REDD+ Finance: What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

Alice Harrison

Transparency International is monitoring Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation plus conservation (REDD+) financing flows in a number of recipient countries. Here, they discuss challenges to transparency encountered in Mexico and Kenya, and call on the general public to take a more active role in policing their governments.

Transparency International is monitoring Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation plus conservation (REDD+) financing flows in a number of recipient countries. Here, they discuss challenges to transparency encountered in Mexico and Kenya, and call on the general public to take a more active role in policing their governments.

Previous Coverage

Last year, we launced another series built on the findings of REDDX alone. Learn more about the initiative HERE

Part One: Tracking REDD+ Finance: Separating The Payers From The Posers provides an overview of the project and laysout its objectives.

Part Two: REDD Funding: The Horror Story That Isn’t examines the cumbersome accounting behind international aid in general and REDD finance in particular.

Part Three: Germany Beats Fast Start Finance But Sees Need For More Scale reviews the results of Germany’s Fast Start Finance period and reasons why they failed to meet their REDD+ commitment targets but succeeded in other areas.

Part Four: REDD+ Finance Leaves Pilot Projects In Limbo tells the story of a Ghanaian businessman seeking to launch a pilot project but is struggling to find funding from both international donors and private investors.

Part Five: The World Bank And The UN-REDD: Big Names, Narrow Focus provides a detailed overview of the biggest funding efforts of REDD+ as well as their interactions with each other.

Part Six: The Congo Basin Forest Fund Steps Up For REDD+ Piloting in DRC describes how the Congo Basin Forest Fund functions, who are the funders and lessons learned.

Part Seven: Brazil, Indonesia, And DRC Cooperate On Deforestation, See Future In REDD takes a high-level view of the impact of multilateral financing efforts on Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to date, and examines the prospects for REDD moving forward.

1 August 2013 | A colleague recently likened his experience tracking climate and REDD+ money in Mexico to an archaeological dig. Little by little, fragments of your object begin to reveal themselves, but not without a significant amount of time, resources and tenacity.

At Transparency International (TI) we have been monitoring climate finance flows in six countries – of which four are REDD+- recipients. Gaining clarity over what money is going where is a first step to ensuring that the money does what it should, where it should, and doesn’t surreptitiously slip into the wrong bank account, or get lost among the myriad of climate finance projects currently proposed or underway.

Transparency is like a prophylactic against negligent or corrupt spending. The trouble with REDD+ is that – in experience – transparency has been fairly poor. Often this is due not to REDD+ systems or institutions per se, but broader issues such as access to information and budget classification.

Take the situation in Kenya. The Kenya Forest Service is responsible for managing a combined grant of US $400,000 from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and UN-REDD to develop Kenya’s REDD+ Readiness Plan. Information provided on the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife’s website confirms this and provides an outline of the activities to be undertaken under the readiness plan. The plan itself is missing from the site though, as is a more detailed breakdown of expenditure lines.

The missing parts of the puzzle are hard to come by. Access to information is provided for in Kenya’s 2010 constitution, but in the absence of accompanying laws it remains somewhat of a hollow promise – requests for information can be met with silence or long delays. At times our team found it easier to look for information through other means such as identifying informers in the relevant ministries.

Mexico, meanwhile, boasts one of the world’s strongest access to information laws, with an institutional architecture on-hand to enforce it. The problem TI staff encountered there, however, was that while government bodies responded to their information requests, they simply didn’t have the relevant information. This is due in large to an inadequate system of budget classification. There is no single database to distinguish REDD-related expenditure from other categories of public money, including adaptation finance and development aid. This means that it is hard to trace the journey that REDD+ money takes through the national budget, let alone its impact.

Hurdles like these are not exceptional, they are to be found in a great deal of climate finance-recipient countries. Many donor states also have a poor track record for accounting for REDD+ finance in a clear, timely and accessible way. One has to wonder – if an anti-corruption organisation like Transparency International struggles to ascertain where and how this money is being spent, how do its beneficiaries stand a chance of holding their leaders to account for it?

Opacity can be explained by many things. Sometimes it’s born of habit – the continuation of a historical culture of privacy. Often it is a capacity issue, with government agencies lacking the staff or the resources to consolidate data and make it publicly accessible. Regardless of cause or intent, however, a lack of transparency can serve to shield behaviour that is irresponsible, illegal or corrupt.

REDD+ money is a scarce resource. Ensuring that it is spent fairly and wisely will require carefully watching the movement of money, scrutinising the rationale for its allocation, and raising the red flag when things go awry. There is a great deal of untapped potential in citizen monitoring. If members of the public are given access to better data on REDD+ spending, they can act as watchdogs to help ensure its effectiveness.

Before this can happen, we need national registries that disaggregate REDD+ from other monetary flows. We also need full transparency of information for all projects, and proactive as opposed to reactive disclosure. Without this, there is greater risk that REDD+ won’t work.

Read more about Transparency International’s work tracking climate finance here, and its REDD+ risk assessments in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam here.  

This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas, this blog reflects the opinions of Alice Harrison of Transparency International, and should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI, REDDX or Climate Funds Update.

Alice Harrison is advocacy and communications coordinator on Transparency International’s Climate Finance Integrity Programme, a multi-country programme aimed at preventing corruption in the climate sector.

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About This Series

Forest Trends’ REDDX and the Overseas Development Institute’s Climate Funds Update are launching a collaborative series exploring existing efforts to provide transparency to the global efforts to slow climate change by saving forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). The aim of this series is to identify niches and promote more collaborative approaches that will build up a comprehensive picture of the state of REDD+ policy and finance and lead to more effective gaps and needs analysis.

Part One: REDD+ Finance: Who’s Counting, introduces the series and lays out its goals.

Part Two: REDD+: What You See Isn’t Always What You Get, examines finance accounting in Kenya and Mexico and calls for more civil-society involvement in tracking flows.

Part Three: REDD+ Finance: Lessons From The US explores the different methods of accounting for REDD+ Finance, drawing on examples from the US as well as Norway and the UK.

Part Four
REDD+ Finance: What Do We Know About The Private Sector Contribution? discusses the gap in private sector funding for REDD+ and what can be done about it.

Part Five: REDD+ FInance: Private Lessons For The Public Sphere examines the lessons that policymakers designing tomorrow’s public-sector programs can learn from today’s private-sector projects.

Part Six REDD+ Finance: Where Next? the series’ final installment, provides an overview of steps that need to be taken in order to better understand and track REDD+ Finance.