Many countries around the world are working to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, sustainably manage, conserve and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+). Regional South-South exchanges have emerged to share knowledge and advance the battle against climate change together. Two recent Regional South-South Exchanges of the UN-REDD Programme addressed important issues for REDD+ countries in Asia-Pacific and Africa. The issue of ‘nesting’ has consistently attracted much attention from country decision-makers at those events because it looks at how actions at smaller scales can best be catalysed to contribute to larger-scale jurisdictional performance, whether at national or subnational scales.
Subnational or national implementation?
Forest-sector mitigation efforts often cover several scales. In the context of the UNFCCC, countries may initiate REDD+ implementation through national policies. These potentially affect large areas- often the entire national territory. Jurisdictional/national REDD+ has the potential to be transformational— through reforming broader governance, landscape management, and government policies. On the other hand, many countries have existing forest carbon projects that generate and trade carbon units. These projects can be highly successful and move faster than national level developments and can contribute to national mitigation goals.
A country may need to decide whether it wants to “nest” an existing local project within the larger scale reference level. Jurisdictional approaches have the ability to access and integrate a range of financial streams, from which local projects can benefit. As such, local projects and national REDD+ efforts could be mutually beneficial, but since both tend to be developed following different guidelines or requirements, they need to be reconciled.
Lessons from regional exchanges
Countries in Africa and Asia-Pacific had the opportunity to discuss the REDD+ nesting challenges at two recent Regional South-South Exchanges of the UN-REDD Programme. The exchange in Kenya convened 11 partner countries in the Africa region, as well as regional representatives from civil society organizations and Indigenous Peoples, to discuss “REDD+ Implementation at Scale: Emerging lessons on Jurisdictional Approaches and linkages with National Policy Frameworks”.
The Asia-Pacific exchange assembled 50 delegates from 13 countries in India to share practical experiences on Forest Reference (Emission) Levels. The key message that emerged from these discussions was the need for greater coordination between REDD+ implementation at different scales.
Nesting and forest monitoring
Approaches to baseline setting and forest monitoring usually differ between scales. National / jurisdictional REDD+ forest monitoring seeks consistency with national GHG inventories and follows IPCC guidance. Projects often use different data, but in particular, different guidance and requirements (e.g. projected reference levels as opposed to historical averages used at the subnational/national scale).
Such differences may lead to projects claiming emission reductions that may be disproportionally high. If countries recognize all emission reductions claimed by local projects, then this may leave them with little emission reductions for the higher (sub) national level and subsequently with fewer benefits to share with stakeholders outside of the project.
On the other hand, if countries at the national level do not recognize emission reductions by projects, projects may find it hard to attract finance and cease to exist, negatively affecting all its local beneficiaries. Therefore, countries need to make carefully considered decisions on whether and how to recognise emission reductions claimed by projects.
Nesting and Results-Based Payments
Under REDD+, forest monitoring serves to calculate emission reductions that have resulted from REDD+ activities in a transparent, consistent, and accurate manner, relative to an agreed Forest Reference (Emission) Level (FREL/FRL). National-level action, subnational approaches and projects can all contribute to achieve such emission reductions.
Where emission reductions achieved become the basis for results-based climate finance, benefit-sharing mechanisms need to be considered to ensure that financial and other benefits are shared in a transparent, equitable and effective manner.
Thirty-four countries have submitted a FREL/FRL to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); 85 per cent of which have been at a national scale. At the same time, 22 countries are participating – most frequently at subnational scale – in two pilot programs for REDD+ Results-Based Payments (RBP), launched in 2011 and 2013: the Forest Carbon Partnerships Facility Carbon Fund (FCPF CF) and the Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes’ Bio-Carbon Fund (ISFL BioCF).
In late 2017, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the official financing mechanism of the UNFCCC, launched a pilot programme for RBPs for REDD+ targeting mainly the national level. So far, no RBPs have yet been made at the subnational or national level through the FCPF CF, ISFL BioCF or GCF RBP pilot program. However, as countries are gearing-up towards assessing emission reductions (ERs) resulting from REDD+ implementation, they are likely to request payments soon, and when they do, they will need to ensure the same ER is not paid for twice.
While there are many benefits to nesting, experience suggests that countries might often struggle with the development and the operationalization of nested systems. South-South Exchanges therefore become an important platform where by using real-world examples from countries pioneering nested approaches, participants can identify and overcome key technical challenges together.
Marieke Sandker is a Biologist (MSc) and Forest Engineer/Modeler (PhD).
She has 15 years of experience in Forestry and is currently an FAO Forestry Officer, coordinating FAO's support on REDD+ reporting, especially Forest Reference Levels, REDD+ results reporting and GHG inventory reporting.