Beijing, 22 Dec (Chee Yoke Ling) – The recently concluded Durban climate conference adopted two decisions on policy approaches and positive incentives that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD-plus).
The first was on “guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards are addressed and respected and modalities relating to forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels as referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I”. This was the result of the work of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) following from decision 1/CP.16 that was adopted in the 2010 Cancun conference.
The second was contained in the COP decision on the Outcome of the AWGLCA under Part II on “Enhanced action on mitigation”.
“Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and approaches to stimulate action” was first introduced into the agenda of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in 2005. There was increased interest in this as an area for mitigation actions when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change alerted the world in 2007 to the huge emissions from deforestation.
After two years of negotiations, the COP adopted a decision on “Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action” in 2007 in Bali, Indonesia. In 2008, a work programme was initiated on methodological issues related to a range of policy approaches and positive incentives that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries. In 2008 and 2009, this topic was expanded to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD-plus) and included in the negotiations of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWGLCA) mandated to work on the Bali Action Plan (adopted under a separate COP decision in 2007.)
Ever since forests and their link to emissions/mitigation actions entered the climate negotiations and pilot projects were implemented in some developing countries, there has been controversy and debate. There are concerns that this could open up another channel for “commodification” of forests and further violate the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over those forests. There are also others who see merit in addressing the forest-climate linkages, and that this must be done with environmental integrity and implementation of safeguards that guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
While debate took place outside the negotiation process, there were also divisions and debate inside. Bolivia stood out as a country with the most reservations about commodification of forests. A group of developing and developed countries, with active advocacy from the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, worked to ensure that there are safeguards integrated in any REDD-plus decision. All agree that there must be environmental integrity in implementing any action.
In Cancun in 2010 decision 1/CP.16 on REDD-plus was adopted that sets out the principles and provisions for actions. The decision affirms that adequate and predictable support should be given to developing countries so that all Parties can “collectively aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss, in accordance with national circumstances”. Paragraph 70 “Encourages developing country Parties to contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking the following activities, as deemed appropriate by each Party and in accordance with their respective capabilities and national circumstances: (a) Reducing emissions from deforestation; (b) Reducing emissions from forest degradation; (c) Conservation of forest carbon stocks; (d) Sustainable management of forests; (e) Enhancement of forest carbon stocks”.
Appendix 1 para. 2 contains the list of agreed safeguards when the above activities are undertaken:
(a) That actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements;
(b) Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty;
(c) Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
(d) The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities, in the actions referred to in paragraphs 70 and 72 of this decision;
(e) That actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the actions referred to in paragraph 70 of this decision are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits;*
(f) Actions to address the risks of reversals;
(g) Actions to reduce displacement of emissions.
(*Taking into account the need for sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities and their interdependence on forests in most countries, reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the International Mother Earth Day.)
The decision adopted as part of the AWGLCA Outcome in Durban was negotiated up till the morning of 10 December, the extended day of the conference. In the run-up to Durban the key points debated were: (1) diversity of sources for REDD-plus finance, (2) the definition and scope of results based activities and actions, and (3) the linkage with the Green Climate Fund.
In the October 2011 session of the AWGLCA in Panama, the last before the Durban conference, Parties agreed that there should be a diversity of sources of funding for REDD-plus activities, including public and private finance, with most developing countries stressing public sector funding to be the major source of funding and the private sector funding being complementary. Several developed countries such as Japan saw the private sector and the market as the main source of funding for the full implementation of REDD-plus activities.
It was agreed in Durban that, “results-based finance provided to developing country Parties that is new, additional and predictable may come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources” (para. 65).
In para. 66 the COP “Considers that, in the light of the experience gained from current and future demonstration activities, appropriate market-based approaches could be developed by the Conference of the Parties to support results-based actions by developing country Parties … ensuring that environmental integrity is preserved”, and the guidance and safeguards in the Cancun decision “are fully respected and should be consistent with relevant provisions of relevant COP decisions.
The decision also “Notes that non-market based approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests as a non-market alternative that supports and strengthens governance, the application of safeguards as referred to in (the Cancun decision) and the multiple functions of forests, could be developed”.
There is no reference to the Green Climate Fund and the decision only “encourages the operating entities of the financial mechanism of the Convention to provide results-based finance for the actions concerned (the Global Environment Facility is the current operating entity).
The decision does not have the specific phrase “indigenous peoples”. However there are clear references to the paragraphs on safeguards contained in Appendix 1 of the Cancun Agreements that concern indigenous peoples, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In a statement issued on 15 December in Durban, the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change called on state-parties for human rights to be central in any agreement on climate change and that the REDD-plus safeguards must be implemented to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized, protected and fulfilled in REDD Plus activities.
The recognition of rights, including rights to land, territories and resources, and Free, Prior Informed Consent is crucial for indigenous peoples as this will rectify violation of their rights in the implementation of climate change solutions, it said.
The AWGLCA and the SBSTA of the UNFCCC will continue to work on the details of the decisions from Cancun and Durban. Parties and accredited observers can submit to the UNFCCC Secretariat, by 5 March 2012, their views on modalities and procedures for financing results-based actions and considering activities related to the Cancun decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 68–70 and 72. The secretariat is to prepare a technical paper based on these submissions and these will be inputs to a workshop to be held in 2012.