Africa is on the Rise; is REDD+ Equally Rising in Africa?
A synthesis of discussions at a Regional Climate Change and Development Forum.
The Third Annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-III) was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 21-23 October 2013. It was organized by the Climate for Development in Africa Initiative, a consortium of the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, with the theme, "Africa on the rise: Can the opportunities from climate change spring the continent to transformative development?" More than 300 experts from Africa and other continents attended. Participants represented a wide diversity of professional backgrounds, including policy makers, donors, practitioners, academia, analysts, civil society and the private sector. They discussed different policy, technical and financial issues on climate change and its Green Economy and development dimensions.
In a "Forestry and REDD+" session, this author presented a draft methodology to help stakeholders in African countries easily assess their degree of national progress in REDD+ readiness. This methodology is a response to the growing need among countries in Africa to understand how their REDD+ efforts advance and which components require more technical or financial support. The simple design is meant to ease the use and to foster multi-stakeholder dialogue on REDD+. The presentation was appreciated for its pragmatism, receiving valuable comments from experts and practitioners for improvements. Other presentations explored the linkages between REDD+ and land degradation, issues on forestry and forest concessions, and the community-level forest revenues.
The candid exchanges among participants in the "Forestry and REDD+" session reflected the mood regarding REDD+ in the Africa region – which is the most prolific region in the UN-REDD Programme with 19 partner countries. The voices from the floor revealed mixed feelings around REDD+, characterized by high expectations and a simultaneous anxiety over the delivery of anticipated benefits to countries and communities. For example, questions were raised on whether market-based initiatives on REDD+ truly bring benefits to Africa, and whether REDD+ provides an adequate level of incentives to those who make efforts to implement it. The declining trend of carbon prices, together with the slow pace of UNFCCC negotiations, raised concerns on the viability of a REDD+ system. There was also a shared perception that REDD+ is too complicated for the ordinary practitioner in the field, not to mention for the communities and local stakeholders.
Speakers and participants provided some responses to these concerns. There was a call to better capture the entirety of the “benefits” that REDD+ processes can deliver. Others highlighted that REDD+ processes are anyway no-regret policy exercises. Comments indicated that, regardless of fluctuations in carbon price, all the policy reforms and field investments along REDD+ readiness are necessary and enhance countries’ development pathways, from mainstreaming inclusive and participatory approaches on policy debates, to deepening the understanding of the very drivers of deforestation, to technical capacities in forest monitoring to assessing environmental and social safeguard issues in forest and land-use investments. The cross-sectoral dialogue that REDD+ promotes was also appreciated as a means to pursue transformational development.
The forum indirectly revealed how REDD+ provides a new avenue to address old issues in the forest sector, whether land tenure rights, forest governance, transparency in forest resource management, or the role of communities and their traditional knowledge systems in forest conservation. In essence, the discussions in the CCDA-III forum revealed both the high interest and the anxieties around REDD+ in the region, while raising calls to reduce the complexity of the concept and for harnessing it for a transformational development in Africa.