The Copenhagen Accord has drawn fire because it's not a legally-binding climate agreement on targets and funding mechanisms, but progress has been made on many sticky issues beyond the accord. To begin with, the main negotiating body charged with drafting a text for dealing with mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) as well as for promoting forest conservation, enhancement of forest carbon stocks and sustainable forest management (REDD-plus) released a four-page draft that reveals widespread agreement on many once-contentious issues. Moreover, Norway, Japan, the United States, Britain, France and Australia pledged $3.5 billion in short term funding for REDD+.
The draft was handed over on Thursday of week two of the Conference of Parties to high level ministers to ultimately decide on. The proverbial REDD+ sausage that came out of the Copenhagen Polsevogn was not entirely complete. While there is no REDD+ mechanism set in place, enough was agreed on to continue to tend the garden of forest carbon offsets. Nonetheless, even without a legally binding REDD+ mechanism, the private sector has a crucial yet experimental role to play in implementing sub national demonstration activities and bridging them to the national level.
For a roundup of a year of negotiations leading to Copenhagen and starting in Poznan to provide some context, the Global Canopy Programme’s (GCP) blog provides an historical overview of the negotiations as well as an overall analysis of the COP 15 REDD+ negotiations.
Consensus: Sub national Approaches Survive REDD+ Text
The draft conclusions from the Advanced Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) REDD-plus negotiating text are similar to the previous version from the last round of talks in Barcelona, the so-called "non-paper 39", but negotiators this time around have removed brackets (in UN speak this means consensus has been reached) from the principles (paragraph 1), scope (paragraph 3), sub-national approaches (paragraph 7 and 13) and social and environmental safeguards (paragraph 2).
Other goodies include the mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), addressing land tenure and gender considerations, reference to biological diversity and ecosystem services and precluding the conversion of natural forests.
The safeguards are now part of the operational text, not the preamble—previously it was thought that moving the safeguards to the preamble weakened them. However, the lack of definition for one of the eligible activities, ‘sustainable management of forests’, under scope is cause for concern among some environmentalists. A consortium of organizations developed the following briefing defining what sustainable management of forests would entail.
A Nested Approach: Sub-National Systems as Part of National Systems
Another area of agreement was the draft decision on methodological guidance for REDD+ reached by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Some of the highlights include SBSTA echoing the AWG-LCA in recognizing the need to engage indigenous peoples and local communities and develop guidance for their involvement in monitoring and reporting. It established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines as the basis for estimating emissions from land use activities, removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks and forest area changes. The draft decision also approved sub national forest monitoring systems as long as they were part of a national system (paragraph 1.d) and promotes historically adjusted forest reference emissions levels and/or forest reference levels (proxies in the interim).
Going forward, SBSTA will play an increasingly significant role in continuing the work of establishing a REDD+ mechanism. The AWG-LCA has requested SBSTA to establish:
Discord and/or Missing Core Components
Nonetheless, the ministers left many issues unresolved to be concluded by the next COP in Mexico City, such as the global targets and timeframe for halting deforestation and for finance (which in previous versions were suggested to be 50% by 2020 and to halt gross deforestation by 2030 and targets to provide finance amounting to €15-25 billion by 2020), the institutional arrangements (such as market versus public finance mechanisms, a forest emissions inventory, reference levels and a national or international registry), sub national reference levels for initial phases, the measuring, monitoring and verifying (MRV) systems and benefit distribution mechanisms.
Private Sector = Demonstration Activities
The text decides (without brackets) in paragraph 7 that REDD-plus will occur in three phases and acknowledges sub-national strategies and results based demonstration activities as part of those strategies "beginning with the development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures and capacity building, followed by the implementation of national policies and measures, and national strategies or actions plans and, as appropriate, sub national strategies, that could involve further capacity building, technology transfer and results based demonstration activities, and evolving into results-based actions.”
The text goes further on to explain that, depending on national circumstances and capacities and level of support received, developing country parties have the autonomy to decide how these activities will be implemented (such as whether sub national activities will receive tradable credits). This is consistent with the principles outlined in the first paragraph, which state that the implementation of activities should be country driven and respect national sovereignty. In other words, countries control the process and ultimately have the authority to allow an interim sub national approach if they so wish—perhaps utilizing a conservative and historically adjusted sub national reference level proxy until a robust national system is in place.
The private sector can play the role of providing investment, developing REDD+ projects and programs, providing services and acquiring REDD+ credits via transactions. More than likely, the Designated National Authorities (DNA)s will act as an intermediary through which the private sector will have to seek approval to develop and sell its credits. Access to and rules of the market are key for enabling the private sector to participate fully.
Following the aforementioned phase structure the following are some of the institutions and schemes that can finance each of the stages including private sector demonstration activities:
The Bali Action Plan
At the end of the 2007 COP in Bali, Indonesia, climate-change negotiations under the UNFCCC were split into to tracts: one that focuses on updating the existing Kyoto Protocol, and one that focuses on creating a whole new protocol.
Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP)
This working group is primarily charged with negotiating future commitments from industrialized nations in the Kyoto Protocol, which are the only countries obligated to make reductions under that agreement.
Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA)
This group focuses on developing a plan of long-term cooperation between developing and industrialized countries, focusing on the following issues: mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financial provision.
Because Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) was not included in the Kyoto Protocol, its role in policy is discussed in the AWG-LCA, which formed a “subsidiary body”, the the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), to discuss the technical aspects of REDD. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrial countries can write off emissions captured through Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) against their industrial emissions. Because LULUCF is covered by the Kyoto Protocol, talks take place in the AWG-KP tract.
Maria Bendana manages the Forest Carbon Portal, a project of Ecosystem Marketplace. She can be reached at email@example.com.