in DR Congo

Some questions for Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, DRC’s lead negotiator, about his comments on REDD projects during COP23: “Quality isn’t clear”; “outcomes are sometimes unfairly distributed”; and project proponents “disappear with the carbon assets”

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Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu is a big cheese at the UN climate meetings. He was the Democratic Republic of Congo’s lead negotiator at COP23 in Bonn. He is the chairman of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. He is the ex-chair of the Africa Group at the climate negotiations, and last year he was the chair of the least developed countries. He is on the board of the Green Climate Fund.

Before the negotiations in Bonn started, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Mozambique, Panama, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda made a submission to the UNFCCC for a new agenda item at COP23. The submission is titled, “Gateway to Encourage, Measure, Report, Verify and Account for Non-Party Contributions”.

Ecosystem Marketplace’s Steve Zwick interviewed Mpanu-Mpanu during COP23, about this “Gateway submission”.

Zwick’s podcast starts with the story about the three trademark applications that the Coalition for Rainforest Nations Secretariat put in earlier this year: one for “REDD+”; one for “REDDPLUSX”; and one for “RRU”, or REDD+ Reduction Units. Zwick writes that earlier this year the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), “proposed a new ‘Gateway’ for handling REDD+ Reduction Units”.

But there is no mention of “REDD+ Reduction Units” in the Gateway submission.

The submission mentions REDD only once:

in most cases, the carbon measurement and reporting for corporate carbon neutrality and/or carbon footprints are neither consistent with, nor fully accounted for by, the UNFCCC and its internationally accepted IPCC Good Practice Guidance and Guidelines (IPCC GPGs). This complicates global stock-takes and often leads to ‘hot air’ – as has been demonstrated in the forestry sector by those applying substandard methods for projects and jurisdictions rather than the globally accepted methodologies under the UNFCCC REDD+ mechanism.

The three-page “Gateway submission” is about including emissions from non-parties (“corporate entities, investors, regions, states/provinces, cities and civil society organizations”) in the UNFCCC negotiations.

Nevertheless, Zwick’s interview with Mpanu-Mpanu is very interesting (not least for the questions that Zwick doesn’t ask). What follows is a transcript of Zwick’s interview. At the end are some follow-up questions that REDD-Monitor has for Mpanu-Mpanu based on what he said to Zwick. I’ve sent these questions to Mpanu-Mpanu and look forward to posting his response in full and unedited when it arrives.

Zwick started his interview by asking Mpanu-Mpanu to describe the “Gateway submission”.

Mpanu-Mpanu: Basically, our coalition, which consists of 52 countries was fast to realise that the Paris Agreement, although it was a successful, the multilateral system, is not sufficient in terms of limiting global temperature rise. So we do need to find ways to increase the level of global ambition.

And we’ve realised also that in our countries, forestry countries oftentimes we have different private actors who come and implement projects whose quality isn’t clear, whose outcomes are sometimes unfairly distributed, and for us it’s important that we have a platform, a gateway, where different non-parties, actors, can come and report of what they do.

And for us, if what they do commands the highest level of environmental integrity, commands the highest level of rigour, they will be keen on coming and showing what they are doing.

So for us, it not only increases transparency, it also creates a peer pressure for other people to come and follow suit. And for us it’s going to be an important accountability tool that allows us also government to better understand what’s taking place on our territory, and account for it.

For example, the way I see it, a poor community in the DRC is lured into some type of project on protection of forest. And once a project is implemented, the project proponents give them a very small share of the proceeds, and then disappear with the carbon assets.

So when the DRC now is to report on the implementation on its NDC the DRC finds itself in a difficult situation, where it wants to claim some reductions, which are not into its own ends.

So by having a platform where everybody comes and reports on what they are doing, it will not only avoid double counting, but it also can allow for some capacity constraints developing countries, parties, to actually know better what greenhouse gas inventories actually contain.

So, for me, it is important to find a way some opportunity to anchor in this formal process a conversation where we can try to account for those non-parties’ contributions. Because they are there, they will happen anyway, and it’s important for us to rein in all those endeavours and put them under the common umbrella of the UNFCCC, whose rules we do understand.

Because as of now, a lot of initiatives are taking place and it is difficult for us to make a clear assessment of what they can deliver, and what they command in terms of integrity and rigour.

So basically, for us we don’t see anyone who will be opposing what we are proposing, because not only is it voluntary, but it is also for us to get clarity on who is doing what. And hopefully, with time, we may establish, I’m a little bit afraid to use certain words because I don’t want to scare people off, but we may establish some type of standard, but which is one that is owned by all of us, which is not owned by some shady private company, but which is owned by the UNFCCC that can really guarantee that a project commands the highest level of environmental integrity.

Zwick: I guess I’ve got two questions. One is just, when you talk about these private sector operators taking off with the carbon assets, does that really happen any more? My understanding was that that was kind of exaggerated and that most of the projects now are pretty clean, the ones that I am familiar with if I’m understanding them right, the project developers might get the carbon benefit, but usually they are creating some kind of sustainable business locally, or something to take the pressure off the forest so that there’s usually kind of a win-win. It sounds like you’re pretty critical, you don’t see it that way?

Mpanu-Mpanu: Very nice narratives have been developed. But really on the ground, we don’t see that. We don’t see the social, economic transformation that they pretend to be delivering. We don’t see the reporting that they are supposed to bring and we don’t necessarily understand what type of standards they are using.

Today there’s actually so many, there are dozens and dozens of standards that it completely confuses the investor. And the people putting money into this type of project, they don’t have peace of mind. Because they are not sure whether the project will actually deliver what the environment wants to see, and will transform the lives of the people on the ground, or it is some type of scheme which is going to profit only some few people.

Zwick: Yeah, I’ve never visited any projects in DRC, but I have visited some in Kenya, and I do have to say from what I can see they generally do, I mean I’ve seen evidence of benefits flowing through. So I just want to make it clear they are not all shady.

Mpanu-Mpanu: Oh no, no, no, no. We should not throw the baby with the bath water. I mean that’s, certainly not. Good things are happening.

But when you allow for too much flexibility, you get what happened in 2007 and 2008 where those financial, those big banks became so greedy that they produced some products that they themselves did not understand and this created a huge moral hazard. And we don’t want to find ourselves in the same situation.

I certainly understand that we are not talking about the same thing exactly, but given the right incentive, the bad people will do bad things. So it’s important for us to rein in what they are doing, and bring it under the common umbrella of the UNFCCC that we all understand. Let’s speak the same language.

Zwick: I think I’m not clear what the proposal does. I know what it aims to achieve, but how does it, what exactly, it’s a standard, it’s a registry, it’s a, I’m not quite clear what it is.

Mpanu-Mpanu: It’s all of the above, because for us it’s going to be a platform, a gateway, where you come and you present what you do, and once you have done so, it’s going to be measured, verified, reported, and also we are going to ensure that there may be a frequency that may allow countries when they do their own reporting also to be able to do some matching.

The important thing is that we want to, it’s also going to be a platform that allows people to learn from each other. Because if you are the DRC, then you realise that something very ambitious is done in Chad then you are like, if Chad can do it, maybe we can do the same.

And also, it puts more accountability on multinationals, because they will have to report clearly on how they intend for example to plan on reducing emissions, and where they intend to do it. So if a multinational established, I don’t know, in the US has activities in the DRC, by them reporting on this platform the DRC capacity complaint, er constraint, public servants may actually discover there’s a realm of possibility that he was not aware of. But by the reporting of the multinational he sees that possibilities abound.

REDD-Monitor sent the following questions to Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu today:

  1. In your interview with Steve Zwick, when he asks you about the Gateway submission, you start off by talking about the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. Is the “Gateway submission” from the CfRN? If so, why did only seven of the 52 member countries put their country names on the submission?
  2. In the interview you seem critical of REDD projects run by private companies in DRC. You say that the “quality isn’t clear”, that “outcomes are sometimes unfairly distributed”, and that project proponents give communities “a very small share of the proceeds, and then disappear with the carbon assets”. Are you basing this on your experience with REDD in DRC? And if not, what are you basing these comments on?
  3. According to the DRC’s National Forest Monitoring System there are 10 REDD activities in DRC:

      1. Integrated REDD pilot project arount the Luki Biosphere Reserve in Mayombe forest (WWF)
      2. Mai Ndombe REDD project (WWF)
      3. Agroforestry REDD pilot project Sud Kwamouth (NOVACEL sprl)
      4. REDD+ project in the ERA conservation concessions in the Inongo Territory (Wildlife Works Carbon)
      5. Jadora REDD+ project in the SAFBOIS forest concessions of the Isangi territory (Jadora LLC)
      6. Isangi geographically-integrated REDD pilot project (Concerted Organization of Environmentalists and Nature Friends – OCEAN)
      7. Tayna/Kisimba-Ikobo REDD project (Conservation International)
      8. Geographically-integrated Mambasa REDD pilot project (Wildlife Conservation Society)
      9. Geograhically-integrated Ecomakala+ REDD project (WWF Belgium)
      10. REDD+ project in support to the creation of the eighth DRC National Park in the Misotshi Kabobo Massif (Wildlife Conservation Society)

    According to the VCS Project Database only two of these companies, Jadora and Widlife Works Carbon have sold carbon credits.

    Where you referring to either (or both) of these projects? Or was it other projects in DRC you were thinking of? If so, which projects?

  4. The Gateway submission mentions REDD only once. Yet in the interview with Zwick, you talked only about REDD. Is the Gateway submission primarily about REDD, or is it a proposal to include any emission reductions from non-parties (“corporate entities, investors, regions, states/provinces, cities and civil society organizations”) under the Paris Agreement?
  5. What is the current status of the Gateway submissions? Did it become an agenda item at COP23? If not, why not, in your opinion?
  6. Does the “Gateway submission” have anything to do with the trademark applications made earlier this year by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations Secretariat? As the chair of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, were you aware of these trademark applications before they were made? Did the 52 member countries of the CfRN know about the application before it was made?
  7. Why did the Democratic Republic of Congo send 340 delegates to COP23 in Bonn? And who paid?
  8. How many of the 340 delegates returned to the DRC after COP23 had finished?
  9. In an opinion piece on the Climate & Development Knowledge Network website, you wrote that,

    The current prices of 5$/tonne of carbon is not sufficient to incentivise the scale of forest protection required, as it does not cover the costs of action. We cannot have a large proportion of the carbon price dedicated to maintaining MRV and accounting structures.

    Yet the World Bank’s Carbon Fund Participants have stated that they are only willing to pay up to US$5/tCO2e.

    And according to the Emission Reductions Program Document (ER-PD) for DRC, the budget consists of US$80 million of “up-front investment finance”, and the proposal is for the Carbon Fund to sign an Emission Reduction Payment Agreement for US$15 million in results-based payments. The ER-PD states that this is for 29 million tCO2 over 5 years. That works out at US$3.28/tCO2.

    If the money on offer “does not cover the costs of action”, what does this mean for the FCPF’s proposed REDD programme in DRC?


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