Why REDD+ Is Crucial For Success Of Paris Climate Deal

13/11/2015 8:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Coalition for Rainforest Nations, an intergovernmental organisation seeking to advance Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), has said the 2015 Paris Agreement will only succeed if REDD+ is a fundamental element of the deal. REDD+ aims to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests in developing countries by reducing emissions from forested lands.

Inclusion of REDD+ in the draft agreement

The crucial framework of limiting the average global temperature rise to below 2° C (from pre-industrial levels) will be developed at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Already, tropical deforestation accounts for about 10% of the world's heat-trapping emissions.

"While REDD+ has found a rightful mention in the draft agreement, one of the key aspects of its success lies in generating funds to support REDD+ countries."

Citing the importance of forest protection in the climate treaty, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations has fought vigorously to include REDD+ in the latest draft agreement text.

Besides having the definition of REDD+ included in the text, the preamble mentions the importance of "Recognizing the critical role played by sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases, [such as forests,] through mitigation and adaptation actions, [including REDD+]." According to Gustavo Silva-Chávez, REDDX program manager at Forest Trends, "Countries can use REDD+ to meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), or climate reduction targets. This is the on-switch that will get REDD+ going."

Financing for REDD+

While REDD+ has found a rightful mention in the draft agreement, one of the key aspects of its success lies in generating funds to support REDD+ countries. So far, over $9.8 billion has been committed to support REDD+ in the run up to COP21 but this is still relatively less than the original projections.

According to a study published in the International Forestry Review, public sector funding was meant to serve merely as a catalyst but it currently accounts for 90% of all funding for REDD+. The study concludes that without a binding international climate change agreement, it will be difficult to create the regulatory environment necessary to stimulate a robust financial architecture for REDD+.

The $100-billion Green Climate Fund (GCF), created under the UNFCCC, intends to fund REDD+ activities. Remco Fischer, Programme Officer, UNEP Finance Initiative writes that, while public finance is important to REDD+, it is scarce and will remain so. In such a scenario, "REDD+ finance should be focused on how scarce public finance can be used optimally to achieve verified reductions or removals of forest carbon and at the same time, unlocking private REDD+ finance will have to play a central role one way or another." He calls for a nuanced discussion on financial needs for REDD+, barriers to private finance and the required public interventions. Last year, the GCF came up with an initial logic model and performance measurement framework for ex post REDD+ results-based payments. It identified results of decreased emissions from land use, deforestation, forest degradation and improved management of land and forest areas. However, there is no clarity on how a country can access finance for REDD+ through the GCF.

Nonetheless, for REDD+ countries, GCF remains crucial when it comes to climate finance. The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility identifies a REDD country as a developing nation located in a subtropical or tropical area that has signed a Participation Agreement to participate in the Readiness Fund. So far, 47 developing countries have been selected to join the FCPF.

The last round of negotiations in Bonn saw developing countries expressing concerns over the roadmap for finance in the backdrop of developed countries trying to push it outside the Paris agreement.

"In order to ensure climate justice at COP21, the agreement text needs to clearly illustrate the way in which developing countries will benefit from REDD+."

"Although governments have pledged to mobilize significantly more funding to reach the agreed USD 100 billion in new resources per year by 2020, the current level of USD 1.5 billion per year of commitment capacity of GCF is far from the levels required to deliver on its mandate to support low-emission and climate-resilient development in developing countries and to contribute to climate action.', says Héla Cheikhrouhou, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund.

Ensuring climate justice in REDD+

However, opponents of REDD+ have criticised it on the grounds of climate justice as it fails to address underlying issues related to the participation of indigenous communities, loss of biodiversity and inadequate policies around deforestation. Ritwajit Das, an environment analyst from India says, "Developing countries must do their best to take REDD+ to a higher level because forest loss, deforestation and other drivers for deforestation have an immense share to contribute to GHGs (CO2). REDD+ came up in Bali, Durban, Cancun and Doha but it never took off because it has these huge underlying issues related to forest rights, tenure rights, institutional involvement and transferring development rights. Ideally, the community gets the benefits but how (mainly in the institutional context) has largely remained unanswered."

The International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change has stated that effective participation of indigenous peoples must be ensured in all REDD+ phases and subject to their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). While the principle of FPIC in protected by international human rights law, it is often violated by governments and multinationals across the globe. A fair implementation of FPIC will all REDD+ projects should be included in the draft text.

The REDD+ mechanism in its current form needs to be clearly defined and loopholes need to be addressed. In order to ensure climate justice at COP21, the agreement text needs to clearly illustrate the way in which developing countries will benefit from REDD+.

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