CBD Refines Focus on Biodiversity/Deforestation Nexus

Richard Blaustein

A key scientific working group within the Convention on Biological Diversity deliberated painstakingly last week on a REDD+ recommendation that ultimately emphasized national REDD+ approaches for safeguards and indicators relating to biodiversity – an emphasis that works in tandem with the UNFCCC.

A key scientific working group within the Convention on Biological Diversity deliberated painstakingly last week on a REDD+ recommendation that ultimately emphasized national REDD+ approaches for safeguards and indicators relating to biodiversity – an emphasis that works in tandem with the UNFCCC.

MONTREAL | Canada | 10 May 2012 | The Sixteenth meeting (SBSTTA-16) of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice deliberated painstakingly here last week on a REDD+ recommendation that ultimately emphasized national REDD+ approaches for safeguards and indicators relating to biodiversity – an emphasis that works in tandem with UNFCCC REDD+ work – the SBSTTA conference did make progress for information and guidance that address the biodiversity gaps many feel would widen if the UNFCCC launches a REDD juggernaut.          

The SBSTTA did promote further work on safeguards and indicators on the national level and within the CBD’s information exchange. Also, the meeting’s discourse and decision strongly emphasized the REDD+ synergies with the CBD 2020 Action Plan to reduce global biodiversity loss and the Action Plan’s Aichi Principles, which serve as a template for promoting biodiversity governance, establishing protected areas, restoring degraded ecosystems, and other measures.

“Concern for biodiversity has been upstaged by climate change politics at almost every turn in recent years, but the question of biodiversity safeguards for REDD+ is clearly one for the biodiversity experts to tackle,” explained Linda Krueger, Vice President for Government Policy of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Although the debate was sometimes contentious in Montreal this week, in the end, the CBD didn’t shirk its responsibilities.”

The Decision

The SBSTTA meeting’s Working Group I focused on REDD+, along with climate change and other topics.   REDD+ was a particulary difficult subject, and the Working Group chair set up a Friends-of-the-Chair group on REDD+ that met four times when the Working Group was not in session.

That REDD is foremost a UNFCCC initiative for countries, such as Brazil and Mexico,   who are very involved in REDD+   was made clear at this SBSTTA.   Finessing preemption concerns, the CBD SBSTTA Working Group emphasized national approaches to REDD+ to synergize with CBD parties’ national biodiversity programs.
For example, the SBSTTA decision does not specify the three leading REDD-Plus social and environmental   guidance initiatives – the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Readiness Fund Common Approach to Environmental and Social Safeguards for Multiple Delivery Partners, the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), CARE’s REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards, and the UN-REDD Program Social and Environmental Criteria (SEPC) –   but notes “ongoing safeguard initiatives related to REDD+” and “invites Parties and other Governments and relevant organizations involved in these initiatives to share their experiences and lessons learned, as a contribution to the development and implementation of national, and where appropriate sub-national safeguard frameworks…” (Paragraph 10, “XVI/7.).

“On one issue that the CBD could most resonantly address – l and use degradation displaced from forests unto other biomes – the SBSTTA recommendation is politic, yet clear.   The adopted text recommends the upcoming COP to invite “Parties and other Governments, according to national circumstances and priorities, as well as relevant organizations and processes to reduce the risk of displacement of deforestation and forest degradation to areas of lower carbon value and/or higher biodiversity value, and other risks to biodiversity and to indigenous and local communities…” (Paragraph 8)

Indicators and Safeguards

The last CBD COP in 2010 called on the CBD Executive secretary to work with parties and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to “identify possible indicators” and “assess potential monitoring mechanisms” on biodiversity impacts from REDD+ and other climate change mitigation measures for the upcoming 2012 COP. However, SBSTTA, as expected, did not accelerate definitive CBD-REDD indicators work for presentation at the next COP.    

Nonetheless, during the official discussion and in side events, SBSTTA participants highlighted other sources for biodiversity indicators and monitoring for REDD+.   For example, during the Working Group’s REDD+ discussion, Linda Collette, the UN Food and Agriculture (FA0) representative at SBSTTA, pointed out that that the FAO will release in 2015 its revised Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), which “will include data sets of direct relevance to the indicators of the Aichi Targets and REDD+ Safeguards.”

During a joint side event on monitoring tropical biodiversity for the Aichi Principles, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Conservation International (CI) offered the TEAM (Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring) Network as a data source for REDD+ as well as Aichi Principles indicators. The TEAM Network links biodiversity data collection in many tropical sites over extended time frames.   WCS’s Krueger later explained that the TEAM effort is perfectly tailored to “to feed into multiple indicators for the CBD Strategy and for REDD+”.   Krueger added that “TEAM data can help tease apart the combined effects of land use change and climate change itself on several components of biodiversity, including terrestrial mammals, birds, and forest composition.”

Similarly, while the SBSTTA safeguards recommendation could have been stronger, the CBD Secretariat did host a REDD+ Safeguards side-event with presentations given by the World Bank, the CI-CARE group and the UN REDD program on their respective safeguard initiatives.

The side event underscored that the safeguard initiatives have been listening to CBD ideas. For example, the UN REDD SEPC Program, which was formally endorsed in March 2012, has for its Principle 7, “Avoid or minimize adverse impacts on non-forest ecosystem services and biodiversity.”
The initiatives also turn to the CBD as a meeting place and partner. CI’s Ecuador director Luis Suarez presented on the REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards, and he later explained that the CBD helps out with tailoring and implementing REDD+ safeguards, because the CBD has the “experience building consensus among developed and developing nations on how to promote and support the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services through effective partnerships with local stewards such as indigenous peoples and local communities.”   UNEP Barney Dickson, who talked on the UNEP- REDD safeguards, later added: “The CBD can play an important role in assisting countries to implement biodiversity safeguards, by providing information and guidance on appropriate measures to undertake to ensure safeguards are met, and on identifying suitable indicators for safeguard information systems. In addition it can help promote synergies between existing processes and reporting relating to safeguards.”

Multiple Benefits – Ecuador

Multiple benefits seems to be what the CBD wants most to impress upon the REDD+ future. Tim Christophersen, CBD’s Programme Officer for forest biodiversity, said: “I think it has become clear over the past two years that the CBD can play a very supportive role in ensuring the overall success of REDD+. This success depends to some degree on the level of multiple benefits that can be achieved. Biodiversity benefits, and benefits for indigenous and local communities, will increase the acceptance of REDD+.”

In the case Suarez knows best, Ecuador, REDD+SE standards are actively being applied
to enhance multiple benefits in the “Socio Bosque” program which combines poverty alleviation with incentivized forest conservation.   Ecuador instituted Socio Bosque in 2008 and has a goal of conserving 4,000,000 hectares through a variety of forest incentives. According to Suarez, by March 2012 approximately 1,000,000 forest hectares have been conserved under Socio Bosque.

Poverty alleviation is also a central goal of Socio Bosque. Currently, over 90,000 people are now included within the poverty alleviation ambit of Socio Bosque, with many thousands more anticipated to join.  

While the Ecuador government is currently funding Socio Bosque, REDD+ is envisioned for some of the funding. Not all of the Socio Bosque’s forest conservation will be eligible for REDD+, as there are many forested areas included that are not considered threatened.

Suarez sees the Socio Bosque as a “fantastic opportunity of applying REDD+ SE safeguards as it operates at a national level and provides conservation incentives to indigenous peoples and local communities.”  

Just a bit More Waiting

For those hoping to encourage a multiple-benefits REDD+, CBD COP 11 in Hyderabad, India is not too far off. Christophersen highlighted that many appreciated the recent CBD’s workshops on REDD+ and Biodiversity in part, because both CBD and UNFCCC national focal points participated. “This dialogue resulted in a better understanding of the issues for both biodiversity experts, and REDD+ negotiators.” He added that “if the upcoming COP mandates continued CBD involvement in REDD+ capacity building, the Secretariat could also continue to collaborate with the Collaborate Partnership on Forest (including the UNFCCC) members in supporting developing countries to achieve multiple benefits.”


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