Interview with Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui, MRV Specialist
Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui leads the REDD+ related MRV work of WWF's Forest and Climate Initiative, and assists practitioners around the globe to increase their MRV capacity and knowledge.
Q: What is your role with WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative (FCI)?
As FCI’s MRV Coordinator for Forest Carbon, I lead FCI’s work on measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) of REDD+ activities. I work on bridging the gap between relevant science and its practical application in the design, implementation and use of MRV systems. I also work on building MRV capacity and know-how in the field and with REDD+ partners. In short, my role is to help people share the MRV know-how they’ve acquired throughout the WWF Network, and more importantly, externally with our stakeholders.
Q: Where are you currently working on MRV?
My work has a global reach, as I collaborate in various capacities with all WWF offices currently working on REDD+. However, my main focus is in FCI’s three priority regions – Madre de Dios in Peru, Mai Ndombe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kutai Barat in Indonesia.
Q: What are your work priorities?
My top priority is to make sure local (regional and national) MRV practitioners have access to the relevant information and capacities they need. I do this either through direct support or by facilitating dialogue amongst the MRV community. These dialogues are so important for sharing knowledge – that’s why the MRV team that I lead and I travel to the field frequently. We also hold regular MRV team calls and act as facilitators for the MRV Community of Practice on the online REDD+ practitioners platform REDDcommunity.org. Another priority is to use MRV capacity building as a means for developing capacities for overall sustainable management of natural resources.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for countries that are currently working to develop monitoring systems?
It can be challenging to make sense of all of the information, technology packages and standards that are offered to countries working on REDD+. Each donor, multilateral or conservation organization offers something slightly different, and at the end of the day each country needs to select what works best based on its specific context. There is no “one size fits all” approach for setting up a monitoring system. It is also challenging to ensure there is long-term capacity to support an MRV system. Our MRV certificate program in Peru was a tremendous success in this regard, because it offered training to local individuals on MRV, and they are now equipped to manage the systems into the future.
Q: Why does MRV play such an important part in REDD+ work?
MRV is really a matter of accounting and keeping track of the systems and the data. Another big part of MRV is about understanding how to make the decisions about how well you’re keeping track, and how to know what you have achieved in terms of emissions reductions. Linking MRV to reference levels allows you to understand how well you’re doing. This is what could bring credibility to the REDD mechanism. I use the word could because, as with any reporting system, there will always be caveats, which is why we have such a strong emphasis on the ‘V’ in MRV.
Q: Does adaptive management play a role in successful MRV systems?
Yes! While there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to MRV, having a robust, flexible system in place that can adapt to various situations is key. This way, if your system stops working, there is always a redundancy or a backup plan that allows you to continue working so you don’t get stuck. This applies to both the technologies and the management teams.
Q: What is WWF’s role in developing MRV standards?
WWF works to make sure that any group developing standards for MRV considers the REDD+ Five Guiding Principles (climate, biodiversity, livelihoods, rights and fair and effective funding). WWF also plays an important role ensuring that lessons learned from work in the field are incorporated into standards. It’s so vital that the standards reflect the reality of what real REDD+ implementation looks like, and we can help with that by acting as a conduit between the field teams and the policy makers.
Q: What are some ways to build MRV capacity?
Building MRV capacity needs to focus on MRV know-how. Technological capacity building is circumstantial as technologies evolve so fast, but building effective know-how happens in two ways. The first is to make sure the MRV practitioners can share their expertise using a South/South approach, and a platform like REDDcommunity.org is a great way to do this. The second is to make sure that we, as a REDD+ community, can capture this knowledge and transmit it in an organized way to others who need it, such as policy makers, financial institutions and governments. The importance of capturing lessons learned is a vital part of MRV capacity building, but it also applies to REDD+ in general.
Q: What’s the best way to bring all stakeholders to the table when developing an MRV system?
Bringing diverse stakeholders to the table can be a challenge, but key requirements for setting up MRV systems are transparency and a common strategy. As long as there is an agreement on transparency and an understanding about how MRV deliverables need to be used, stakeholders can work together. The most effective groups are those that can be honest when a tool or approach does not work and can collaborate to find alternative solutions or build synergies.
Q: How can linking community monitoring help with national MRV for REDD?
Linking community monitoring with national MRV for REDD+ is incredibly important. In any MRV work, information should flow both top down and also down up, and by working with communities, their knowledge of forest ecosystems can be integrated into the information systems. The other great result of working with communities is that it gets people thinking about why deforestation is happening and what the drivers may be. We can then use that conversation as a springboard to identify drivers, and to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of those drivers. One of the biggest successes we have seen in our DRC work came about when we worked with the community to show how the data that is being generated helps them better understand what’s happening in the forest, and this in turn helps them make more informed decisions about how to manage the forest.
Q: What are you most excited about for the future of MRV?
I’m excited about the results from UNFCCC- COP18 in Doha that acknowledged the link between reference levels and MRV. The international community now sees the importance of having comparability between the data used for both MRV and reference levels, and in my mind, this will bring a new, more practical perspective to MRV implementation. The recent launch of LandSat 8 (an earth imaging and data gathering satellite launched in February 2013 by NASA and USGS) reinforces this link as it allows for continuous acquisition of data most countries are already using to build their reference levels. I’m looking forward to some big years ahead for MRV and REDD+.
With reporting by Breen Byrnes of the WWF Forest and Climate Initiative.