REDD+ Progresses, LULUCF Regresses in Cancún Agreements

Steve Zwick

UN climate talks wrapped up early Saturday morning with agreement on the need to incentivize REDD+ but ambivalence on how to do that.  They also established the “Green Climate Fund”, but backslid substantially on LULUCF.  Here’s an initial summary of those aspects of the newly-minted “Cancún Agreements” that directly relate to saving trees.


11 December 2010 | CANCUN |   After two weeks of intense negotiations, another Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has come and gone. Working through Friday until the early hours of Saturday morning, bleary eyed delegates jetted home to 193 nations having signed the “Cancun Agreements.”

The agreements themselves do not set up binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they do make it clear that it’s necessary to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) if reductions are to be achieved.

The REDD Consensus

The bulk of the REDD framework is described on page 11 of the Draft Decision of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action, but decisions and views relevant to REDD are dispersed throughout the text.

Whether Markets?

The text doesn’t really address whether market-based mechanisms can be used to finance REDD – largely because Bolivia has been a vocal opponent of such mechanisms.   In fact, the country’s negotiating team began the talks calling for market mechanisms to be explicitly excluded from REDD.

“Negotiators basically punted on the decision to decide on the use of markets until next year in South Africa,” explained Duncan Marsh, Director of International Climate Policy, at The Nature Conservancy, referring to next year’s COP 17.

National vs. Sub-National

The REDD text does address a second contentious point – namely, whether REDD accounting should happen at a national or sub national level.

Specifically, it calls for the creation of national systems of monitoring and reporting actions that save forests, but also allows for “sub national monitoring and reporting as an interim measure”.   This acknowledges the long-term need to account for emissions nation-wide to prevent leakage, but acknowledges that some countries may not be able to get up to speed as quickly as others.

Green Climate Fund

Also, relevant to financing forest conservation, parties agreed to create a Green Climate Fund. The use of the fund is still to be determined, but it could finance REDD, as well as technology transfer and ways of helping those countries most susceptible to climate change adapt to its consequences.

Rights and Obligations

The first two pages of the text address several key issues tangential to REDD.

They make it clear that developed countries are obligated to finance REDD, stating, “in the context of the provision of adequate and predictable support to developing country Parties, Parties should collectively aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss…”

They also emphasize social and environmental safeguards, including “the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and local communities”.

They make it clear that developing countries must develop national strategies or action plans, as well as national forest monitoring systems and safeguards, and they urge Parties to help finance these plans, develop capacity and technology, and launch demonstration activities.


On the   land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) front, less progress was make as developed and developing countries remain divided over the so-called “logging loophole”, which has dogged negotiations for years and lets developing countries choose which activities they will and will not include in accounting.

Overall, despite the text limitations, the Cancun outcome was a pleasant surprise for many stakeholders, many of which arrived to Cancun still burned by dismal outcome of Copenhagen. In interviews several experts suggested that acceptance of REDD might be a green light signal for further progress in the climate discussion. “Historically the forestry issue is difficult to deal with technically and politically. If negotiators call roll up their sleeves, construct functional negotiations and on agree on   REDD, I don’t see why they can’t make this kind of progress across other issues next year at COP17 in South Africa,” notes Gus Silva Chavez, Climate and Forest Specialist at Environmental Defense Fund.


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