Opinion

REDD+ agenda in Doha

The concept of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) has been touted as one of the success stories of international negotiation on climate change.

REDD+ addresses one-fifth of those annual global emissions that had not been addressed under the Kyoto Protocol.

Pouring forth almost 6 billion tons in 2000, Indonesia was the largest producer of forestry and land use–based greenhouse gases. Consequently, the national action plan for the reduction of emission of greenhouse gases (RANGRK), is dominated by cutting production from forestry and land use. REDD+ is the largest item on Indonesia’s climate change agenda.

The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is now underway in Doha. REDD+, especially its financing, will be high up the agenda.

Negotiations about REDD+ in Doha will be as follows. First, REDD+ is expected to be financed through “results-based action”. Emission reductions need to be demonstrated and verified before financing takes place, regardless of where the money comes from.

Second, since REDD+ financing is based largely on results, a national forestry monitoring system (which includes reporting, and verification) needs to be agreed upon. Confronting those directly responsible for deforestation is essential in reducing the ongoing destruction.

While deforestation is a big issue, it is not the only issue on the national agenda, and it will be important to ensure that other social and environmental objectives are not compromised by the implementation of REDD+ on the ground.

Third, REDD+ is mostly about carbon and changes the carbon content of forests. But forests are not just about carbon. There are many other ecological, social and cultural concerns in the forest environment which are not measurable by simply counting tons of carbon. More, better forests are not just as a weapon against change.

Protected and expanded forests are good for helping the ecosystem, including us humans, adapt to climate change. Whether and how these non-carbon-based urgencies are integrated into REDD+ remains to be seen.

Fourth, full implementation of REDD+ requires new institutions. A registry, for example, of worldwide activity to keep track emissions seems essential. There are proposals to establish a REDD+ board, though not all parties are for it. Another proposal is the establishment of a carbon reserve bank. This also needs to be negotiated.

Fifth, financing is the hottest topic in REDD+. To make a reduction of 1 billion tons in emissions by 2020 as mandated by RANGRK, Indonesia needs about US$5–$10 billion, assuming a cost of $5–$10 per ton. While up to $1 billion may be made available through the letter of intent for the government of Norway, more is required.

Two more billion dollars may be available to Indonesia from bilateral and multilateral public financing. The remainder — up to $7 billion — may have to be financed through the private sector.

Whether the newly-established Green Climate Fund with funds expected to be at least $100 billion per year by 2020 should open a special window for REDD+ is also to be discussed.

How and to what extent private sector involvement can be done remains to be negotiated in Doha. Whether it is done through market and non-market mechanisms alike, whether REDD+ actions can be used as offset on developed countries’ emissions through a carbon market are issues that are very far from being agreed upon.

Brazil and Bolivia, for example, remain of the opinion that REDD+ should not be a market mechanism, especially not an emissions offset mechanism. Finding funds in the public sector, however, is a great challenge, especially against the backdrop of global economic gloom.

Sixth, finally, the ambition of developed countries to reduce emissions has not been aggressive enough. The overwhelming amount of potential REDD+ credits available to offset emission reduction targets by developed countries will make their previous attempts to solve the problem irrelevant.

This year marks year the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

A new commitment period must commence. A new set of emission reduction commitments by developed countries needs to be put in place. Ambition must be aggressive if Doha is to keep climate change at bay.

The writer is chair of the working group on funding instruments, Presidential Task Force on the Institutional Preparation for REDD+. The opinions expressed are his own.

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