On the Eko-Eco Blog: Getting REDDy to Cross the Finish Line

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By Maria Bendana

Two Decades in the Making

It's hard to imagine with all the progress REDD has achieved, that it all started less than 20 years ago with the Rio Summit in '92, when the makings of a global sustainability architecture in the form of a climate treaty began to take shape. But a forestry treaty had yet to happen.

It was only in '93 that the Forest Stewardship Council organized its first meeting around reforming governance structures to improve forest management but REDD wasn't even in play yet. In the mid 90s tropical deforestation got a lot of coverage and back then Japan was the bad guy. They were the biggest consumer of tropical hardwood and were tone deaf about it. There was no debate.

The Kyoto meeting in '97 did produce a climate agreement but no real progress on forests. From 2000-2008 were the dark ages under the Bush administration, which didn't even want to talk about the climate. The Foundation community did get a lot of funding requests for forests, climate and carbon but there was a lack of standards and there were the issues of additionality, leakage, permanence and getting the carbon measurement right. In the late 2000 or naughts, the problem of deforestation became clearer. It accounts for about a quarter of all worldwide emissions, more than the global transportation sector combined. Indonesia became the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, due solely to land use change--as their virgin tropical forests were being converter to palm oil plantations to meet global demand.

Finally, while the Copenhagen Accord was disappointing, negotiators reached a near consensus on most issues for a REDD+ agreement. In addition, the interest and attention REDD+ garnered was evident from the numerous side events focused on one or another aspect of REDD+, indigenous issues, MRV systems, etc. While there has been a lack of information, a lack of trust about the kind of deals going on, the first ever historical State of the Forest Carbon Market report has sought to unify this information in a single report outlining once in for all, the market volumes, values, prices, number of deals, market players by region, project type, organization type and standard preferences.

With over 20 years of experience in the forestry sector, Michael Northrup, Program Director of Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, was invited by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to give a Distinguished Lecture, "After Copenhagen: Implications for U.S. Climate, Energy, and Forest Policy" at the high brow, exclusive Cosmos Club. Northrup casually described to the 30 or so people in the room where we are with REDD today and how we got here. Plus he played the "name game" as he knew most of the people in the room.


But are we going to cross the finish line?

Northrup doesn't know if we're going to achieve a climate agreement in Cancun (COP 16) but he says REDD+ has to be multidimensional for it to work properly. That means it has to address not just carbon but communities and the environment as well. It has to adhere to standards that everyone believes in.

And how do you make standards credible? Third party verification.

Get it started and fix it later?

REDD is the biggest pool of money that will ever go into the forest sector so deal with it responsibly Northrup advises. For one, actors involved should be aligned. Certification providers (like the Voluntary Carbon Standard, the American Carbon Registry and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity standards) should collaborate since they have a small staff and they need a global network. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) should get involved with REDD by sitting down with the standards folks as well. The United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could support good governance metrics on REDD for national level programs and help craft a compliance grade standard based on the lessons learned from the voluntary standard providers. A shining example of collaboration and alignment of disparate actors is British Columbia and practical lessons could be gleaned from the forestry sector in that region.


This story originally appeared on the Eko-Eco Blog, where you can view blogs on environmental markets and post comments.