Tuesday, November 30, 2010

REDD+ Standards for Equity, Social and Environmental co-benefits

This 30th day of November has been quite busy with numerous events in the main side events in the Cancunmesse. Nevertheless communication in the hotel where I stay has remained a nightmare as people ‘rush’ with their laptop computers to get the signal (available only at the first floor / lobby area), in order to file news and to communicate before the end of the day. This causes a lot of congestion that is not planned for (no seats or adequate tables in this area).

That aside, I attended 2 interesting side events on REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards organized by CARE, Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador.

Standards in REDD are much needed for both Government led programmes, policies and strategies, in the same way we need them for the growing number of REDD+ projects. But this initiative only focuses on the Government led programmes.

While activities that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and contribute to conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+) have the potential to deliver significant social and environmental co-benefits, many have also highlighted the serious risks, particularly for the indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Hence standards can be used by governments, NGOs and financing agencies to support the design and implementation of REDD+ programs that respect the rights these groups and generate significant social and environmental co-benefits.

These standards developed by CARE, CCBA, participating states (Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Nepal and Tanzania), have so far undergone substantive consultative process and have been tested in 3 of the 5 countries (Brazil, Ecuador and Indonesia) with complementarities from existing ones – UNREDD, World Bank and UNFCCC among others.

The advantage of having these standards (like in business / trade) is to secure quality of the service or products that will be acceptable ‘in the market’ (in this case by the local communities and Indigenous peoples). For example, this secures that social investment plans are derived from a process that is inclusive and participatory instead of having a few individuals to decide for the rest without justification and accountability for the decision taken.

Ecuador Indonesia and Brazil have piloted these standards, which gives East Africa some point of reference for the future when looking for case studies on standards for REDD+. This initiative provides pointers to the need for information and awareness of communities as an essential ingredient of success. Probably this will inspire development of standards for the fast growing REDD+ projects that also need harmonization for the benefit of local communities and other stakeholders. More information on CARE / CCBA’s REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards (June 2010) can be accessed from the link: www.climate-standards.org/REDD+

Monday, November 29, 2010

Women in REDD+: The missing link

After going through Cancun’s heavy traffic jam (took over 2 hours from my hotel to Cancunmesse – where exhibition and side events are taking place) yesterday morning, I was able to visit a number of exhibition booths and attended one side event on – ‘The missing link to success: women in REDD', organized by WEDO, IUCN, WOCAN and Norway. The occasion was also the formal launch of a global campaign initiative on Women and REDD. This aims to mainstream gender in REDD+ at the global and national levels as well as enhancing women’s capacities.

During this well attended side event, Norwegian chief negotiator noted that women are not passive victims but actors with respect to taking actions on reducing deforestation and degradation, forest conservation and advancing respect for human rights.

“Gender perspective of REDD+ should go beyond mere forest conservation to include issues of livelihoods’, he noted. He added that women are important in forest management in terms of stopping illegal practices and advancing the multiple uses of forests.

IUCN noted that involvement of women means more than having one person at a table. Rather, it includes a more systematic approach where a ‘gender filter’ is in place. There is a need for forest reforms, conservation and poverty reduction programmes to embrace marginalized groups like women. IUCN summed up the key requirements as enabling the participation of woe and girls in REDD+ strategies; arrangements for equitable distribution of benefits and capacity building of communities.

Case studies were also given from Tanzania, Nepal, and Philippines which underscore the need for capacity building and involvement of women in REDD+ taking into account the cultural resistance, capacity needs and the lack of alternatives to fuelwood as a major source of energy and income. In Zanzibar, CARE’s HIMA project for example, women rely heavily on wood cutting as a source of cash income.

One interesting aspect that I picked from this side event is that NGOs can take up to mainstream gender in REDD+ is to have gender differentiation of the impacts of climate change, as well as the possible solutions (adaptation, mitigation). For example the expansion of palm oil for renewable energy might sound a good motive but might be a hindrance for women due to reduced opportunities for firewood and other forest products and services.

Good start?: Mexico hosts COP16 / CMP6 of the UNFCCC

I arrived late in the morning of November 27, 2010 after going through the rigorous experience of getting a visa to Mexico and going through the 20+ hour flight from Entebbe to Cancun.

The Mexican visa process really takes a lot of my time and patience, as I needed to be in touch with the Embassy of Mexico, and follow the instructions mainly by telephone and email.

That aside, I have been able to go through the accreditation with relative easy that has given me a bit of relief and I think that the host country is well prepared to handle the incoming delegates to the Conference, judging from the preparations that have been made.

I am slowly coming to grips with the logistics of this conference: Communication via internet is in the hotel where I am staying is limited to the ground floor / lobby area and is not that fast. Negotiation meetings will take place in Moon Palace and Cancunmesse is also where side events and the exhibit area is located. I can see an element of inaccessibility to the main negotiation meeting place (far from the main Cancun town and is only a single driveway according to those that have explored it).

Apart from this, many meetings are already underway ahead of the official opening of COP16 here in Cancun. According to one delegate, Africa has already had one such meeting over the weekend to harmonize its stand – details of which I am yet to see.

Off to the official opening and side events!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Accessing Money for REDD: Public Finance or Market?

Dr Promode Kant (Director - Institute of Green Economy in New Delhi, India), in this article discusses funding - one of the specific issues within REDD+ that still require consensus before a global climate deal can be reached.

Of the two possibilities of Public Finance and Market Mechanism for funding REDD, the former would mean contribution by developed countries into a Multilateral Fund requiring approval by national parliaments that might pose insurmountable difficulties in these times of recession.

On the other hand money in market for REDD credits would come from business entities, and not from the exchequers, making it a politically attractive option. It is argued that a market mechanism would be efficient, effective and enhance equity while reducing governance risks and keeping costs low.

But in the REDD market where producers abound and buyers dominate it is unlikely to result in greater equity as the two externalities of biodiversity and the concern for indigenous people, both critical for equity, remain stubbornly outside. Nor would the market be effective in meeting the REDD objectives as the credibility of carbon credits generated would suffer from high uncertainties of leakage and fears of impermanence.

Settling on interim solutions, when final solutions prove elusive, could be a good strategy. One such interim solution could be the setting up of public financing for REDD confined only to LDCs. This would be politically acceptable in the developed countries provided the LDCs agree to a dominant role for the donor countries in planning as well as MRV processes in the initial years which could taper as the governance and the technical capabilities of the LDCs improve.

He urges for an urgent need to make compromises on all sides in order to move forward quickly. Read the full article: Accessing Money for REDD: Public Finance or Market?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

REDD+: Key issues for Cancun

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)'s briefing Paper (November 2010) provides a climate watch checklist of key issues for Cancun negotiations. These include shared vision; adaptation; climate finance; technology transfer; reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+); and post-2012 emissions reduction targets.

This IIED briefing paper notes that for REDD+ is a 'hot' issue at Cancun that has been steadily gaining ground since 2005. This is in relation to lack of consensus on how to set up, and implement REDD+. Hence the negotiating text on this remains bracketed.

Some specific issues within REDD+ that still require consensus before a global climate deal can be reached include:

- Rights of indigenous people and forest dependent communities - if these are not respected and protected, indigenous communities may find that they do not reap any of the potential poverty reduction, sustainable development or ecological benefits from REDD+ payments. This seems especially cruel given that indigenous populations are often stewards of the forests, supporting ecosystems services, biological conservation and the maintenance of longstanding cultures.

- Market mechanisms, including approaches that rely on economic incentives, market forces, or financial mechanisms to encourage regulated entities to reduce emissions, discharges and waste generation, or generally improve environmental performance;

- Eligibility criteria that determine how funding is allocated to forest-related activities.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Implementing REDD in Uganda: A Case to Get the Conditions Right

REDD is acknowledged as a potential source of mitigating the effects of climate change through making use of the remaining forests. It is crafted on the backdrop of scientific proof that deforestation releases 20% of atmospheric Green House Gases (GHGs). A swelling canopy of GHGs (with 80% from industrial emissions) holds heat which is now linked with global warming.

Hence, reversing deforestation controls emissions but more importantly, forests are carbon sinks that clean the atmosphere by absorbing GHGs. However, in Uganda, like in many forest rich African countries, there are inherent challenges that need to be taken into account as we set out to embrace REDD.

One of these is the fact that in Uganda, Environment and Natural Resources (forestry, wetlands, environment, weather and climate) subsector gets a paltry 0.6% of the total national budget, in a country that remains highly dependent on natural resources.

On the contrary, the sector still faces excessive dependence on donor support (66%). The implication of this is that Uganda cannot sustain the increasing initiatives to conserve and sustainably manage its natural resources except if Uganda commits more of its own resources to this sector that is opening up for ‘external support’. From history, this state of affairs creates conditions that might not tally with Uganda’s development priorities, aspirations of the local communities and the environment.

Uganda has a well developed decentralized structure that hinges on districts as the engines of local government operations. However, according to the Uganda Environment and Natural Resources Civil Society Organizations (2010), these structures receive dismal support. For example, it is paradoxical that the forestry and related natural resources sector which form the economic and revenue base for many of these districts (that have increased tremendously to date) and community livelihoods do not receive conditional grants, a bad example ‘copied’ from the Central Government. The result is that the is lack of manpower to manage forests and other natural resources at the district level; lack of operational budgets for those that have managed to fill these posts, resulting in unabated degradation and deforestation. FAO further estimates that Uganda is losing about 50,000 ha (0.8 per cent) of its forestland each year through deforestation.

Furthermore, according to Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (2010), this is complicated by uncoordinated activities of other sectors, and agencies. For example, issuance of land titles in wetlands by Uganda Land Commission, approval of architectural plans in fragile ecosystems by urban authorities and weak enforcement of the law and regulations.

Nevertheless, Uganda’s National Forestry Authority has an ambitious five-year programme (2009/10 – 2013/14) to raise about 3million tree/ fruit seedlings for individual and community planting. But in view of the above ‘structural constraints’, there are questions of the sustainability of this efforts as lack of a well coordinated extension support, respect of the laws and regulations could put the investments into real jeopardy.

Lastly, Uganda’s demand for wood products is expected to grow fast - while the current consumption of round wood is estimated at 1.4 million cubic metres, with an annual increase in demand of about 2.5% equivalent to 500 ha needed for harvesting per year (National Forestry Authority, 2010).

While the National Forestry Authority that is supposed to supply a steady supply of wood products to supplement private owners, currently has over 70% of its plantations below 7 years (compared to the harvesting age of 20 years). This has implications for sustaining the rapidly increasing demand for timber and fuel wood. In addition, the absence of a reliable tree seed supply (currently imported) is currently costing Uganda huge sums of money.

In sum, getting the conditions right for implementation of REDD in Uganda requires Government of Uganda to address the institutional loopholes, increase in own funding to meet the ‘basics’ at the district and national levels, which will facilitate donors and other actors to come into play more evenly and systematically.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Interested in Carbon Rights discussions? Join REDD-net in Cancun on December 4, 2010

REDD-net is organising a side event at the UNFCCC COP16 in Cancun on Carbon rights in REDD+: towards a common understanding. This will be on Saturday December 4, 2010 in Room 3

This event will look at what can constitute carbon rights in REDD+, and their implications for different actors, particularly at the local level. Insights from different countries and perspectives will be presented, along with recent work by the REDD-net civil society support programme
. Be there if you are in Cancun for the UNFCCC COP16!

Brief background

A unique feature of REDD+ is that it may result in newly defined rights, such as the right to exploit the benefits of reduced carbon emissions and carbon storage, which could be associated with rights for international payments through funds or carbon markets.The potential to benefit from payments for carbon in this way raises new legal issues in countries developing REDD+. For example, when examining who 'owns' the carbon, or in market based approaches to REDD+, definitions of a carbon credit may vary between countries. Existing natural resource laws, the effectiveness of legal systems, and the definition (or lack of definition) of rights to carbon in REDD+ will all influence who is likely to benefit. Given the complexities of land and forest tenure in many countries, and particularly the overlaps between formal and informal legal systems, the way in which carbon rights are interpreted has important implications for many different stakeholders involved in REDD+.

During 2010 REDD-net has been looking at the issue of carbon rights at the international and national levels. Some of our resources on the issue are highlighted below and will be followed shortly by further case studies of Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico and New Zealand, as well as a technical paper on carbon rights. In the meantime we have highlighted useful resources on carbon rights in REDD+.