REDD: No Clear Targets

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Jungle on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

Jungle on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

By Servaas van den Bosch

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) With five days to go at COP15 the REDD proposal no longer offers tangible targets for halting deforestation. A safeguard on the conversion of natural forest into plantations has been re-inserted though.

Reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) could lower global CO2 output by 15 percent, say scientists.

After the last UNFCCC session in Barcelona in November, a target of a 50 percent drop in the rate of deforestation by 2020 -and a complete ban on loss of forest cover by 2030 – had provisionally included in the agreement. Both have now been cut from the draft text of the LCA working group on REDD, which is in possession of TerraViva.

The text is still under negotiation and it is expected that final details around REDD funding will only emerge at the ministers’ meeting upcoming week.

Guarding against forest conversion

Critical language about safeguards, rights of indigenous people and drivers of deforestation has been moved from the operational text to the preamble.

“Without targets, REDD becomes toothless,” commented Peg Putt of the Wilderness Society. “The so-called safeguards will be nothing but fancy window dressing unless they are given legal force.”

The safeguards against conversion of natural forests were removed during the UNFCCC meeting in Bangkok in October. Forest campaigners protested this would permit the large-scale destruction of natural forests by converting them into commercial plantations, eligible for REDD funding.

Paragraph 4 of the current draft only “encourages” parties involved in setting up REDD projects to address drivers of deforestation.

“Global demand for forest commodities like illegal timber and palm oil is one of the leading causes of tropical deforestation around the world,” said Andrea Johnson of Environmental Investigation Agency. “If we don’t address the causes of the problem, how can we find a solution?”

Protecting indigenous rights

Similarly the draft agreement does not spell out clear protection for marginalised groups, but encourages parties to pursue “means of ensuring the full and effective participation, taking into account gender considerations of indigenous people and local communities.”

“A mere encouragement would not be enough to make sure the right of indigenous people are respected,” WWF’s climate chief Kim Carstensen told TerraViva. “The current text is too much a preamble and breathes too little decision.”

However, the latest indications from sources within the negotiations are that paragraph 4 will get a more compulsory character. There are also strong signs a suggestion to following United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) could be turned into a binding condition.

“The language on rights of indigenous people is not as strong as we had expected,” says Robert Buhereko, REDD working group coordinator of civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“Many nations, like the DRC, have no national legislation to protect the right of indigenous people, or don’t enforce it. So it’s crucial that countries are bound to UNDRIP, otherwise the agreement is really weak.”

“If UNDRIP becomes binding, it will be interesting to see the reaction of countries that haven’t signed the declaration, like the U.S.,” Lou Verchot, principal scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) told TerraViva. “That might delay an agreement.”

For the love of peat

The issue of degradation of peat lands, which according to a recent Dutch study attributes to three percent of greenhouse gas emissions – more than global air traffic – has not been included in the agreement to the disappointment of observer groups following the talks.

“Peat soils are a key part of many countries’ plans to reduce their emissions, including large emitters like Indonesia,” said Susanna Tol of Wetlands International. “If peat soils are not in REDD, these efforts will go unsupported.”

The actions that the negotiators did manage to agree on held little surprises. The LCA instructs the SBSTA, the technical body of the UNFCCC to develop a mechanism for measuring, reporting and verifying emissions and calls for adequate funding from industrialised nations.

There’s still disagreement whether finance will be distributed through a new fund established under the Conference of the Parties or “existing bilateral and multilateral channels”.

A controversial issue that has not been resolved it whether to put REDD under the National Appropriate Mitigations Action (NAMA) mechanism that is being negotiated in Copenhagen. The NAMAs encompass all mitigation actions taken by developing countries, rather than just the forest related ones.

“The negotiations on REDD are much further than on NAMAs, so integrating them would be a roadblock for the implementation of REDD,” says Verchor.

He considers the main drawbacks of the text that there is no mention of international leakage (the relocating of emissions) and no indication of the amount of funding that will be required to realise REDD.

“What is encouraging about this draft though is that it’s result-based and that the negotiators have prescribed a clear link between REDD and reducing poverty.”

“REDD cannot just focus on reducing emissions, it most also deliver co-benefits. That is a good thing.”

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