Mixed results as REDD+ moves forward from Durban

By Tierney Smith

REDD+ made incremental progress in Durban, but many say more is needed to protect forests.

Mixed results at Durban for REDD+ have left many unanswered questions for pilot projects such as that in Tanzania.

Hailed as an area where major strides could be made at COP17, by the time the Durban Platform was agreed all talk of REDD+ had gone quiet.

You could be fooled into thinking that nothing was agreed on the topic for forests, but by the end of the first week of the conference, much progress had already been made on the REDD+ scheme, creating the first real rules for the initiative – although there is still some way to go.

Positive moves were made when it came to the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of the scheme.

Developing countries will now be required to calculate their baselines in terms of CO2 as opposed to hectares as well as submitting them to an international peer review before being finalised.

This new language should help increase transparency of the scheme and make it easier for scientists – as well as investors – to track and verify numbers.

However, the lack of financial clarity – with decisions on this being put off until COP18 in Qatar – will continue to hold the scheme back, as it is seen as unsustainable without the implementation of private sector finance.

On a blog for the Center for International Forestry Research Louis Verchot CIFOR scientists observed: “We are now seeing the technical obstacles to REDD fall by the wayside and the decisions made on REDD in Durban are a vote of confidence in the progress that the scientific community has made over the last few years.

“However, we do not have progress on the ‘politics behind the money’ and without this we cannot talk about the sustainability of REDD.”

While COP17 delivered a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol the legal framework behind it has yet to be agreed and countries have currently pledged no commitments. Meanwhile, despite the Green Climate Fund being formed, no clear decisions have been made on how to finance it.

This much uncertainty will have an impact on the international carbon markets, which in turn will mean further uncertainty for investors thinking of investing in forestry.

Implications for implementation

Speaking ahead of the announcements last weekend, Julius Ningu, Director of Environment, Vice President’s Office in Tanzania voiced his concerns over the lack of decisions.

“They have promised in the Copenhagen Accord that they will be providing some $30 billion for assisting the reduction of climate change impacts in developing countries,” he told RTCC.

“They couldn’t even explain where this money will come from, how much each country will contribute and what the mechanism for assessing this will be.

“It is almost more than two years now and it is still not known where these funds will come from. So we can say we can’t have sufficient technology, we can’t have sufficient equipment, we can’t have sufficient trained personnel. We can’t ensure that we make the coverage of the REDD initiative in the country wider without having sufficient resources.”

Tanzania currently has nine REDD pilot projects – all of which are funded by country partnerships and NGOs. From this the country has created its own national REDD strategy, readying itself to move forward onto a national roll-out of the scheme.

How far these projects can go depends on the capacity building in the country – and this, Ningu says, is largely based upon the support they can get from the developed world.

“It is an exercise that has never been done before in Tanzania and the experts are trying to reproduce that into the communities so they know that the trees they have can be measurable and we want to quantify the amount of carbon captured in the existing trees in their fields,” he says.

“It is not sufficient in the way of wider coverage in the country because that kind of measurement need to be systematic and of course, ongoing.”

“But the resources we have in terms of human, financial and technology; it’s not sufficient. That is why we are insisting that technology transfer is very important in capacity building.

Safeguards for communities

While major steps were taken towards the implementation of a world-wide REDD strategy in Durban, the whole scheme came close to collapse when countries, led by Bolivia spoke out against the scheme – saying it reduced forests to carbon stocks.

Following this, a vocal protest formed throughout the conference calling for the whole scheme to be thrown out. Much of this concern was around the social and environmental safeguards for the project.

CIFOR say more needs to be done to improve this area, after decisions at Durban were weak. Many communities in the developing world rely on forests for their food and their livelihoods, as well as the other services forests provide for the local ecosystems.

Countries such as Bolivia voiced concerns that the developing world was ignoring this as they worked towards creating a carbon market for forestry. Ningu says he understands this stance, but argues that in Tanzania they prefer to see the scheme as an opportunity.

“Bolivia is right to say so because trees in developing countries should not be a prerequisite for counting carbon being emitted in developed countries,” he says. “So our countries can not be a reserve to absorb carbon emissions, which are being made in the developed countries.

“For us we need development, we need to develop industries, we need to build workshops and produce finished products. We do not need to be the source for raw material and the market of products that are not manufactured in our country. We need to use the land that developed countries are encouraging us to put under REDD for our own development activities.”

He said that if people could earn money for cultivating forests in Tanzania that would be a positive, so long as it does not interfere with other development projects in the area. The country should not be forced to become a store for the emissions of the developed world, he says.

Wood from the trees

There are still many unanswered questions moving forward into 2012 and towards COP18 in Qatar.

Finance will continue to be a major cause for concern, particularly if the process towards an over-arching deal continues to stall – preventing investors in having confidence in the scheme.

Meanwhile countries continue to need financial aid to help build capacity for REDD+ in the readiness stage of the project, which will continue to involve public spending – some of which could potentially come from the as yet empty Green Climate Fund.

But there are some positive moves.

With improved MRV systems being agreed the potential for REDD+ to be included in CDM projects and put on Trading Schemes under Kyoto has increased – although under the EU ETS this would not happen before 2020 at the earliest.

Progress is painstaking, but a close examination shows that the REDD+ framework is taking shape. Whether it will arrive soon enough for many of the world’s great Tropical Forests remains to be seen.

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