited version” of the Warsaw decision on summary of information on safeguards. 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 title of the decision refers to decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, which is the Cancun Agreement on REDD safeguards. These safeguards “should be promoted and supported” – they are not obligatory, in other words.


The Conference of the Parties,
Recalling
decisions 17/CP.8, 1/CP.16, 2/CP.17 and 12/CP.17,
 
Also recalling, in particular, decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 5,

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

    17/CP.8 is the 2002 New Delhi decision “Guidelines for the preparation of national communications from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention”.

    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”.

    12/CP.17, paragraph 5 is a request to SBSTA at its meeting in Doha (2012) to consider when and how often governments are to provide a summary of information on how REDD safeguards are being addressed and respected, and recommend a decision to be adopted by COP18 in Doha (2012).


1. Reiterates that according to decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 3, developing country Parties undertaking the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70, should provide a summary of information on how all of the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the activities;

COP19 repeats that countries carrying out REDD activities should provide a summary of information on how safeguards are being “addressed and respected”.

    12/CP.17, paragraph 3 states that countries carrying out REDD activities “should” provide a summary of information on how safeguards are being “addressed and respected”.

    1/CP.16, appendix I is the Cancun decision on REDD safeguards.


2. Also reiterates that according to decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 4, the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above should be provided periodically and be included in national communications, or communication channels agreed by the Conference of the Parties;

Repeats that the summary of information on safeguards “should” be provided at regular intervals.

    12/CP.17, paragraph 4 states that the summary of information on safeguards “should” be provided at regular intervals.

3. Agrees that the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above could also be provided, on a voluntary basis, via the web platform on the UNFCCC website;

The summary of information “could” be posted on the UNFCCC REDD website. This is voluntary.


4. Decides that developing country Parties should start providing the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above in their national communication or communication channel, including via the web platform of the UNFCCC, taking into account paragraph 3 above, after the start of the implementation of activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70;

Countries “should” provide the summary of information after REDD activities are started. The information may be posted on the UNFCCC REDD web platform, but this is voluntary.


5. Also decides that the frequency of subsequent presentations of the summary of information as referred to in paragraph 2 above should be consistent with the provisions for submissions of national communications from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention and, on a voluntary basis, via the web platform on the UNFCCC website.

Non-Annex I countries “should” provide the summary of information every two years – “consistent with the provisions for submissions of national communication”. Since least developed countries can submit national communications “at their discretion”, this paragraph appears to allow LDCs to decide for themselves when (or if) they are going to provide summary of information on how they are complying with REDD safeguards. The summary of information may be posted on the UNFCCC REDD web platform, but this is voluntary.

    Annex I countries are parties to the UNFCCC that were members of the OECD in 1992, plus countries with economies in transition.

    National communications are reports by parties to the UNFCCC on “the steps they are taking or envisage undertaking to implement the Convention”.

    Non-Annex I countries (except least developed countries) have to submit the first report within three years of the UNFCCC entering into force for that country, or within three years of financial resources being available. Update reports are to be produced every two years. COP17 decided that non-Annex I countries (except LDCs) “consistent with their capabilities and the level of support provided for reporting” should submit their first update report by December 2014. LDCs and small island developing states can submit reports “at their discretion”.

 

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  1. Such weak requirements don’t bode well. Do you know if anyone proposed using “shall” or “will”, rather than “should”? Who objected, and why?

  2. @Derrick Wilkinson (#1) – Thanks, these are good questions.

    The text on summary of information safeguards was agreed before COP19 started. One of the early decisions in Warsaw was that the texts on safeguards reporting, drivers of deforestation and forest degradation would not be reopened.

    In Warsaw, the REDD+ Safeguards Working Group reported that,

    “Concerns on weak text on safeguards reporting and drivers expressed by civil society and indigenous peoples organizations were acknowledged and supported by many countries including Norway, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Sudan (for the least developed countries [LDCs]), Colombia , Brazil, USA, Mexico and Ecuador.”

  3. Is it useful to structure UNFCCC as a catch all? Lobbying for it to be, especially when just as often, you point out how it doesn’t work and there is no enforceability, just adds to the silo-thinking that the environment sector keeps getting harangued on. Aren’t much of the rights that are non-obligatory in the UNFCCC actually binding in the core nine/ten human rights treaties that most member states are, in fact, party to? Does mandating another reporting process on (social) safeguards when those of the existing binding human rights instruments are already problematic to enforce help? Shouldn’t we be looking at better harmonisation of international treaty mechanisms and strengthening enforcement rather than meaningless additionalities?

  4. @Erin Soris (#3) – These are good questions. Just to clarify, I’m not lobbying for the UNFCCC to be a catch all. This series of posts about the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ looks in detail at what each of the COP19 REDD decisions actually says.

  5. @Flit (#5) – Thanks but the link is for National Communications, which include: “relevant information on national circumstances, GHG inventories, a vulnerability and adaptation assessment, mitigation assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.”

    This post is about the timing and frequency of countries’ summary reports about how they are implementing safeguards for REDD.