Get ready for an end to the annual drama of year-end climate talks that start with optimism on forest carbon only to bog down in technical discussions that leave REDD language in limbo until it’s either rewritten in the closing days of the high-level segment or put on ice. It happened again in Warsaw, but this year’s late-session rewrite may have ended that particular drama forever.
26 November 2013 | When climate-change negotiators convened in Warsaw two weeks ago, they came to the table with a nearly-complete “REDD Rulebook” for countries that want to use carbon finance to save endangered rainforest and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). The talks were, it seemed, just a few sentences away from achieving the kind of clarity on REDD and REDD+ that would make it possible to direct billions of dollars in stalled finance to slow deforestation.
But then the gears jammed as they always seem to, and they only got unjammed late last Thursday night, when REDD negotiators signed off on a new set of institutional arrangements that Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec, acting in his capacity as President of the Conference of the Parties (COP), had drawn up earlier in the week. Those arrangements were approved by the entire COP late Friday, and they may end up preventing exactly the kind of logjam that led to their creation.
They do that by establishing a forum where high-level negotiators from REDD countries can compare notes and create recommendations an draft decisions that they submit directly to the COP, which is comprised of high-level negotiators, instead of putting them first through technical committees, which are often comprised of people who have very little room to negotiate. A separate decision on results-based finance creates a standing committee within the COP that can influence the rules being disseminated to the Green Climate Fund and all of the other bilateral, private-sector, and multilateral initiatives underway.
Why it Matters
At stake are billions of dollars that countries from Norway to the United States have set aside for REDD+. The money is dispatched from departments of state, forestry, and aid in the donor countries to multilateral organizations like the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the United Nations Collaborative Initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN-REDD), and the Forest Investment Program (FIP) before finding its way to countries as diverse as Peru, Ethiopia, and Indonesia. Once there, it has to work its way through another set of recipient agencies before finding its way to activities on the ground.
REDD countries looking to receive the money have to follow different rules depending on which multilateral agencies and donor countries they are working with. The criteria are often foggy; the rules, diverse – and the costs of applying, prohibitive.
“On top of this, you have voluntary markets doing something totally different involving the private sector, and California is doing something in another zone, also in the private sector,” says Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea’s Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment & Climate Change and executive director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. “The [decision on institutional arrangements] is basically making it possible for the UNFCCC to now start giving recommendations to all of these bodies if they prove to be consistent with the rulebook that we created this year.”
The REDD “Rulebook”
The “Rulebook” is actually a collection of separate decisions that together provide clear guidance on how countries can harvest available scientific data to create reliable snapshots of their forests over time and to use these snapshots to create deforestation reference levels that will be recognized by the UNFCCC. The decisions govern, among other things, modalities for monitoring national forests, addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and measuring, reporting and verifying activities designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s still, however, not clear what sort of payoffs that data will yield long-term, and for that there’s the work program for developing results-based finance in support of REDD and a new set of arrangements between the COP and the Green Climate Fund. The decisions also includes a mechanism for helping developing countries deal with loss and damage from climate change.
Where to From Here?
Before presenting their ideas in December, members of the new forum will meet together at least once – in Bonn, Germany, in June. There, barring an emergence of parliamentary drama, they will work out a method for organizing themselves and begin the formal process of formulating their proposals. After that, they will meet formally at least once each summer and informally throughout the year.
The aim, according to Conrad, is not to concentrate or control finance flows, but to recognize the current reality and create a level playing field.
“Donors can actually pick whichever country they want to, but they have to agree that they’ll use a consistent rule book,” he says. “That rule book will be consistent with the processes that the UNFCCC is setting up, and the process of coordination is designed to try and fill the gaps for countries that are doing good work but don’t have access to finance because they don’t happen to be the favorites of the bilateral community.”
He expects a clumsy period of transition, but believes the long-term effect will be less bureaucracy on the part of donors and more coordination.
“We’ll be encouraging the FCPF and UN-REDD to actually shorten the agenda of their meetings, remove the redundant issues that they cover, and coordinate meetings so that developing countries aren’t wasting money flying all over the world.”
In 2017, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) will review the outcomes of the meetings and recommend a further steps to be considered by the COP.
Steve Zwick is Managing Editor of Ecosystem Marketplace. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org>
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