Notes on Decision of the COP16 on REDD+

The COP16 decisions were announced Saturday morning which left all countries except Bolivia relatively content with the results, and for many, restored trust in the UNFCCC process. I was at the conference, following mostly the REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries) developments as well as some land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) issues as they pertain to my home country, Turkey.  I worked with the delegation from the Turkish Forest Service in the last week of the conference to exchange information and report to them on issues discussed at the side events on REDD+ related issues.

The decision on REDD+ was likely below expectations on this topic which had picked steam in the last year. The new text however provides more clarity on where REDD+ is heading and helps guide countries in their preparation for a possible REDD+ market or more opportunities for hosting REDD+ projects enabled by funds.

One of the issues that attracted a lot of attention was the social and environmental safeguards for REDD+ and whether the developing countries would need to demonstrate that these safeguards were met in order to be able to receive credit for their projects. These safeguard are envisioned to ensure the reductions achieved through REDD+ projects are achieved in socially and environmentally friendly way. Although the early edition of the new text mentions that safeguards should be considered, it does not call for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) on them, or require that they are met by the developing countries for project approval. The details of how the safeguards will be incorporated will have to be determined at a later date.

Another expected development in the COP decision was the for the COP to give the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) a mandate to conduct more research on some of the critical issues related to REDD+. In Annex II, the new text calls on the SBSTA to develop a work programme to help identify drivers of deforestation and help improve MRV related to REDD+ projects. Specifically, SBSTA is asked to identify LULUCF activities which are especially linked to drivers of deforestation in developing countries and to help come up with reliable MRV methodologies for these projects.

Although many proponents of a strong REDD+ mechanism would have liked stronger language on the safeguards including making them mandatory as well as more clarity on the financial mechanism, a group of dedicated anti-REDD+ people (joined under the Climate Justice Now Network) could be happier without any agreement at all. This group showed substantial presence in the hallways of the conference and attracted many attendees’ attention to what they see as flawed nature of the whole REDD+ deal. Some of their main concerns were regarding the discussion on including markets into the design and their distrust with the success of any potential environmental or social safeguards the COP process could come up with. They have yet to however prove that their destructive method of approaching the current discussions is a better idea than influencing the existing process in a more constructive way, to ensure their concerns are incorporated into the deals.