Unprecedented progress in meeting REDD+ safeguards requirements was made in 2019. Over the course of the year, the number of safeguard information systems that were put online doubled. The same happened with summaries of safeguards information. In total, six new safeguard information systems were available online and eight new summaries were submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The new safeguards information systems online were the ones from: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, and Paraguay. In addition, the summaries submitted last year were: Argentina, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ecuador 2nd summary, Paraguay and Zambia.
At the end of December 2019, the total of safeguard information systems online was 13, as shown in Figure 1 below, compared to seven systems online at the beginning of the year. Also, 15 countries had submitted a summary of information to the UNFCCC by the end of December, 2019 (see Figure 2), including second summaries from three of those countries, while only seven countries had submitted the report before last year.
Figure 1. Global progress on safeguards information systems in 2019
SIS available online until the close of 2019 correspond to: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Madagascar (under update), Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, and Viet Nam.
In getting their information systems up online, countries have begun, in earnest, to transition from a design to an operational phase of reporting on safeguards. Some common considerations identified when moving from safeguards information system design to operation include:
defining institutional arrangements and procedures to produce and collate diverse types of environmental and social information from different government agencies and sectors, and across all (national/subnational/project-level) scales of REDD+ implementation;
developing, or modifying, an existing, database and/or online platform for the management and dissemination of safeguards information in ways commensurate with available information and country capacities;
investing in political, human and financial capital resources to allow ongoing, year-in-year-out, safeguards information systems in operation; and,
starting with a simple but flexible system that can accommodate stepwise updates and improvements over time to meet changing future needs.
Figure 2. Global progress on summaries of safeguards information in 2019
The countries that submitted summaries so far are: Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Viet Nam, Zambia. Brazil and Ecuador submitted a second report together with Colombia; this last country drafted a third report and is currently reviewing its fourth summary of information. All summaries are available at UNFCCC REDD+ Web Platform - Safeguards
In addition, several learnings associated with ‘second generation’ summaries of safeguards information can be identified. Positive elements included in recently submitted summaries include:
how the Cancun safeguards have been interpreted, in accordance with national circumstances;
how the safeguards information system was developed and will operate;
how the summary of information itself was produced, and how different stakeholders were engaged in that process;
specific statements of national safeguards goals and scope;
defining what ‘addressing’ and ‘respecting’ safeguards mean; and,
Improvements could be made in some weaker points of the summaries, such as:
outlining country-specific, important environmental and social risks and benefits associated with REDD+;
presenting information on institutional arrangements to address and respect safeguards;
incorporating gender-disaggregated information and information that shows the incorporation of gender-responsive approaches in REDD+ implementation; and,
including further information on how safeguards are being respected, possibly in terms of environmental and social outcomes attributable to REDD+ implementation.
The acceleration observed in meeting REDD+ safeguards requirements can be partially explained by the incentive provided by the Green Climate Fund’s pilot programme for results-based payments. As developing countries complete the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, with online safeguards information systems and submissions of summaries of information to the UNFCCC, they will seek payments for measured, reported and verified results. In this context, additional, ‘beyond-Cancun,’ safeguards requirements can come into play.
The Green Climate Fund applies a scorecard to summaries of information, in addition to the requirements of the fund’s own safeguards policies. The Architecture for REDD+ Transactions has recently released The REDD+ Environmental Excellency Standard. Subnational jurisdictions can now trade against the California Tropical Forest Standard. Further proliferation of safeguards requirements can be expected under other evolving initiatives, such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.
As REDD+ results-based financing opportunities, and corresponding price points, diversify, so too will the expectations of safeguards performance. Then, 2020 will have to surpass 2019, not just in terms of the quantity of safeguards-ready countries, but also in terms of the quality of safeguards responses that emerge to meet diverse opportunities that will then be rewarded for results.
For more information on REDD+ safeguards:
UN-REDD Workspace Safeguards Country Resources Hub
UN-REDD Workspace Safeguards Technical Knowledge Page
Coordinator of safeguards activities on the UN-REDD Programme. Directly supports countries in meeting their safeguards commitments.