Green Climate Fund approves historic $500 million for forest sector results-based payments

Posted on 03 October 2017

GCF Board adopted the terms of reference for the REDD+ Results-Based Payments pilot program
For their eighteenth meeting, the Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) met in Cairo, Egypt, from September 30 to October 2. Established in 2010 to support the developing countries’ responses to climate change, the GCF is part of the financial mechanisms of the UNFCCCC, and is guided by its principles and decisions, including those of The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and the Paris Agreement.

One item among many in their packed meeting agenda was the need to decide how to operationalize the UNFCCC guidelines for REDD+ results-based payments – which will be used to guide the preparation of country proposals – an issue that has been on the GCF agenda for almost 3 years, evolving from the 10-year long forest and climate negotiations under the UNFCCC.

For 4 days, technical advisors from both developing and developed countries retreated into a room to negotiate the first pilot program under the GCF that will pay for results achieved in the forest sector in emissions reductions and enhancement of carbon stocks. Balancing technical, policy, and practical considerations, the discussions focused on how to operationalize the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and the mechanisms built under the UNFCCC since 2005. Ultimately, the GCF Board adopted the terms of reference for the REDD+ Results-Based Payments pilot program, as well as a scorecard to evaluate countries’ submissions to the GCF.

“Negotiations were not easy, given the complexity of the technical issues under discussion, and the difference in perspectives from donors and forest countries. The decision, although not perfect, is balanced and illustrates the spirit of compromise from all countries involved,” says Josefina Braña-Varela, WWF’s Senior Director for Forest and Climate.  

The new program will channel $500 million to forest countries that meet all the UNFCCC requirements, and who can demonstrate success in halting deforestation and forest degradation and/or in conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks. The results must be expressed in terms of tons of verified emission reductions of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2 eq) and be achieved at the national level or the subnational level as an interim measure. They must also be in strict compliance with the UNFCCC and GCF guidelines and procedures, including addressing and respecting the Cancun Safeguards. 

The pilot program for REDD+ Results-Based Payments will only pay $5 USD/ton, but it will offer a learning opportunity, and a tangible incentive for forest countries to continue their efforts to halt deforestation. Furthermore, the new program will require recipient countries to reinvest the proceeds in activities in line with their Nationally Determined Contributions, national REDD+ strategies, or low carbon development plans. Transference of the emissions reductions or their use for other purposes (e.g. as offsets) will not be allowed. 

“This seems like a win-win situation for forests and climate,” says Brana-Varela, “and now our total focus needs to be completely on the implementation of actions, programs, and policies that directly address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.” The GCF also offers funding opportunities for forest countries to undertake planning efforts and implementation activities in the forest sector, for those countries that aren’t still ready to pursue results-based payments.

Given that the stated aim of the GCF is “to catalyze a flow of climate finance to invest in low-emission and climate-resilient development, driving a paradigm shift in the global response to climate change,” the decisions made at this meeting represent an important step towards a future with fewer emissions from forest destruction and degradation.
The 18th Meeting of the Board of the Green Climate Fund
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