REDD Reference Levels Share Stage With Broader Land-Use Issues In Warsaw

Negotiators meeting in Warsaw this week will focus on the critical issue of establishing reference levels for projects that reduce emissions by protecting endangered rainforest. That will clear the path for more REDD funding, even as side events and informal meetings begin to look at broader agricultural issues that are expected to play a larger role in talks to come.

The REDD Rulebook

The “Rulebook” is actually a collection of seven decisions that together provide guidance on how countries can harvest available 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 a 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 include a mechanism for helping developing countries deal with loss and damage from climate change.

The final decision reached is the one covering institutional arrangements for REDD finance moving forward.

COP 19 Coverage

We covered the COP from beginning to end, with a narrow focus on REDD and those issues still under discussion. Here is the bulk of our coverage, with a few breaking stories omitted.

Demand For Forest Carbon Offsets Rises As Forestland Under Carbon Management Grows sets the stage for Warsaw with a deep dive into the state of forest carbon markets around the world.

REDD, CDM Likely To Find A Place In New Climate Agreement: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres offers hope that the troubled CDM market and REDD projects will be included in the international climate deal expected to be finalized in 2015.

Understanding Carbon Accounting Under The UN Framework Convention is a work in progress designed to explain in simple terms the complexity of carbon accounting under the emerging “REDD Rulebook”.

Indigenous Leaders Stand Up For Active Role In REDD relates what indigenous leaders expect from forest-carbon finance

REDD Reference Levels Share Stage With Broader Land-Use Issues In Warsaw outlines the issues on the table at the beginning of the talks.

In Warsaw As In California, Forest Carbon Carrot Needs Compliance Stick  explores the need for compliance drivers to boost demand for forest carbon offsets.

Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study  highlights the missed opportunities to link multiple benefits in projects that aim to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Dutch Platform Turns Landscapes Talk Into REDD Reality examines a new platform unveiled in Warsaw that could serve as a model for future public-private partnerships for financing REDD+ projects.

The REDD Finance Roundtable: A Quick Chat With EDF, WWF, and UCS takes stock of the talks on the eve of the final REDD agreement.

For REDD Proponents, No Regrets  examines the early success of REDD pilot projects despite sluggish progress made in securing policy and financial support at the national and international levels.

US, UK, Norway Launch Next-Stage REDD Finance Mechanism Under World Bank examines a financing mechanism designed to support performance-based payments down the road.

After the talks, we began digging into the decisions and themes of the two-week talk, and will be rolling these stories out as they take shape.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part One: The Institutional Arrangements explores the last-minute deal that lays rules for governing REDD finance through 2015.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Two: Recognizing The Landscape Reality explores the thinking behind the growing emphasis on “landscape thinking” in climate finance.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Three: COP Veterans Ask, ‘Where’s The Beef?’ explores the reaction of carbon traders to the Warsaw outcomes and offers a peek into the year ahead.

Further stories in this series will explore the impact of individual decisions within the rulebook, the role that the rulebook can play in helping existing projects nest in jurisdictional programs, and the impact of the rulebook on the private sector.


12 November 2013 | WARSAW| Poland | Developed countries have set aside billions of dollars to help rainforest nations save their forests by earning credits for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). They won’t start spending it in a big way, however, until they see trustworthy reference levels that tell them both how much carbon is captured in the recipient countries’ forests, farms, and prairies and how that carbon content is changing.

Developing countries, on the other hand, are reluctant to invest time and effort in creating reference levels until they know the money will flow. Some of them, most notably Brazil, are also adamantly against third-party verification, which they see as a violation of sovereignty.

These and other issues are a central focus of talks today, as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) works to crystallize existing principles for the creation of reference levels into concrete guidelines that will be shared with the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) tomorrow.

The general expectation here is that a text will be finished and approved by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-ADP) by the end of the week. It then gets handed up to the high-level negotiators – the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC – next week.

The Knowledge and Finance Gaps

By issuing clear guidance, the UNFCCC aims to help close the knowledge gap, which will help close the finance gap next year. This week’s guidance, however, will still leave a massive hole in the general understanding that forestry practitioners have of terrestrial carbon accounting.

Several efforts are underway to correct this, chief among them being an intensive month-long course in advanced terrestrial carbon accounting that the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched at UCSD’s La Jolla campus this summer. We participated in that program, and are in the process of harvesting our notes for a detailed primer on carbon accounting, which is under development here.

Wider Agriculture

Tangential to the talks, SBSTA also held a workshop earlier today to explore the technical and scientific aspects of helping agriculture adapt to climate change. While efforts to use carbon finance to promote climate-safe agriculture have not proven economical, they have increased yields enough to make the practices worthwhile. Carbon finance may help by funding education and other efforts in support of agriculture.

The weekend in the middle of the talks is traditionally reserved for “Forests Day”, but this year it’s been replaced with “Landscapes Day”, which is designed to explore the interconnected drivers of land-use change.


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The UNFCCC Process

The LCA and KP are dead. Short live the ADP.

That’s the overriding theme here as the two negotiating tracks that have existed since the Bali climate talks officially blend into the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-ADP), which is charged with delivering a global pact by the end of 2015. After that, if all goes according to plan, the ADP itself will be replaced with something that will guide us into a low-carbon future.

But while the high-level negotiating takes place in the ADP, the technical issues are still unfolding in the subsidiary bodies: primarily, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which focuses on technical issues, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), which handles issues related to implementation.

The next COP is scheduled for November, 2014, in Peru, but Ban Ki Moon is trying to turbo-charge that meeting with an extraordinary Climate Summit in New York in September.

Then comes COP 21 in Paris, designed to emerge with a new binding global agreement to be implemented by 2020.