See the Green in REDD+, Say Top Leaders in Cancún

Posted on 09 December 2010 by admin

By Keya Acharya

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 9, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva) An entire body of leaders, spearheaded by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is now looking at REDD+ as a panacea to global warming with multiple benefits thrown in.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

“REDD+ is the ‘shortest shortcut’ to address climate change; we will do all we can to support it, ” Ban told a packed audience of dignitaries, heads of state, indigenous community leaders, NGOs, forestry organisations and citizens convened by influential US NGO, Avoided Deforestation Partners.Org, on the sidelines of high-level deliberations at Cancún.

REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. It essentially supports developing countries financially and technically to either prevent deforestation or regenerate forests, and is currently not a part of either the Kyoto Protocol or the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It is, however, being both pushed and deliberated on at the meetings underway currently in Cancún.

“The overall message of REDD+ is that it is progressing well,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. “The personal leadership of heads of state of national governments like Guyana, Brazil and Indonesia has helped. So the main effort is by national governments.”

REDD+ has garnered around $4.5 billion in funds so far through bilateral agreements. Most of the funding currently is from Norway, which is funding both reforestation and avoided deforestation programmes in Guyana and Indonesia.

In May 2010, Norway signed a $1 billion deal with Indonesia, which Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of Indonesia’s government REDD+ Unit, said was a partnership that is the best way to approach the climate change problem and which he hoped would become a worldwide model.

Kuntoro, however, added that the process of REDD+ needed careful consideration in its implementation.

“From an economy that was based on cutting trees, we are now introducing a new way of managing things without cutting. It needs a whole new paradigm of government change,” said Kuntoro.

Kuntoro’s leadership in the reconstruction of Aceh after the devastating tsunami of December 2005, with 93 percent of funds actually seeing direct results on the ground, has been lauded by the international community.

Norway’s PM Stoltenberg also highlighted the political risk involved in staking money on REDD+.

“It’s hard to win elections by raising taxes,” quipped Stoltenberg, “which is why we too are dependent on the success of Indonesia’s efforts. The concept is simple: we pay per tonne of carbon reduced, measured after a year.”

“Besides,” he continued, “as a political investor, transformation is essential.”

Billionaire-philanthropist George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundation which has given over $50 million so far to REDD+ efforts, says “REDD+ is a method that can be done, and can be done cheaper than any other method.”

International forestry organisations and prominent individuals like Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai and U.N .Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall are in strong favour of promoting REDD+.

In a video message to the group at Cancún, Maathai said she saw REDD+ as an excellent livelihood option, apart from its conservation and climate change benefits, while Goodall said conserving and re-generating forests would help save the world’s rich biodiversity.

But in spite of the high-profile support for REDD+, one of its first executors, Guyanan President Bharrat Jagdeo, highlighted in blunt terms the difficulties in getting the international financial institutions “up to speed” on the matter.

“What I have a problem with is I have x tonnes of carbon saved, Norway is paying, but I can’t get the money,” said Jagdeo. The World Bank, in this instance, has mired the Norwegian aid in bureaucracy so deep that Jagdeo feels political will be lost in using this new tool.

“Developing countries run the risk of the same situation as before: if there is no corresponding flow of finance, political capital will be lost,” he said.

Developing nations have been complaining throughout the talks at Cancún that climate financing, either promised or in general, is unforthcoming.

None of the $30 billion promised till 2012 by industrialised nations at Copenhagen last December for adaptation and mitigation in poorer countries has been remitted so far. A further $100 billion was promised for the same along with technology transfer by 2020.

With official funding through the U.N. framework remaining a serious problem anyway, REDD+’s propagation seems to hold out promise through the market, as in the case of the U.S. state of California.

Unlike its national government, California has a law to reduce emissions by 2020 to 1990 levels, with a slew of features like ‘cap and trade’, energy efficiency, clean cars and low-carbon operations. It now uses this to implement its REDD+ market strategy, while it waits to pass its draft REDD+ law.

The vice president of the Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation, Steve Kline, says the system works only because it is both climate-effective and cost-effective.

“So we have renewables, low-carbon operations and together we have offsets with local California companies. But we had to convince our customers first,” explained Kline.

Significant progress has been made so far at the Cancún talks to formulate a REDD+ strategy with components for local community rights, and gender considerations.

But while the drafts on REDD+ are almost ready at the Cancún deliberations, organisations like CARE International urge caution in finalising all REDD+ drafts.

“The critical issue in a REDD mechanism is to have strong safeguards to prevent it from harming the livelihoods and violating the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities,” says Raja Jarrah, CARE’s REDD Advisor.

“The real test will be how the words unfold into implementation on the ground,” says Jarrah.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Norman Lippman Says:

    REDD+ will yield no additional green unless it require forest community’s land tenure and legal rights…It doesn’t yet!

    Would you install solar panels or plant redwoods on land you had no enforceable legal right to?

    Imagine you are have practically no legal rights, (i.e. Native Americans vs. Cowboys)and millions of dollars annually will be granted or paid for the carbon holding capacity of your lands and forests. These are the dire problems that 1.6 billion people who depend on the forests now face with the REDD agreement.

    Concerning these risks and rights the latest draft of REDD+ reads:
    “69. Requests developing country Parties, when developing and implementing their national strategies or action plans, to address, inter alia, drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, land tenure issues, forest governance issues, gender considerations and the safeguards identified in paragraph 2 of annex II to this decision, ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and local communities;”

    Requesting to address ownership issues and right to rule of law? Would you want this kind of nonbinding language to assure your access to your home, livelihood, bank account or live?

    The rule of law is a prerequisite for sustainable forest management. I learned this while filming and interviewing Aristeo Blanco, a member of a Mexican tropical forestry community that has managed and marketed certified eco friendly products for over 16 years.

    Standing in his community’s towering bio diverse forest, Aristeo patted a huge mahogany tree ladened with vines and bromeliads. He explained that it takes over 85 years for it to get that big and ready to harvest. But, if his family doesn’t have the security that their forest will remain theirs, how can they or their descendants plan to benefit from growing trees. Instead they’ll fell and burn them so they can plant crops, which they are more likely to harvest. Even with their land title, if they do not have the right to negotiate for their sustainable lumber’s fair price, then they can not afford the cost to manage its growth and regeneration for an 85 years life cycle. But because they have community title to their forest, human rights and economic incentives, they are managing and protecting it for the long term.

    This is a rarity. Living on Earth reports that “governments own about 75 percent of the world’s forests, less than ten percent legally belong to communities. In Indonesia, 65 million people live off forests—most of them have no official rights to the land they consider theirs. In the eyes of the Forestry Ministry, they’re squatters occupying a national resource.” Governments have not protected these forests as effectively as people, like Aristeo, who are on a level legal playing field. England’s Telegarph posted, “Illegal logging in Brazil. 13 million hectares (50,000 square miles) of forest are cut down each year – the equivalent of the size of England – to provide timber or make way for grazing.”

    The World Bank’s Social Development Department agrees with Aristeo about the importance land tenure, it states the following:

    “In one of the most robust studies available on the role of community-owned forests in carbon sequestration with data from 325 sites in 12 countries covering 594 user groups and 211 forest associations, Agrawal (2008) shows that the larger the forest area under community ownership the higher the probability for better biodiversity maintenance, community livelihoods and carbon sequestration.

    The growing evidence that communities and households with secure tenure rights protect, maintain and conserve forests is an important consideration for the world’s climate if REDD schemes go forward, and even if they do not.”

    “The private sector and intergovernmental organizations recognize that clear tenure rights are fundamental to secure and predicable transactions needed to compensate for the opportunity costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.

    ….The cost range of recognizing community tenure rights (average $3.31/ha) is several times lower than the yearly costs estimates for …. an international REDD scheme ($400/ha/year to $20,000/ha/year). … a relatively insignificant investment in recognizing tenure rights has the potential to significantly improve the world’s carbon sequestration and management capacity. …, prioritizing policies and actions aimed at recognizing forest community tenure rights can be a cost-effective step to improve the likelihood that REDD programs meet their goals. World Bank SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT WORKING PAPERS Paper No. 120/December 2009

    From my work and documentary interviews with Indigenous and non indigenous forest communities in 7 Latin American countries over 35 years, I believe that REDD+ should require that these resource statutory rights be made binding for all indigenous people and other forest peoples whose rights do not conflict with the rights of adjoining indigenous peoples. These rights should be a pre-requisite for the granting of REDD+ funds and funds should earmarked for their securing or resolution and enforcement.

    For forest communities, REDD+ should stipulate that resource statutory rights shall be secured or rights conflicts resolved before more than 10% of REDD+ funding are granted. These rights of tenure shall be secured for at least three times the life of the oldest tree species in the forest in question and 51% of REDD+ funds or carbon offsets received by the national or sub national Government will be available to the forest peoples for the enforcement of these rights.

    Private forest owners should be required to have their forests titled as a conservation easement to require adherence to the REDD+ program resource management plan for no less than 3x the life of the oldest tree species in their forest and more if the REDD+ plan requires it before any funds are granted or invested. Non compliance would result in return of funds plus penalties and 51% of REDD+ funds or carbon offsets received by the national or sub national Governments will be earmarked for enforcement.

    The Standards Committee has developed Standards for design and implementation of REDD+. Their standards need to be binding in REDD+ now, not later. Their standards are almost as binding and enforceable as the ones I proposed.

    The private sector would surely prefer to have land conflicts resolved so as to minimize financial and reputation risk. The feudal sector, those who want to expedite REDD+, and the corrupt support the current REDD+ draft.

    Money for REDD+ can be had easier than the rule of law in tropical forests. REDD+ could be easily gamed unless it requires standards for resource tenure and human rights. There will never be enough environmental cops to protect these forests from either those who are “above the law”, corrupt insiders or those “below the law”, poor forest people who have no long term legal stake in the forests.

    Those who have title and benefit from their forests have a stake in their future and are the most likely to protect them. Governments have not protected these forests as effectively as those few forest peoples, that have human and tenure rights, and can depend on and defend their forest. Rights we take for granted but now must be extended to forest people. One of the most cost and environmentally effective next steps will be to stipulate that prior to REDD+ funding human rights and resource tenure be enforced statutory rights.

    Norman Lippman, documentary filmmaker at the Living Story Foundation has worked in integrated resource development and documentary film in 7 Latin American countries over 35 years. He is directing a documentary series exploring sustainable and profitable community management of these forests. For more REDD+ information and analysis go to,

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