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The dismal failure of the REDD+ Partnership

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2014-11-20-141427_913x978_scrotThe November meeting of the REDD+ Partnership in Lima will probably be its last. Despite the fact that the REDD+ Partnership has little to show for four years of meetings, and more than US$6 million spent, a recent assessment report describes it as a “moderate success”.

The report, written by Tony La Viña (lead negotiator for the Philippines) and Donna Lee (ex-US lead negotiator on REDD), is available here (pdf file, 1.7 MB).

The assessment looks at whether the REDD+ Partnership achieved its objective, as described in the REDD+ Partnership’s founding document (adopted at the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference in 2010):

“The core objective of the Partnership is to contribute to the global battle against climate change by serving as an interim platform for the Partners to scale up REDD+ actions and finance, and to that end to take immediate action, including improving the effectiveness, efficiency, transparency and coordination of REDD+ initiatives and financial instruments, to facilitate among other things knowledge transfer, capacity enhancement, mitigation actions and technology development and transfer.”

I’ve read sentence this again and again. I’m sure it states that the REDD+ Partnership’s core objective was to help address climate change by acting as a platform for member countries to scale up REDD+ actions and finance. To do this it was going to take “immediate action” to improve effectiveness, efficiency and so on.

An assessment of the REDD+ Partnership therefore has to look at whether REDD+ actions and finance were scaled up in the four year period since 2010.

And there is no way around the fact that the REDD+ Partnership’s members failed to scale up REDD+ actions and finance. The situation is so bad that in September 2013, Conservation International put out a short report which they described as an “SOS” for REDD. The lack of finance means that, “The future of a mechanism for REDD+ is currently under threat,” Conservation International wrote.

Since REDD+ actions and finance have not been “scaled up”, the REDD+ Partnership failed to achieve its core objective.

La Viña and Lee come close to admitting this at one point in their assessment:

One particular objective that Partners and Observers felt was either not achieved, or not fully achieved, was the scaling up REDD+ actions and finance. Assessing this goal was challenging due to a lack of a shared understanding, or interpretation, of what the objective meant and entailed.

Not only did the REDD+ Partnership fail to meet its core objective of scaling up REDD+ actions and finance, after four years of meetings no one seems to know what the core objective means.

A clearer expression of the REDD+ Partnership’s dismal failure is difficult to imagine.

But admitting that in public would look terrible, wouldn’t it?

So the REDD+ Partnership came up with a cunning plan. Instead of assessing the REDD+ Partnership on whether it contributed to addressing climate change by scaling up REDD+ actions and finance, the Terms of Reference for the assessment split up the statement in the founding document into a core objective and four objectives, as follows: [*]

  • Core objective: Contribute to the global battle against climate change
  • Objective 1: Serving as an interim platform for the Partners
  • Objective 2: Scaling up REDD+ actions and finance
  • Objective 3: Improving REDD+ initiatives and financial instruments
  • Objective 4: Facilitating knowledge transfer, capacity enhancement, mitigation actions and technology development and transfer

And with that sleight of hand, the REDD+ Partnership reduced the core objective to one of four objectives. Instead of being a dismal failure, the REDD+ Partnership becomes a “modest success, achieving a number of its stated objectives”. Bingo!

But the reality is that the REDD+ Partnership did not contribute to the “global battle against climate change”.

The REDD+ Partnership has nothing whatsoever to say about reducing emissions from fossil fuels or about the best way to do this, which is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. As long as we continue to dig up and burn fossil fuels, climate change will continue.

About a year before the founding of the REDD+ Partnership, British journalist George Monbiot developed a test of governments’ commitments to stopping the climate crisis:

whether they are prepared to impose a limit on the use of the reserves already discovered, and a permanent moratorium on prospecting for new reserves. Otherwise it’s all hot air.

The REDD+ Partnership utterly fails this simple test. A dismal failure.


UPDATE – 27 November 2014: Donna Lee, one of the authors of the assessment of the REDD+ Partnership, left a comment explaining that:

the Objectives and the way they are presented, is not the authors’ cunning plan, nor sleight of hand — but was provided to us in this exact fashion (i.e. the component parts used in the paper) in the Terms of Reference for the assignment. All ToRs are approved by the Partners, so I believe you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

I have amended this paragraph to make clear that it was not La Viña and Lee’s cunning plan. (The previous version of this post is available here.)

Back to text ^^


 

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  1. Whether the Interim Partnership was a success or a failure can be debated, but the conclusion depends on the perspective. The objcetives stated by Tony La Vina and Donna Lee in their assessment report do not come out of nowhere – I recommend reading the founding document of the Partnership – this is what the Partners have agreed in Oslo. Their assignment was to assess what the “partners” and the “stakeholders” think about the process (which definitily had its ups and downs) – the report is not their view but that of those who shaped it.

    I think the process had several severe problems from the beginning; one of them being the huge and different expectations by the different participants. However, the fact that REDD+ remains the most advanced agenda item has its reasons – one being, that the experts did not only exchange their views on a very complex matter in the dark negotiation rooms.

  2. @Til Pistorius – I know the objectives didn’t come from nowhere. The founding document states one objective – which is quoted in the post above. A key part of the objective was “to scale up REDD+ actions and finance”.

    Now read what La Viña and Lee have to say about whether the REDD+ Partnership met this objective:

    “One particular objective that Partners and Observers felt was either not achieved, or not fully achieved, was the scaling up REDD+ actions and finance. Assessing this goal was challenging due to a lack of a shared understanding, or interpretation, of what the objective meant and entailed.

    As I pointed out in the post above, not only did the REDD+ Partnership fail to meet its core objective of scaling up REDD+ actions and finance, after four years of meetings no one seems to know what the core objective means.

  3. Dear Chris: It is important that you, and others, know that the Objectives and the way they are presented, is not the authors’ cunning plan, nor sleight of hand — but was provided to us in this exact fashion (i.e. the component parts used in the paper) in the Terms of Reference for the assignment. All ToRs are approved by the Partners, so I believe you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction. I hope your future reporting can be founded more on facts. Kind regards, Donna

  4. @Donna Lee – Thanks for this clarification. I’ve updated the post.

    It may not have been your cunning plan or sleight of hand to split up the statement in the founding document into a core objective and four objectives. It was nevertheless a sleight of hand, without which, the core objective of the REDD+ Partnership was “to contribute to the global battle against climate change by serving as an interim platform for the Partners to scale up REDD+ actions and finance”.

    The REDD+ Partnership failed to meet this objective.