The power of an enabling environment for REDD+ Action

This article was originally written for IISD's Climate Change Policy & Practice website.

As the sand of the Moroccan desert settles, so do perspectives from the Marrakech COP 22. In comparison to the Paris COP, which had triggered much adrenaline and excitement, COP 22 seemed much more poised and quiet. What happened to the ‘COP of Action’!

At first, it may seem a bit odd that the COP of Action would be so calm. But looking back, it actually makes sense. True, the negotiations front was focused, starting primarily with operational elements and focusing mainly on matters related to the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, now that the ratification thresholds have been met. This translated into decisions that outlined the operational next steps on key areas of the Paris Agreement, such as nationally determined contributions, finance, adaptation, etc. That is not to say that there was no buzz in Marrakech, quite the opposite. In fact, the hype that has come to characterize the COPs had moved out of the negotiations rooms to the informal space of side-events, platforms, exhibitions etc…. When the Green Climate Fund (GCF) undertook its dialogue on operationalizing Results Based Payments for REDD+, the room was so packed that some were sitting on the floor. The dialogue was not about commitments and political statements. Rather, critical and practical points were made by participants on flexibility and anchoring in national ownership, applying REDD+ as a financial incentive rather than a compensation scheme, and balancing between rigor and time for reference levels.

Similarly, at the side-event co-hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Bank and the UN-REDD Programme, Channel 4 correspondent Matt Frei, who moderated the event, insisted that the panel focus on thorny issues and tangible solutions. Indonesia’s Minister for Forest and Environment stressed the importance of connecting the dots for more coherent policy, and the importance of institutions to ensure forest and peat fires are curbed. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, representing Indigenous Peoples, flagged that at the local level, communities do not differentiate between the SDGs or REDD+, but are custodians of their forests and land because they need to be.

In the world of global policy setting, one could say that forests are covered by many interlinked processes, for instance: Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, or NDCs, state the contribution to mitigation ambition, the SDGs set out the targets, and REDD+ provides the incentive and framework for implementation. Over 82 countries have included forests and land use as a key contribution to mitigation in their NDCs. The UN-REDD Programme reports 21 countries that have advanced on the elements of the Warsaw Framework on REDD+ and the SDGs have been universally adopted.

SDG 15, Life on Land, is of particular relevance to REDD+ and vice-versa. Two targets in particular come to mind: target 15.2, By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally, and target 15.b, Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation. They do for obvious connections between the REDD+ agenda as an incentive mechanism to address drivers of deforestation and barriers to the enhancement of carbon stocks, however, the REDD+ agenda goes further in its contribution to SDG 15. With illegal timber logging and trade being one of the key drivers or deforestation, REDD+ responses and investments in law enforcement are anticipated to have a spill-over effect on the poaching of wildlife as well – targets 15.7 and 15.c. Similarly, agriculture practices and encroachment over forest areas is the most prevalent driver of deforestation. REDD+ incentives aim to address the key underlying factors that allow such encroachment; policies on tenure, redressing perverse fiscal policies and supporting producers to change their practices are not done with a narrow view on specific forest lands but benefit the production system in its entirety, therefore also contributing to SDG 15 targets 15.3 and 15.5 on desertification and habitat degradation. Finally, the Cancun safeguards are integrated with REDD+. Any REDD+ initiative needs to take them into account and in doing so contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity in a socially sensitive way, and in doing so to the realization of targets 15.1 and 15.6.

Looking at it from this perspective, it becomes clear that on the margins of the COP, side events and meetings have started giving more prevalence to the private sector and to non-state actors. It is no surprise therefore that the Global Landscapes Forum generated commitments by the private sector, commitments by civil society organizations and firm agreements going beyond political signals. The Tropical Forest Alliance declaration now counts ten African forest countries among its signatories; a Coast-to-Coast agreement was signed between Cote d’Ivoire and Costa Rica to collaborate on Cocoa Production and Payment for Ecosystem Services Schemes; France signed a contribution to the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and the Netherlands signed the CAFI declaration on the basis of the very tangible results obtained with regards to illegal logging.

Unlike many other topics discussed at COP 22, the framework for REDD+, has been agreed at previous COPs therefore creating scope for investment and for concrete action.

The Marrakech COP proved that if the policy framework is designed in a way that enables action, from there onwards policy makers have to focus their efforts nationally. They have paved the way for entities and actors that affect forests to change their behaviour and become more cognizant of the impacts of their actions over forests. In Paris, policy makers had set the enabling framework, in Marrakech stakeholders felt empowered to take charge and start the action.

About the Author:

Mirey Atallah

UN-REDD Programme, Senior Officer

Mirey is a development enthusiast aiming to bridge the divide between Development and Conservation, public sector and private enterprise, and human and nature. She has been working for the UN since 2006 supporting national efforts for sustainable development.

Twitter: @REDDBluethroat

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