Doha, Qatar -- 10 December 2012 – Negotiators took a pass on finalizing key elements of an international mechanism to reduce emissions from tropical deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) – the second largest source of emissions that cause climate change -- at the recently concluded UN climate change meeting in Doha.
It was an up and then down two weeks for REDD+ at the 18th Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC that left negotiators and observers alike exhausted. The first week started off with great promise as the chair of the technical body (SBSTA) tabled a draft text that provided a clear road map to finalizing the key issues needed to complete a functional REDD+ mechanism. For the first time, reference levels (RLs) and monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) were logically linked together into a coherent whole, and a common unit of measure (tons of carbon dioxide equivalents) was proposed for measuring emissions that is consistent with other sectors such as energy and transportation.
When it came down to approving the text for submission to the Parties, though, conflict arose. Some industrialized countries, led by Norway, called for an international process for third-party verification of emission reductions before being willing to commit to results-based finance for the full implementation of REDD+ (known as phase 3 in the negotiation text). This then had a dampening effect on the world’s richest nations to make financial pledges for REDD+ for beyond 2012, with the notable exception of Vietnam and Norway which announced financing of US$30 Million for REDD+ implementation in Vietnam.
Most developing countries, led by Brazil, rebuked the international verification process as ill-defined and inconsistent with the level of verification agreed to under a separate track of the negotiation known as the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) process. They objected to being held to a different standard than ICA for REDD+. In addition, they were unwilling to discuss an international verification process in the absence of new and additional pledges for mid-term financing for 2013 to 2015, when a new global agreement is scheduled to be completed. Ultimately, the issues of money and international verification proved too volatile for SBSTA specialists whose success to date has been due to their ability to stay within the boundaries of providing methodological guidance for the implementation of REDD+. As such, the SBSTA negotiation came to a standoff at the end of week one and deferred to their next technical meeting in June 2013 in Bonn.
The Ministerial level negotiations during the second week agreed to a process to keep REDD+ alive until the next meeting of the Parties in 2013 in Warsaw, at which time a definitive way forward will be decided. They also agreed to explore for the first time the issue of "non-carbon benefits" and how to provide incentives for both mitigation of emissions from forests and their adaptation to climate change through non-market based approaches.
“While an agreement to continue to talk after the bewitched seventh year is nothing to write home about,” said Bruce Cabarle, Leader of WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative, “the alternative was to have REDD+ die in the desert of Doha along with the mandate of the larger climate change negotiations. It all depends now on UNFCCC member countries to demonstrate in 2013 that they really want to make an effort to take REDD+ to the next level as a credible mechanism to combat emissions. This will be a very important milestone towards the establishment of a fully functioning REDD+ mechanism by 2015.”
"REDD+ is at a crossroads," added Cabarle, "this marks the first time in the history of UNFCCC negotiations that the Parties were not able to issue any guidance whatsoever on how to make REDD+ work, despite having produced several pages of good draft text on the critical building blocks needed to define national forest monitoring systems, MRV and reference levels."
Despite the somber realities of the REDD+ negotiations, several developing countries used the meeting to showcase their successful REDD+ readiness efforts. The Government of DRC released a joint case study with WWF, REDD+ for People and Nature: Case study of an integrated approach to REDD+ readiness in Mai-Ndombe, Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting REDD+ readiness and making the case for increased financial commitments from donors for all phases of REDD+ (download report here: http://bit.ly/REDDcasestudy).
In releasing the report, Flory Botamba, WWF-DRC Mai-Ndombe Project Manager said: “This case study demonstrates that DRC, is taking REDD+ very seriously and is prepared to address the drivers of deforestation by strengthening the rights of local communities to forest resources, addressing the fuel wood crisis, and combating illegal logging. DRC is now moving their plans into action, and prepared to go to scale.”
"From now on, progress with REDD+ will be a function of how much the Parties agree on the larger issues of ambition, commitments, results-based finance and international verification”, said Cabarle reflecting upon Doha. “But time is not on our side – we must get serious about addressing climate change by making commitments to slow tropical deforestation and forest degradation the norm and not the exception."
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