REDD+ Methodological Mayhem: Communities & Technicalities

I have long been a fan of the Kyoto: Think Global, Act Local (KTGAL) project. This fantastic research project trained local community members in eight developing countries to collect basic forestry data needed to perform accurate carbon accounting for REDD+. The project has taught us one key lesson: Local communities CAN collect accurate data at relatively low cost, with minimal training.
This means that community monitoring holds powerful potential to solve some of the insurmountable challenges facing REDD+.

Rita Effah, Angela Yeh, and I have been working with the World Resources Institute this past semester to learn what other efforts besides the KTGAL Project have demonstrated that communities are reliable carbon monitors. This week, we’re following along with the REDD+ contact group under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which has been tasked with providing methodological guidance on REDD+ (Come on #SBSTA, let’s see some life from all the tech savvy tweeters in Durban. We can’t live on IISD briefings alone!)

Source: KTGAL Project,

How can community carbon monitoring help REDD+?

1.    Firstly, it provides a pathway to ensure “the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and local communities,” in national REDD+ strategies, as stated in Paragraph 72 of the REDD+ text in the Cancun Agreements.
2.    Secondly, massive amounts of data need to be collected. How are we supposed to accurately account for forest carbon stocks in developing countries that have limited or unreliable data on forest cover?

This is far more crucial than many realize. How are we supposed to do this without blowing the entire cache of carbon credit revenues on expensive professional technicians? This would all but guarantee that ZERO benefits ever trickle down to the communities on the ground that really make REDD+ happen.

What’s going to happen at COP 17?
The SBSTA has been tasked with drafting modalities, or providing guidance, on some of the following four issues related to making REDD+ a reality on the ground:
1.    Robust National Forest Monitoring Systems
2.    Reference Emission Levels and Forest Reference Levels
3.    Information Systems for the 7 REDD+ Social and Environmental Safeguards
4.    Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification of REDD+

We are most excited to see discussion of the safeguard information systems move forward. I remember when the idea of safeguards was still in brackets in 2009. Now they are real, and the SBSTA may move to provide official guidance or define principles (Do you want your safeguards to be A) Transparent, B) Participatory, C) Consistent, or D) All of the above?). Our research found that community monitoring can fulfill most if not all of the safeguards, and we certainly would like to see it have a place in the discussion.

So far, the initial session of the SBSTA approved the agenda, and set up contact groups. Informal consultations on the REDD+ agenda items begin Wednesday – let the methodological madness begin.