The Republic of Congo recently completed an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of its strategic options for REDD+ and a review of the sources of financing for the implementation of its National REDD+ Strategy. UN Environment’s Emelyne Cheney and Jonathan Gheyssens discuss in this second part of the conversation their experience of supporting the country with this challenging but ultimately decisive piece of work.
How did you go about measuring the expected carbon benefits of the REDD+ strategic options pre-identified by the Republic of Congo?
Emelyne: This has been one of the most sensitive aspects of the analysis. Yet, an important purpose of this work was to give an idea of the scale of REDD+ payments that the Republic of Congo could expect from the implementation of its National REDD+ Strategy. Discussions on REDD+ payments can sometimes lack realism and this was an opportunity to feed these debates with more robust estimations. This said, the analysis had to accommodate a number of uncertainties related to REDD+ payments, including undefined modalities of the Green Climate Fund and, of course, the actual results that the Republic of Congo will achieve in terms of emission reductions. We made the decision to opt for the most optimistic outcomes result-wise and to use, as proxies, the payment modalities of the Emission Reduction Programme of the World Bank in Northern Congo. Again, our aim was not to come up with exact calculations but to estimate the scale of REDD+ payments generated by the strategic options. More often than not, these estimations were below what the government had originally expected, and this led to interesting discussions on the role of complementary funding and the additional economic revenues (besides REDD+ payments) that some activities could generate.
How did this analysis contribute to the work on the National REDD+ Strategy?
Jonathan: The cost-benefit analysis is a pretty unique opportunity to look into the challenges of the implementation stage, which is going to be a completely different animal from the readiness stage. If completing the requirements set up by the Warsaw framework provides a robust foundation for the transfer of results-based payments ex-post, it does very little to help mobilize the ex-ante funding streams that are critical to the establishment of the strategic options. The government of the Republic of Congo realized very quickly the importance of exploring its different financing options with the goal of laying out a robust resource mobilization strategy. Which is why the cost-benefit analysis also includes a second, equally important, section that explores the available sources of finance, domestic and international, public and private, with a view to identifying the best match between funding types and options based on their economic characteristics. This analytical exercise can help save time at the discovery stage to quickly zero in on the most relevant funding partners while informing the discussion on the best use of domestic resources.
Emelyne: As I already mentioned, conducting a cost-benefit analysis requires some level of clarity on how, where and when the activities of the National REDD+ Strategy are going to be implemented. This process has proved immensely useful for the National REDD+ Coordination to refine its thinking on the content of strategic options and also to consider issues that had previously been left aside, such as palm oil production.
What is the continuation of this work?
Emelyne: The work undertaken with UN Environment and UN-REDD Programme support has laid the groundwork for a full-fledged national investment plan, which is now being prepared by the government with a view to obtaining funding from the Central African Forest Initiative and the Forest Investment Program for the implementation of its National REDD+ Strategy.
Jonathan: It is important to stress the main difference between the investment plan for the REDD+ National Strategy and the investment/financial plans that are going to be developed for the funding programs focusing on implementation. The objective of the National Strategy Investment Plan was to put preliminary economic estimates on the strategic options, identify early implementation challenges and explore financing strategies to give some insights into important issues: what should be the ideal scale of each strategic option? Which options should be prioritized? How should the funding mechanisms be structured? The work is useful because it is adaptable and open to revision but the obvious trade-off is that it cannot be used to guide the implementation process, as it does not provide enough detailed and validated information on costs, scale and scope. Which is why it must be completed with a proper financial plan solidifying the Strategy, laying out the implementation steps and costing the different activities. Since both the Central African Forest Initiative and the Forest Investment Program ask for a financial plan as part of their funding requirements, the government, supported by the UN-REDD Programme, will have to make sure that the results and findings of the cost-benefit analysis are appropriately reflected in these future financial plans.
Emelyne Cheney is UN Environment’s REDD+ Regional Technical Advisor for Asia Pacific. Previously, she spent two years providing technical support to Congo Basin countries. Emelyne is based in Bangkok and can be reached under Emelyne.Cheney@unep.org.
Jonathan Gheyssens coordinates the activities of UN Environment’s Finance Initiative on REDD+ and sustainable land use in Africa where he is focusing on private sector engagement and finance in the context of REDD+. Jonathan is based in Geneva and can be reached under firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Preliminary REDD+ Strategic Options of the Republic of Congo and the Comprehensive Review of the Financing Options for the Implementation of the National REDD+ Strategy are available in French here.