Reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is a leading area of consensus within the global climate debate but remains at a crossroads. It has taken longer to finalize than originally anticipated, yet, no other single mechanism has ever before mobilized this scale of political attention and financial resources for tropical forest conservation, nor had the potential for even greater conservation outcomes, as has REDD+. It will be a defining moment for conservation when REDD+ is realized -- and if REDD+ treads off its path, it will be, perhaps, one of the greatest lost opportunities for tropical forest conservation in our generation.
As the world prepares for the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP 19) in Warsaw, Poland this November, Josefina Brana-Varela, Policy Director for WWF’s Forest and Climate Programme reflects on the potential challenges and critical next steps for REDD+ at this pivotal point.
UNFCCC intercessional meetings were held in Bonn, in June, where does REDD+ stand now?
Coming out of Bonn, we have three negotiation tracks. The discussions under the joint UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)/ Subsidiary Body for Implementation (STI) process could not start in Bonn because the SBI agenda was not adopted. However, discussions under SBSTA moved forward quite a lot, and we actually had some workshops on the COP work programme on finance as well.
In Bonn, the parties produced three REDD+-related decisions that will be forwarded for adoption by parties at the global climate change meeting in Warsaw, including one on national forest monitoring systems, a second related to the time and frequency of the presentation of the summary of information on safeguards, and the third on drivers of deforestation. The discussions on the ways and means to deliver results based payments and about the financial architecture also advanced.
What will be some of the top REDD+-related issues at the global climate change meeting in Warsaw?
Hopefully parties will be able to make real moves forward on some of the most important pending issues – reference levels and measurement, reporting and verification (MRV). I am also optimistic that the parties will focus on finishing up discussions on reference levels and MRV guidance, with an eye on the ‘V’ (verification) in particular. Also, I am hopeful that they will finalize the methodological package for REDD+ which will allow parties to start discussions on other pending issues such as payments for results-based actions.
Results-based finance will also be a huge topic not only for this climate change meeting but also for the road ahead. Working out a solution for results-based finance is a discussion we haven’t yet had and we need to have that conversation to keep the momentum on REDD+. We need to be able to show that REDD+ can move forward and reach the next phase.
How do you think the global climate change meeting in November will impact the role REDD+ plays within the broader climate architecture?
Until now, REDD+ has been able to advance as a somewhat isolated topic, and has moved ahead faster than some of the other convention discussions. However, we have reached a point where REDD+ needs to be embedded in the broader climate architecture. Some of the decisions made in other parts of the convention impact REDD+, and we need to be sure that REDD+ design is consistent across the convention, in particular when it comes to nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) and MRV, as well as with the discussions on the finance group and on the Green Climate Fund. REDD+ needs to be linked with these other decisions to ensure consistency and feasibility. If parties can manage to finalize the methodological package at this year’s climate change meeting, it will send a very strong message that we can work together in a multilateral setting to win the battle against climate change.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges for REDD+ at this year’s global climate change meeting?
I think the biggest challenge at this year’s meeting will be reaching agreement on the verification issue. This is one of the most important points of divergence in the discussions. So, if parties can come up with a solution, some kind of middle ground, whether it’s the international consultation process adopted for REDD+ with a technical annex, or something different, that will be a huge accomplishment. That issue is one of the last missing pieces to allow parties to focus on the discussions regarding the finance package. Discussions on results-based finance represent a challenge in the sense that parties will need to advance discussions and to agree on some elements of the financial mechanism without prejudging other discussions taking place such as those on the Green Climate Fund.
What would be a best case scenario for REDD+ coming out of this year’s climate change meeting?
The best case scenario this year would be that the parties finalize the design elements, in particular, coming to agreement on the process of verification of REDD+ results. In addition, I would like to see the developed countries show their commitment to this work by advancing the discussions of the financial architecture of REDD+.
What are you working towards for the global climate change meeting in Lima, Peru in 2014?
I’m working toward the 2014 global climate change meeting in Lima on two levels. On one level, I’m providing policy inputs and aiming to influence decision makers in the UNFCCC to make REDD+ a reality as a mechanism that promotes environmental integrity and also provides the right incentives for people on the ground to choose forest conservation. On another level, I’m also collaborating with WWF-Peru in strengthening REDD+ capacities in advance of the meeting, and to advance the REDD+ agenda on the ground in collaboration with the Peruvian government. I’m confident that we can make an impact there and make the 2014 global climate change meeting a success for REDD+.
You have been attending global climate change meetings for four years now, first as part of the Mexican delegation, and for the first time this year with WWF, what has been the biggest change or trend you’ve noticed over the years?
Over the past four years I have seen REDD+ lose a bit of attention. After the 2009 climate change meeting in Copenhagen, all eyes were on REDD+, and in general I think people were more optimistic about the environment. As we have progressed and moved into the realities of commitments and requirements, it has become more challenging to come to an agreement among parties. That said, I am still very confident about the future of REDD+ and think we have made substantial progress. Personally, transitioning from the government side to the non-governmental side has been both challenging and interesting for me. When you are representing the government you have different responsibilities because you are part of the decision making, so that has been an adjustment for me. Now that I am supporting REDD+ from a different angle, I enjoy working on issues “from the outside in” and I like that our advocacy work provides so much flexibility and a wide range of ways for us to help move negotiations forward.
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