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The Bonn 2015 decision on REDD safeguards

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In December 2013, UN climate negotiators agreed the Warsaw Framework for REDD plus. This included a decision on summary of information on safeguards. At the time I described this decision as staggeringly weak. The decision reached in Bonn earlier this month, manages to make the text even weaker.

The text agreed in Warsaw on summary of information on safeguards said that governments “should” provide a summary of information on how they are addressing and respecting the REDD safeguards agreed in Cancun. And REDD countries “should” provide the summary of information every two years “consistent with the provisions for submissions of national communication”.

You can read my line by line analysis of the text agreed in Warsaw here.

The text agreed in Bonn goes under the title, “Further guidance on ensuring transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness when informing on how all the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are being addressed and respected”. The draft conclusions proposed by the Chair (9 June 2015) version of the text can be downloaded here.

It can be summarised as follows:

    Governments are encouraged to provide a summary of information on how they are addressing and respecting REDD safeguards. They should do so “periodically”.

There is no decision on how often REDD countries should produce these summaries. There is no decision about who should pay for them. There is no mention of publishing summaries on the UNFCCC web platform (which had been included in the Warsaw text, if only on a voluntary basis).

The following is the chair’s draft version of the text, followed by my comments (in bold). Following that are links to the previous decisions referred to in the text. (You can find each of the COP decision texts by searching here – for example, to find decision 1 from COP16, search for 1/CP.16).

Draft decision -/CP.21
 
Further guidance on ensuring transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness when informing on how all the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, are being addressed and respected

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 1/CP.16, 12/CP.17, 9/CP.19, 11/CP.19 and 12/CP.19,

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.

    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”.

    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”.

    9/CP.19 is part of the 2013 Warsaw Framework for REDD-plus, “Work programme on results-based finance to progress the full implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70”.

    11/CP.19 is part of the 2013 Warsaw Framework for REDD-plus, “Modalities for national forest monitoring systems”.

    12/CP.19 is part of the 2013 Warsaw Framework for REDD-plus, “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”.


Noting that the implementation of the safeguards referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I, and the information provided on how these safeguards are being addressed and respected should take into account national circumstances and respective capabilities and recognize national sovereignty and legislation and relevant international obligations and agreements,

The words “national circumstances”, “respective capabilities”, “national sovereignty and legislation” put the lie to any claims that these safeguards are “rights based”. It’s worth re-reading Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states clearly that the Declaration applies to everyone and that,

    “no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs”.


Recalling the importance and necessity of adequate and predictable financial and technical support for developing all of the elements referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 71,

Let’s not forget that someone, somewhere, somehow has to pay for REDD. We still don’t know who, where or how.

    1/CP.16, paragraph 71 requests REDD countries “in the context of the provision of adequate and predictable support, including financial resources and technical and technological support” to produce a national strategy or action plan; forest reference emission level or forest reference level; a forest monitoring system; and a system for providing information on how the REDD safeguards are being addressed and respected.

Recalling also that the monitoring and reporting of emissions displacement at the national level is agreed separately in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 71(c),

Paragraph 71, which is subdivided into (a), (b), (c), and (d) is also referred to in the previous paragraph. Footnote 7 to paragraph 71(c) states,

    Including monitoring and reporting of emissions displacement at the national level, if appropriate, and reporting on how displacement of emissions is being addressed, and on the means to integrate subnational monitoring systems into a national monitoring system.

So leakage is covered in a footnote to the main text of the Cancun Agreements as well as paragraph 2(g) in Appendix I to the Cancun Agreements (Appendix I is the REDD safeguards text). Neither of these texts provides any hint of the “actions” that REDD countries are supposed to “promote and support” in order to address leakage.


1. Reiterates that, in accordance with decision 12/CP.17, paragraphs 1 and 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 those activities;

REDD countries are encouraged to provide a summary of information on how safeguards are being “addressed and respected”.

(This text is almost identical to the text in Decision 12/CP.19, paragraph 1 – part of the Warsaw Framework on REDD-plus. The only change is the mention of paragraph 1 of decision 12/CP.17.)

    12/CP.17, paragraph 1 notes that the implementation of REDD safeguards and information on how these safeguards are being addressed and respected “should support national strategies or action plans”.

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


2. Also reiterates that the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above should be provided periodically, in accordance with decisions 12/CP.17 and 12/CP.19;

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

(This text is almost identical to the text in Decision 12/CP.19 paragraph 2 – part of the Warsaw Framework on REDD-plus. The Warsaw text included a reference to decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 4, which mentions the possibility of placing summaries of information on safeguards on the UNFCCC web platform.)

    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.19 is the part of the 2013 Warsaw Framework on REDD-plus: “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”.


3. Notes that information on how all the safeguards are being addressed and respected should be provided in a way that ensures transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness;

“Notes” is the weakest possible way of referring to anything in the UN system. Governments only have to accept this as a relevant fact but do not have to commit to doing anything.

(Decision 12/CP.19 paragraph 3 – part of the Warsaw Framework on REDD-plus – refers to the possibility of posting the summaries of information on safeguards on the UNFCCC web platform.)


4. Decides that developing country Parties should provide information on which activity or activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70, are included in the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above, taking into account decision 12/CP.17, paragraphs 1 and 3, and decision 9/CP.19, paragraph 4;

It seems that the head of the UNFCCC serpent has started to eat its own tail.

REDD countries should provide information on which REDD safeguard activity or activities are included in the summary of information on safeguards, taking into account the following:

    12/CP.17, paragraph 1, which notes that the implementation of REDD safeguards and information on how these safeguards are being addressed and respected “should support national strategies or action plans”.

    12/CP.17, paragraph 3 which states that REDD countries are encouraged to provide a summary of information on how safeguards are being “addressed and respected”.

    9/CP.19, paragraph 4 which agrees that REDD countries looking for results-based payments are encouraged to provide the most recent summary of information on how all of the REDD safeguards have been addressed and respected, before they can receive results-based payments.


5. Strongly encourages developing country Parties, when providing the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above, to include the following elements, where
appropriate:
 
(a) Information on national circumstances relevant to addressing and respecting the safeguards;
(b) A description of each safeguard in accordance with national circumstances;
(c) A description of existing systems and processes relevant to addressing and respecting safeguards, including the information systems referred to in decision 12/CP.17, in accordance with national circumstances;
(d) Information on how each of the safeguards has been addressed and respected, in accordance with national circumstances;

No demands, but a strong encouragement to produce a check list, with the words “national circumstances” in each point. Wiggle room galore.

    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”.

6. Encourages developing country Parties to provide any other relevant information on the safeguards in the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above;

REDD countries are encouraged to provide any other relevant information. More wiggle room, as if it was needed.


7. Also encourages developing country Parties to improve the information provided in the summary of information referred to in paragraph 1 above taking into account the stepwise approach;

REDD countries can improve the information in the summary on how they are addressing and addressing REDD safeguards. There is no possible way that a stepwise approach could be compatible with a rights based approach to safeguards. Needless to say, the words “stepwise approach” do not appear in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.


8. Decides that there is no need for further guidance pursuant to decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 6, to ensure transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness when informing on how all the safeguards are being addressed and respected.

That’s it. There will be no further guidance on transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness.

    12/CP.17, paragraph 6 was a request from COP17 (2011 in Durban) for SBSTA to “consider the need for further guidance to ensure transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness when informing on how all safeguards are addressed and respected”. SBSTA was, if appropriate, to consider additional guidance, and report to COP18.

 


Full Disclosure: This post is part of a series on REDD safeguards, funded by FERN. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.
 

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  1. This is all very interesting because it shows the reluctance of negotiating partners to commit themselves to effective action.
    Your arguments would gain much in strength if it had been followed by a summing up of concrete effects or non-effects that approaches formulated in this way would have on the every-day practice of decision makers and people in the field. E.g. indicating that some countries have to face a long period (in years or decades ) of ongoing deforestation before popular awareness puts a halt on this.