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Friday, December 17, 2010

Climate agreement reached in Cancun

Ministers meeting in Cancun, Mexico reached a series of agreements that include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 2°C, greater protections for forests, and a new U.N.-administered climate fund finance mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. While the "Cancun Agreement" doesn't set any binding targets, it lays the groundwork for a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

In total 26 agreements were reached, including language that advances the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, which aims to compensate developing countries for protecting their forests. Although many of the details around REDD+ are still on the table, the text includes social and environmental ‘safeguards’ and creates space for interim "sub-national" projects nested under national monitoring and reporting systems. The agreement does not address whether market-based mechanisms (e.g. carbon trading) can be used to finance REDD. Read more and the various views on the REDD+ outcome from Cancun

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Experiences on REDD+ implementation and partnership in West Africa

A side event took place on Monday December 6, 2010 on the challenges of implementing REDD+ mechanism in the West African region. It was organized by Association des clubs des Amis de la Nature du Cameroun (ACAN) and ANCC.

A case study of Liberia was provided by Mr. Urias Goll (a member of the national delegation), given that the country has a large chunk of forest land (42% of the remaining Upper Guinean forest cover). Liberia itself has 45 – 48% of the land are under forest cover, but the deforestation rate is 0.3% per year.

According to Urias, the main drivers of deforestation like in many other African countries include commercial timber logging and illegal chain sawing; charcoal burning; illegal mining that seem to be a viable livelihood option after the civil war; and the traditional unsustainable farming practices.

To date, Liberia has embarked on the REDD+ development (Project Inception Note and consultations). This has resulted in having an institutional framework that is intended to involve a wide range of actors including civil society, government institutions across a range of sectors (energy, agriculture, CDM, among others).

In addition several studies have been carried out, for example a low carbon economy study (towards a 25-year Low Carbon development Strategy for Liberia); how to put in place a benefit-sharing mechanism and a trust fund; capacity needs assessment; legal and policy review, reference scenarios; regulations to manage chain saw activities, among others.

Though the process in Liberia and West Africa seems to be moving on as discussed, there are challenges noted as follows:

- Lack of skills and need to have translations into local languages

- Ensuring community buy-in as some still remain skeptical about the REDD concept

- Dealing with new partners who come with new ideas, strategies that need to be negotiated upon.

- How to take into account the local land tenure systems

- The form of benefit / revenue sharing mechanisms to be used (community livelihood improvement? how?)

- Alignment with oil palm development. In Liberia Government signed 2 contracts for palm oil expansion on ‘degraded lands’.

In the ensuring plenary discussion, updates were given for Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. One participant noted that REDD+ is a intelligence test for humanity in addition to the above challenges and corruption tendencies. ‘Education programmes and understanding of the REDD+ process are long overdue’, He added.

Another participant warned that design of REDD+ projects is an essential stage that will either secure participation (and success) or the opposite resulting in a failure that Africa will live to regret (like the dismal progress in CDM projects).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Carbon Rights in REDD+: Towards a common understanding

REDDnet’s event on Carbon Rights took place last Saturday. There were 3 presentations followed by a panel discussion and an open floor discussion.

The presentations by Robert O’Sullivan (Climate Focus - US); Guillermo Navarro (CATIE – Costa Rica); Alvaro Umana (Costa Rica), Yaw Osafo (Ghana), Marlea Munez (CoDeREDD – Phillipines) attempted to answer a set of questions. These included: what a carbon right is and whether, or under what circumstances, carbon rights constitute a new form of legal right that is specific to REDD+; Why and whether carbon rights need to be defined at all; implications on the interpretation of carbon rights in national REDD+ processes and projects doe different actors (opportunities and risks for local communities and indigenous peoples, governments and project developers); and the steps needed to ensure that the interpretation of carbon rights in REDD+ results in systems which are environmentally effective and equitable.

Robert O’Sullivan introduced the concept of carbon rights and drew a distinction between Carbon rights and carbon credit. He noted that carbon rights includes rights to carbon credits and / or benefits form the sale of carbon credits or other payments or benefits received from emission reductions or removals. On the other hand, carbon credit is a tradeable unit (credit, offsets, and allowances) that include a bundle of legal rights for example in the ownership, sale or use.

He further drew gave the options on REDD+ carbon rights and benefit flows: funding source being from non market or market-based approaches, in which case the role of governments will vary.

Guillermo and Alvaro gave experiences from Costa Rica, where they noted that carbon rights are not explicit in the law, resulting in complexity in who owns land and forest resources.

Yaw and Marlea gave their experiences of carbon rights in Ghana and the Philippines, noting that the concept is yet to be fully understood, brings up capacity gaps and the need to scale up access to information to local communities, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.

Some learning points from this side event are:

- Recognition of carbon rights is a slow process requiring institutional reforms, transparency and trust among the relevant stakeholders in the respective countries

- Land tenure clarity is an issue that will take long to sort out in many developing countries with implications on the carbon rights regime(s).

- Carbon rights are not alienated from other rights and hence need to be looked at from this perspective.

For a summary of the issues raised visit the link

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Burundi’s second National Communications on Climate Change: Why is it urgent to address the increasing vulnerability to Climate Change

Yesterday, I attended the launch of Burundi’s second National Communications on Climate Change - a report on the steps a country is taking or envisage undertaking to implement the UNFCCC (Articles 4.1 and 12).

In accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in this Convention, the required contents of these national communications and the timetable for their submission is different for Annex I (developed) and non-Annex I (developing country) Parties.

Each non-Annex I Party shall submit its initial communication within three years of the entry into force of the Convention for that Party, or of the availability of financial resources (except for the least developed countries, which may do so at their discretion).

According to the UNFCCC, of the 153 non-Annex I Parties, 137 have submitted their initial national communications, 24 their second national communications, one party each their third and fourth national communications.

Supported by UNDP and GEF, Burundi prepared its second national report (2006 – 2009) that has been launched in Cancun. Like many East African Countries, Burundi is faced with food insecurity that has been aggravated by unstable climate conditions affecting the this region in recent years.

For example, the World Bank has drawn attention to the exceptionally high rate of deforestation in Burundi, estimated at 9% per year between 1996 and 2000. This has contributed to degradation of soil, marshlands and possibly the reduction in the water level of Lake Tanganyika.

Burundi is a country with a high population growth that puts excessive pressure on the arable lands and natural resources (90% of the population depends on agriculture). Hence the sensitive interaction between climate change, sustainable ecosystems and food security will present a most demanding challenge for the government and donors.

This Second National Communications underscored the vulnerability of Burundi to Climate Change that span a range of development sectors including agriculture and livestock, health, water for production, energy and management of ecosystems (same like in the initial National Communications). This state of affairs is no different from many LDCs that urgently need support to ‘cushion’ themselves against both the predictable and unpredictable impacts of climate change.

Though the UN has set up an Adaptation fund, a lot more efforts need to be put in to help vulnerable communities like in Burundi, other LDCs and Small Island States. This is needed in terms of targeted national support for institutional capacity building in line with the principles established for the Adaptation Fund.

In addition, such vulnerable countries need capacity building support to secure that communities are able to ‘drive’ any efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change. For example both Burundi’s NAPA and the second National Communications identify a wide range of potential micro projects that need the support of the affected communities, Government, Civil Society and development partners.

In conclusion, this side event, together with the views and opinions I have gathered from a couple of delegates, to me justify urgent local and national actions to scale up adaptive capacities in the (vulnerable) LDCs and Small Island States

Friday, December 3, 2010

Opinion: How to build capacity for climate-resilient development

Capacity building is an ongoing process through which individuals, groups, organizations and societies enhance their ability to identify and meet development challenges like climate change.

Climate resilient development is about communities resisting, absorbing and recovering from the effects of hazards in a timely and efficient manner, preserving or restoring their essential basic structures, functions and identity

Climate change is a major threat to all aspects of human development. The poorest and most vulnerable communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change in across the world especially in the Least Developing Countries and small Island States.

The need for capacity-building to assist Parties to the UNFCCC, especially developing countries, to respond to climate change has long been recognized in the Convention’s work on such issues as technology transfer, national communications and funding.

Hence, as a cross-cutting issue, the current talks in Cancun and the multitude of side events actually show intentions to build capacity of a wide range of actors at local, national and global levels to be able to adapt their development efforts with the climate change challenge.

Capacity building comes in a number of forms including provision of finance through global public and private-led initiatives, training and knowledge provision, technological options, enabling participation of local communities and indigenous communities, and procurement of infrastructure and equipment, among others. This might in turn not yet the desired intentions.

However, though capacity building should be looked at as a form of ‘readiness’ to climate resilient development, how it is planned by the various agencies needs to be more coordinated, sustainable and relevant to the target groups in the effected countries.

Amongst all these, finance is the taken as the panacea to address the rest for example through the UN FCCC Adaptation fund. But I think that provision of finance per se cannot be a ‘silver bullet’ for capacity building without the support of the other components.

In other words, we need to think deeper and try to answer a number of questions that include the following:

- What is the rationale for the capacity building: is it about technology transfer, training of middle managers, communities or CSOs. In other words who is the target of this capacity building and what are the investment requirements?

- If this target group is an intermediary (NGO, Government agencies) how can we secure that it will pass on the knowledge and skills to the eventual target group (local communities, farmers and indigenous groups that interface with the effects of climate change on a day to day basis?).

- Could there be innovative and more efficient ways of reaching out directly without going through the intermediaries? For example, would web-based learning option be one?

- How is this capacity building to be delivered? Are we to depend on the sophiscated models tools and other kits in energy use, agriculture, water supply? Have we established what else has been tried out and worked and have not worked for lessons (as a starting point)? Is it soft (training and skills) or hard ware (technology and equipment) that is needed?

- What institutions will deliver capacity building in the long-run? Would South – South linkages to set up regional institutions be part of the option especially for the more sophiscated training needs like GHG inventories; adaptation & vulnerability assessments including documentation of climate change experiences?

- Are there ready institutions that are able to monitor / follow up the training provided at national and local levels, which can be supported right from the start of any intended capacity building initiative?

- How can we harness the available open opportunities in form of ICTs to promote climate resilience (information sharing on possible energy, transport, building and other technological options, enabling sharing of experiences amongst local communities and states, facilitating the regular generation of views and opinions of local communities and Indigenous peoples to feed into negotiations and other levels of decision-making)?

In other words, capacity building as part of ‘climate change readiness’ means wider locally and nationally generated plans (for example on adaptation) supported by a sustainable source of finance to ensure climate-resilient communities.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

REDD+ raises governance issues that need to be addressed

On Thursday I attended a couple of meetings on REDD+, typically giving experiences from different regions and on different issues. Being a new concept, REDD+ is generating such substantive attention at the side events of this UNFCCC COP.

Governance is one such issue that was the focus of discussion in an event organized by a Brazilian non-profit research institution - The Amazon Institute for People and the Environment (Imazon). To start with, governance is a development ‘buzzword’ that has come to mean different things to different people and at different times. In some instances, it has constituted a set of conditions for aid support from development agencies to developing countries.

It is therefore no surprise that it is creeping into REDD+ as a development issue that we have to contend with. But we do not need to conceptualize it in the traditional sense of it. In this case, it echoes the need for openness and transparency in making decisions that affect a wide range of REDD+ actors including Governments, local communities, indigenous peoples, NGOs, women and others at the global, national and local levels.

In fact, there are international legal instruments that can clarify it in case of REDD+. These include Principle 10 of the Rio declaration on Public Participation, Access to Information and Justice; and Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

From this event, I gathered that it is important to view stakeholder participation - not as an end in itself but as a means to an end (delivering desirable outcomes).

The wide range of REDD+ stakeholders raises questions of how to effectively engage them and at what stage in the process (given the technical nature of the subject and its current lack of clarity even to negotiators themselves). This is important as decisions that affect people’s current (and future) lives are to be made. Many development agencies and Governments will actually need to improve on this if REDD+ is to be successful.

REDD+ safeguards is another governance tool currently under negotiation, but where progress is being made in piloting them in various forest rich countries like Brazil and Indonesia.

The idea is that avoid risks and negative impacts on local communities their social systems and the environment. However, these safeguards need to be developed within the context of the local area(s).

From the case study from Brazil, there has been such a process to develop these safeguards, which could have relevant and timely lessons for Africa. After having in place a multistakeholder Platform in place with a clear guiding objective(s), the next steps could include the following:

- Effective participation of indigenous groups and local communities should be supported

- Consultations should be made after a capacity building session so that everyone is at the same level of understanding

- Building collective ownership - No leading organization (no convener, no logo)

- Uphold neutrality by working with the agreed objectives as the guide

- Work through consensus as much as possible. If not develop procedures that are agreeable to all

- Have procedures for registering comments and how they will be taken up as well as the commitment that these comments will be taken up

As one discussant summed it up: ‘ participation needs to be more that mere a mere box-ticking exercise.’ Hence, context specific participatory tools and methodologies will need to brought on board for REDD+ to be a success.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Southern Civil Society perspectives on REDD+

Today I attended another interesting side event on Southern Civil Society, local community and indigenous people’s perspectives on REDD+, organized by The Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change (a coalition of civil society groups from Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and Vietnam) that follows different intergovernmental negotiations on forests.

The event highlighted the issues and challenges of REDD+ implementation with NGO experiences from Tanzania, Indonesia, Ecuador and from UNREDD in Paraguay. The Global Forest Coalition (GFC) believes that for REDD+ to work, we need to “get to the root causes of forest conversion” that include demand for wood, spiraling demand for land for plantations and other forms of agriculture, infrastructure development (mining, urbanization and industrialization), lack of alternative opportunities, and the neoliberal economic policies and trade liberalization.

Form Tanzania, readiness for REDD+ was presented as having pilot projects, while the country is both part of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UNREDD Programme. The ingredients for Tanzania’s progress have been its promotion of Participatory Forest Management and the donor willingness to support its initiatives. REDD+ is seen as a long-term incentive for land rights and proper land-use, source of generating income to communities, and one effective way to limit slash and burn agriculture.

Nevertheless, according to Charles Meshack (Tanzania Natural Resource Forum), there are challenges and lingering questions of:

- Whether is might lead to land grabbing in the process?

- Raises questions of how to secure food security for a growing population as there will be less land for agriculture

- Fear - whether REDD+ funds will ever reach the intended communities?

- Corruption that might deny communities their rightful share of the benefits from REDD+ and how to overcome this so that the process does not ‘backfire’?

- Whether the laws will be enforced to contain logging and charcoal production given the high demand (conflicting with the forest conservation objective)?

- How to overcome problem animals like baboons and elephants that will surface in areas next to forest conservation areas that will destroy crops and might cause loss of lives

The discussions from the side event touched the issue and actually left an unanswered question of whether to conserve forests for long-term benefits or with the ‘reality’ - immediate returns that communities get in continued cutting down of forests for charcoal and wood (for domestic and monetary purposes) given the high level of poverty prevalent in these areas coupled with lack of alternative forms of livelihood.

For the ongoing negotiations on REDD+, the side event noted the need to appreciate that adequate funding for forest conservation is essential, Monitoring Reporting and Verification should involve communities, serious consideration of safeguards, and the exclusion of plantations in the definition of forests.
At the end of the side event I came to a conclusion that there are cross – cutting issues across these countries (Tanzania, Indonesia, Cameroon, Paraguay) - lack of funding for forest conservation, land tenure and rights, threat of corruption, lack of recognition of indigenous community rights and the absence of transparent mechanisms for consultations on issues of REDD+ and broader forest management.

At the end of this interesting side event, I was convinced that the only way forward for Southern countries is to take advantage of the growing number of pilot REDD+ projects to try out possible solutions so as to generate models that can mitigate against the above challenges.