You are currently browsing UN-REDD Programme’s articles.
Guest Author: Dr. Fiona McKenzie
Imagine you were throwing a rock. Where the rock ends up will pretty much depend on you – your strength, aim and coordination. You could easily predict where the rock will go and the trajectory could be accurately modelled. Now imagine throwing a live bird (this isn’t encouraged in practice). Even though the bird is subject to the same laws of physics as the rock, there is no way for you to know for sure where it will end up. Its trajectory is not something that can be easily predicted. You could try weighting the bird down to control its path, but this destroys the capability of the bird.
Why does the difference between birds and rocks matter? It matters because the way one would think about and work with a rock is different from the way one would (hopefully) interact with a bird. Too often we apply the wrong approach to the right idea. REDD+ is like the bird. While there were many expectations, fears and predictions when it was officially incorporated into the Bali Action Plan in 2007, it has since behaved in ways we didn’t expect.
This is because REDD+ has the properties of a complex adaptive system. A simple system is relatively stable and has straightforward cause-and-effect relationships (a bit like a rock). In simple systems, it is possible to analyse the parts of the whole at their most reduced or basic level in order to learn about the sum. A complex adaptive system is more like the bird. It exists within other interdependent systems and is driven by interactions between system components and governed by feedback. Its complexity comes from these patterns of interactions. It is constantly adapting. Results can be counterintuitive. You can make the changes you want, but you might not end up in the place you would expect. The whole truly is more than the sum of its parts.
Such complexity doesn’t have to be a liability. It can be an advantage, so long as we realise that we need to think and work differently in such contexts. What does this mean? It means that we need to be more aware of the patterns of interactions that characterise the whole and how these patterns create points of leverage or influence, often in unexpected places. We need leaders who can draw upon the emergent and self-organising nature of complex adaptive systems through facilitation, empowerment, evaluation and continuous re-calibration.
We need organizations (not just leaders) that can keep up with the dynamic nature of complex adaptive systems by being able to learn from and adapt to feedback. Learning requires experimentation, evaluation and reflection. Learning also requires taking risks and acknowledging failures. We need organizations (and individuals) that are willing to do both. This might require admitting uncertainty and taking on a portfolio of experiments. It may mean strategy becomes about setting a common vision or destination, but still creating room for a diversity of approaches in how to best get there. It definitely means creating organizations that can learn for themselves, based on real time feedback, continuously. In nature, if you don’t adapt you eventually become extinct.
There is no doubt that it will take time and commitment to develop the organizational skills and cultures needed. The good news is that there is a strong appetite for new ways of thinking and working. This was clearly evident at a retreat on collaborative cross-sectoral action (Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, Front Royal, USA), sponsored by UNEP and the UN-REDD Programme in December 2013. This is a start. The challenge is to ensure that this translates into action through ongoing high-level support for adaptive approaches that don’t fit the usual templates for planning and administration. Surely if anything were worth the effort, if would be REDD+.
This post is derived from a policy brief, Complex Adaptive Systems: Implications for Leaders, Organisations, Government, and Citizens.
Dr. Fiona McKenzie is an advisor and researcher with a background in agricultural and environmental policy and a PhD on farmer-driven innovation. She is an Honorary Associate in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Australia and a Strategy Advisor for the Australian Futures Project. She recently led a project with EcoAgriculture Partners and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), funded by the UN-REDD Programme, on enabling cross-sectoral collaboration in the global food system. Previously, Fiona was part of the team that established the Terrestrial Carbon Group. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Guest author: Zoë Cullen, Senior Programme Manager at Fauna & Flora International
Every good solution starts with a problem.
At the Forests Asia Summit last week, a wealth of intellectual capital came together to discuss the pressing global problem of tropical deforestation and the need to develop holistic solutions to reduce forest loss while enabling equitable and sustainable economic growth. In essence, how to transition to a Green Economy, or “Enterprise Earth” as aptly described by H.E. Heru Prasetyo, Head of the Indonesia National REDD+ Agency.
My personal experience of this challenge stems from working with Fauna & Flora International’s team in western Jambi Province, Indonesia. Here many adat (customary) communities have a strong desire to sustainably manage these carbon and biodiversity-rich forests as “village forest”. But support is needed to do this and to increase the productivity, value and sustainability of their agriculture-based economy to help ensure that rural economic development is not tied to forest loss.
This theme is replicated across Indonesia and globally. Beyond smallholder agriculture, such evolutions of practice are needed by agricultural producers at all scales and across sectors. How do we stimulate and finance this transition? What are the sources of finance and in what smart ways can they be deployed to drive results?
The UNEP Finance Initiative and the UNDP Green Commodities Programme convened a workshop in Jakarta, with the support of UNORCID, on behalf of the UN-REDD Programme to discuss the use of results-based finance for REDD+. Essentially this is finance that rewards achievement of certain desired impacts, such as forest conservation, and there are many potential variations of results-based payments.
There has been much talk of green bonds that generate capital to invest in commercially viable green investments. They offer enormous potential to drive sustainable investments in commodity supply chains, for example. Recent work by ForestTrends highlights the potential for jurisdictional REDD+ bonds to support forest conservation and development of sustainable agricultural supply chains across an administrative landscape, such as a state or province.
Thinking back to my community forest example, I’m particularly inspired by the potential of the “development impact bond” model that repays bond investors using long-term donor commitments. Applied to forests, a “rainforest impact bond” could be used to make significant funding available up-front to support diverse REDD+ activities such as clarification of forest tenure, investment in more sustainable and productive agriculture practices, and forest protection.
Up-front certainty of multi-year funding would enable implementing agencies to offer results-based contracts at the field level that could be much longer than traditional grant cycles permit. This, in turn, would provide greater certainty to the beneficiaries of those contracts and sufficient time to support development of green economic activities designed to deliver sustained benefits to communities beyond the lifetime of the bond.
While this approach to results-based finance is still dependent on donor funds, it introduces the private sector as key part of the story.
For every potential advantage of these approaches, I recognise the challenges and as yet unanswered questions: the distribution and management of risk, defining the size, form and timing of results-based payments, ensuring equity and trust, and measuring impact, to mention but a few.
Yet, as Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Similar methods have already been used to great effect by the International Finance Facility for Immunisations (IFFIm) to scale up vaccine delivery in the world’s poorest countries.
Last week’s workshop advanced an important discussion about the role and use of results-based finance mechanisms in the context of REDD+. There is much work to do to turn these approaches into real and appropriate solutions, at a scale in keeping with the size of the problem. Like other elements of REDD+ it will require true cross-sector collaboration and design of mechanisms that are carefully tailored to the local context where results-based finance will be deployed. But if there was one over-riding message I took from the group it was – when it comes to designing these mechanisms…keep it simple stupid!
The rewards of success will be great, as we strive towards what Pavan Sukhdev (UNEP Goodwill Ambassador) described as the “Holy Grail of REDD+”, a green economy in which sustainable management of forest, crop and grazing lands sustains all the major ecosystem services on which we all depend.
Bio: Zoë Cullen is a Senior Programme Manager at Fauna & Flora International. She oversees the Innovative Conservation Finance programme within the Environmental Markets team, which seeks to identify and develop sustainable finance mechanisms for biodiversity conservation. Much of her recent work has focused on REDD+, particularly in Indonesia.
Author: Will McFarland, in Jakarta
The headline news in the Jakarta Globe earlier this week was that Indonesia’s economy has risen to 10th in the ranking of global economies. BUT, the analysis and commentary went on to say, the country’s growth is unequal, doesn’t benefit the poorest and is vulnerable. The next president faces the task of improving the quality of growth.
On Tuesday the same paper was filled with headlines from the Forests Asia Summit, which was one of the reasons I was in Jakarta for the week. In his keynote speech, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) made a plea for his successor to continue his commitments to reduce deforestation in the country and ensure that Indonesia finds a way to reduce its rapid deforestation rates.
So, what’s the link?
Indonesia’s economy and forests are inseparable. As the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, a US$ 40 billion industry globally, much of Indonesia’s economic activity centres on clearing forest. Palm oil is Indonesia’s second-largest export and generates huge tax revenue for the government. The domestic palm oil industry is a large part of the recent economic growth and it effectively contributes to ensuring that Indonesia’s 240 million citizens have better lives. However, Indonesia has made international commitments to reduce the rate of deforestation and knows that action is vital to tackle its serious contribution to global as well as local environmental and social issues.
Assuming that in the short to medium term that Indonesia’s economy will continue to rely heavily on palm, timber and other agricultural products, a delicate balance is needed between growth and environmental impact. SBY said this himself on Tuesday, “it’s about striking a balance…the central tenet of the strategy is about creating prosperity for everyone, in a way that does not harm the natural environment”.
There are many parallel issues that need addressing in order to achieve this, linking Indonesia’s forest reforms with a wide range of social and economic challenges. Conflict with local communities, dealing with fire and haze, and regulation of the private companies that dominate the industrial landscape in Indonesia are just a few of them. No single policy or action will manage to achieve this, and no single actor is responsible. Instead a multi-stakeholder approach is required, and this week a UN-REDD Programme, UNEP Finance Initiative, UNORCID and UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme convened workshop brought many of these stakeholders together in the first of three regional workshops to try and identify a coherent package.
Reducing forest loss while maintaining a strong economy can be delivered in two ways: firstly making more of the land available and creating more value in Indonesia (leaving remaining forest to be protected); or if deforestation is needed, ensuring that it is as low-impact as possible. Making more from the existing land could be achieved by attaining price premiums for certified products, or increasing yields form better practices and agro-technology. Creating “added-value” in the supply chains is also a key challenge for Indonesia as much of the palm oil it exports is unprocessed. Reducing the impact of deforestation can be done by avoiding high-conservation value areas, and peat draining and burning, perhaps by prioritising conversion of land that is already deforested and used for other purposes.
None of these are brand new ideas. And they are complex and difficult to achieve. But where innovation and investment of time, minds and capital is needed is in identifying how to promote, encourage, or force the shift of business practice to the types activities outlined above.
The workshop identified a suite of financial instruments and policy interventions that could drive private sector change. Potentially scalable and feasible ideas emerged, including:
• Wide ranging legal policy reform including removing perverse incentives and subsidies to the palm oil sector;
• Design of green bonds and development impact bonds to finance sustainable production;
• Building an economics evidence base that unpicks the implications of changing the sector’s practices.
Delivering these would require collaboration from the national and provincial governments, the financial sector, research and NGO partners, and early movers in the palm oil industry itself.
The front-page headline of today’s newspaper bemoans the lack of innovation in Indonesia’s economy – and the need for investment in skills and technologies in order to strengthen Indonesia’s economy, reduce its reliance on and exposure to other economies, and ultimately lead to improved quality of life in Indonesia. If we join the dots between this week’s headlines, and the evidence and discourse emerging from the research and thinking at this week’s summit and workshops, it appears that investing in changing practices to reduce deforestation is a no-brainer for solving Indonesia’s other prominent social and economic problems.
Bio: Will McFarland is a Research Officer at ODI in the Climate and Environment Programme. He works on green growth, natural resources and forests.
Green Bonds have been mentioned a number of times at the Forests Asia Summit taking place this week in Jakarta as a mechanism to finance sustainable land use and were described in excited terms at the Abu Dhabi UN Ascent in advance of this year’s UN Climate Summit. What is all the excitement about? Finance experts Iain Henderson and Johan Kieft, in Jakarta for the Forests Asia Summit; and Sean Kidney, at the Abu Dhabi UN Ascent, have not only asked a few questions, but tried to answer them too!
Q: There has been a lot of interest in bonds at the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta this week. Are they a new financial mechanism?
A: The short answer is no. In fact, they have been around for hundreds of years and we know they were used in Renaissance Italy about 800 years ago. There are even claims that – like many things – the Romans invented them a couple of thousand years ago during the time of the Roman Republic.
Q: So why all the interest?
A: There are a few reasons. Although bonds aren’t a new mechanism, green bonds are relatively new and interest in them from the world’s largest investors is growing rapidly. We are also seeing the range of issuers expand and corporates are also now using green bonds to raise funds to drive sustainability down their supply chains. High quality or “investment grade” bonds are also the single largest pool of private sector capital. This is relevant as it is increasingly clear that we need to tap into the vast pools of private sector resources to plug the well-documented finance gap. Creating a financing mechanism that looks, smells and feels like something private investors buy and sell in large volumes every day makes a lot of sense.
Q: Fine, but why is this relevant to REDD+?
A: There is growing recognition that we need to move away from a “siloed” forest-centric approach to deforestation and forest degradation, towards a more holistic approach to development that is forest-friendly and has green growth at its heart. Beyond the forest frontier, we will also need to deal with the agricultural, infrastructure, urban and transport requirements that are essential to creating a green economy and this all costs money. However, this green economic transformation is vital to create the jobs and green growth that will in turn create the social and political space to allow REDD+ to be implemented at scale.
Q: So, how do bonds fit into this scenario?
A: To create the green economy described above, we will need a blueprint, and for this we need carefully planned green growth strategies that include REDD+. These blueprints will in turn require financing. This is where green bonds come in, as they are a mechanism for preferencing these sorts of green productive investments over alternative growth strategies in developing economies.
Q: How do the investors know what is “green”?
A: We need credible standards to differentiate what is green and what is not, especially in complicated areas like forestry and agriculture. These standards then need to be verified by reliable external third parties to make sure the funds raised from the bonds are helping, and not hindering, green development.
Q: Will this make a difference?
A: Yes. Robust standards that are externally validated can help reduce the risk and complexity of greener investing. They make product selection simple and standardised for investors and they outsource the social and environmental due diligence to credible third parties. There is huge demand for this. Twenty two trillion US dollars in assets represented by the Climate Bonds Initiative advisory panel is calling for this to help screen and preference green investment.
Q: Is this just about the private sector?
A: No. This is about repositioning the narrative in both policy and financial circles towards financing productive investments that will provide a much needed long-term economic stimulus. Uncovering the large-scale investor appetite we are seeing in the market will help to spur policy makers to develop green growth frameworks in the knowledge that cheap private sector capital is eager and available.
Q: So how do we scale up?
A: There are several key requirements such as issuing in large size to create the “liquidity” required by the biggest investors, strategic use of public balance sheets to buy down the cost of capital, using tax incentives and creating a compelling story. Have a look here for some more on this.
About the authors:
Iain Henderson joined the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) in Geneva in 2012 to work on REDD+ and Sustainable Land Use. Prior to this, he spent two years in Hong Kong, where he grew up, with WWF’s Forest & Climate Initiative working on finance-related issues. For the first 12 years of his working life, Iain worked in investment banks in London in the Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities divisions of UBS and Deutsche Bank.
Sean Kidney CEO and co-founder of Climate Bonds Initiative is also a member of the Board of the Network of Sustainable Financial Markets. He is also a member of the Commonwealth Expert Group on Climate Finance; the Finance Advisory Board of the European Wind Energy Association; Mercer’s Sustainability Opportunities Fund Advisory Panel; Palmetto’s renewal energy fund advisory board; and the Advisory Council for the Corporate Knights Capital Advisory Council.
Johan Kieft is currently working as the Head of the Green Economy Unit at the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID). During his career, Johan focused on climate change, green growing mainstreaming in development planning and sustainable development with a variety of development agencies and the United Nations. Some of his key achievements include his work on humanitarian assistance in Indonesia, facilitating the drafting process of the Viet Nam Green Growth Strategy and developing concept to mainstream REDD+ in a Green Economy in Indonesia.
Submitted by: Doug Cress
By the year 2030, experts predict that human development will have impacted over 90 per cent of great ape habitat in Equatorial Africa, and that less than one per cent of the orangutan’s undisturbed rainforest homes in Southeast Asia will remain.
That means the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, whose population is already fragmented across northern Sumatra, will become even more isolated. Cross River gorillas in Cameroon and Nigeria will struggle to survive in the 11 pockets of forest they currently inhabit, mountain gorillas might lose the ability to roam freely across parts of the Albertine Rift, and the 24 chimpanzees that cling to the tiny Gishwati Forest in Rwanda – nicknamed the “Forest of Hope” – might cease to exist at all.
But finding a way to enhance the value of those forests and identify vital corridors that might expand the great apes’ range is at the heart of a new project undertaken by two United Nations’ initiatives – the UN-REDD Programme and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP). The UN-REDD – GRASP collaboration will develop a series of maps that overlay carbon data and great ape habitat and population data, to highlight the potential benefits of REDD+ and help determine the most vital conservation areas.
The UN-REDD-GRASP project will seek to demonstrate the value the UN-REDD Programme could add to the conservation of great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans – in terms of improved land-use planning, forest-ecosystem restoration and the connection of habitats through natural corridors that include both protected areas and non-protected areas. This connectivity is crucial to the long-term survival of great apes, which naturally switch social groups or travel vast distances to promote genetic diversity and establish new populations.
Increased knowledge and understanding of the benefits of the UN-REDD Programme for great ape conservation will also help decision-makers to prioritize geographic areas for REDD+ efforts.
The maps will draw upon publically available pantropical carbon data administered by the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and will be made available in both published format and on-line through the Ape Populations Environments Surveys portal database, a visualization tool that can help link the carbon and great ape layers with other context data. The UN-REDD–GRASP project will be launched in late 2014.
The UN-REDD Programme and GRASP had been seeking meaningful projects on which to collaborate, particularly as the natural overlap between forests and great apes already existed. The fact that the UN-REDD Programme currently works in a number of nations that host great apes – including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Indonesia and Nigeria, among others – made the partnership that much easier.
GRASP is a unique alliance of 95 nations, conservation organizations, research institutions and UN agencies that was established in 2001 and tasked with ensuring the long-term survival of great apes and their habitat. Among GRASP’s key priorities is the protection and expansion of great ape rangeland, and the UN-REDD Programme carbon data could be a valuable tool in speeding support to priority areas.
Doug Cress is the programme coordinator of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP). He previously served as the executive director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), the vice-president of the Orangutan Conservancy, and the executive director of the Great Ape Project (GAP), and spent 20 years as an award-winning reporter for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Daily News, Time and the Atlanta Constitution.
UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP) launch their report: Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy to coincide with key events taking place in Jakarta celebrating the International Day of Forests – 21March 2014.
Our planet is currently losing 13 million hectares of forest per year – equivalent to the surface of a football field being destroyed every three seconds! The most severe consequences of this loss include declining watersheds and the depletion of nutrition, loss of topsoil and valuable genetic resources upon which humanity is dependent. Forest loss and degradation also contributes significantly to climate change.
REDD+ led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides a collaborative response on a scale that matches the severity of the issue, ensuring that forests are more highly valued in decision-making. REDD+ is a key catalyst in the transformation of development, “providing a foundation for the global transition to a Green Economy”. A Green Economy is defined by UNEP as “an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”
A groundbreaking report, produced by UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP) and the UN-REDD Programme, in collaboration with economists and experts worldwide, reaffirms that a Green Economy offers a new engine of growth, is a net generator of jobs, and is a vital strategy for the elimination of persistent poverty. The authors recommend measures to secure tropical forests across the world, thereby slowing the loss of natural capital and simultaneously reinforcing sustainable development. The report also seeks to motivate policy makers to create the enabling conditions for increased investments in Green Economy with a focus on building ‘natural capital.’
The primary conclusion of the report is that “many synergies between REDD+ and the ongoing transition to a Green Economy are currently under-utilized.” Enhancing “these synergies will accelerate the transition while maximizing the return on REDD+ investments.”
In addition, the authors of the IRP report conclude that:
- The Green Economy provides a useful framework within which REDD+ can prosper. Improved coordination among governments, international agencies, and the private sector dealing with these issues is essential;
- Equitable sharing of the benefits of REDD+ is likely to increase the sustainability of its impact by building support among a wider variety of stakeholders;
- To date, REDD+ activities have focused mostly on reducing carbon emissions from loss and degradation of forests but REDD+ needs to give significantly greater attention to the additional benefits that forests provide.
- The success of REDD+, therefore depends on the balance between conserving forest ecosystems and maximizing carbon sequestration; this balance needs to be informed by solid science.
Perhaps the largest challenge for REDD+ in coming years will be to generate the estimated USD 30 billion per year needed for the implementation of REDD+ from 2020 onwards. The report examines possible sources for these payments, insisting that developed countries play their part in raising the USD 30 billion per year required for future REDD funding. Additional funding could be leveraged from reassessing current incentives such as fossil fuel subsidies, estimated in the region of USD 500 billion per annum, to help meet these costs. “REDD+ would require less than seven per cent of these subsidies to be fully funded.”
Furthermore, stronger engagement of the private sector, and revised national incentive frameworks are recommended to meet these challenges. A Green Economy approach can support both. REDD+ is a ‘no regrets’ investment, and the USD 6.27 billion pledged so far is generating multiple benefits far beyond carbon sequestration.
Multiple Benefits of REDD+ in the Landscape quoted from the IRP Report:
“REDD+ is an effort to create a financial value for carbon stored in forests, incentivizing developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. REDD+ goes beyond addressing deforestation and forest degradation and aims to make forest management and land use more sustainable within the landscape, and promote conservation and restoration of forests.
When REDD+ prevents the loss or degradation of forest, this will result in multiple benefits in addition to protecting or enhancing carbon stocks. These include ecosystem-based benefits such as conservation of forest biodiversity, water regulation, soil conservation, forest foods and other non-timber forest products. Higher productivity across the wider landscape will be essential to ensure food, water and energy security in an increasingly resource-constrained world, where soil fertility and availability is currently dropping fast.”
Such is the dynamic nature of the REDD+ narrative that it can lead to direct economic benefits, such as jobs, livelihoods, land tenure clarification, carbon payments, enhanced participation in decision-making and improved governance. In Kenya the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project provides a replicable model of how multiple benefits can be achieved through REDD+ activities.
Quite literally tropical forests are invaluable! Here are some food for thought: 60 million indigenous people depend on forests; trade in timber and forest products is estimated at USD 330 billion; tourism generates USD 77 billion in global annual revenue; 33 of the world’s 105 largest cities obtain their fresh water directly from protected areas; forest plants contribute to the development of at least 25 per cent of all prescription drugs; forest based wild pollinators (such as bees) are worth billions of dollars annually to farmers.
Read more about the UN-REDD Programme projects in the following countries:-
Panama (valuation of forest ecosystem services).
- Full report, low resolution (8 MB): http://we.tl/TK25KBMNKp
- Summary for Policy Makers (6 MB): http://we.tl/uPR7IdhLYt
Bio: Suzannah Goss has recently joined the UN-REDD team as a Programme Officer to coordinate Knowledge Management across UN-REDD+ units. Before joining UNEP, Suzannah drew both PES and REDD+ principles into the conclusions of her recent MSc, and since then has written numerous articles on REDD+s dynamic narrative.
2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Prize. This award was offered by the British Government in 1714 and it was one of the greatest and most exciting prizes of its era. The winner would receive the princely sum of twenty thousand British pounds – nearly three million pounds in today’s money – for the discovery of a method to determine the precise longitude of a sailing ship. Although the thought was beyond the wildest dreams of those behind the prize, the announcement – according to US astronaut Neil Armstrong – would ultimately set explorers on a path to the moon.
Unlike latitude, which could be calculated from the angle of the sun, longitude was incredibly hard to establish for sailors of a bygone era who had to rely on ‘dead reckoning’. This uncertainty over how far east or west a sailing vessel was from its port of origin had dire, and sometimes tragic, consequences. Indeed, the prize was in part a reaction to the tragedy that befell Sir Admiral Shovell’s British fleet in 1707, where an inaccurate calculation of longitude led to the fleet being splintered on the rocks off the Scilly Isles with the loss of over two thousand men. The key to solving the puzzle, and therefore winning the prize, was to invent a clock that could keep accurate time at sea.
After decades of painstaking effort, the prize was finally awarded to John Harrison, a lowly carpenter’s son with an unremarkable education who arrived at a solution that had eluded the brilliant minds of men like Galileo and Newton. His marine chronometer was a clock that could keep accurate time at sea despite myriad challenges such as pitching decks, sea salt and fluctuations in temperature and pressure that played havoc with the intricate innards of a precision instrument. The lure of the prize led to quantum leaps in manufacturing and design by focusing brilliant minds and resources on a seemingly insurmountable problem. It is also one of the better known early examples of an incentive (or ‘pull’ mechanism) being used to successfully solve complex problems.
Exploiting this basic response to incentives has played a tremendous role in human history and it is also one of the foundation stones of REDD+. It is this feature – the incentive – that sets REDD+ apart from decades of frustrated and often failed attempts to grapple with tropical deforestation.
We are frequently reminded in venues around the world and in countless papers that ‘REDD+ is an incentive-based mechanism’. Billions of dollars have been pledged to help prepare countries for these incentives. But isn’t there a catch, and a fairly large catch at that? Isn’t the rather uncomfortable truth that this incentive doesn’t really exist at present at the scale required? Where is the long-term, predictable and credible incentive that will assist developing countries to shift their development pathways towards the nirvana of growth decoupled from resource exploitation?
A recent paper by UNEP Finance Initiative, Global Canopy Programme, FFI and IPAM explores this issue in more detail as part of a project looking at the issue of REDD+ demand in the ‘interim’ period before 2020. Although there is no single ‘silver bullet’ in the complex world of REDD+, it argues that we need more focus on creating large-scale interim demand if REDD+ is to succeed at the scale and within the timeframe that science and humanity require.
A number of options are considered in the paper. These range from creating an incentive (or ‘price signal’ as it is sometimes referred to) using products such as Advance Market Commitments, to considering ways to mobilise the upfront finance that is often required to start activities that will ultimately benefit from the incentive.
Of course there are serious challenges to address that fall under the catch-all phrase of ‘capacity building’, but is this really a valid reason to bury our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, over the issue of demand? On the contrary, the paper argues that providing a clear incentive would give forest countries the ability and confidence to mobilise far greater quantities of human, political and financial capital to REDD+. It is because of, not in spite of, these challenges that we need a clear incentive to make the progress we so desperately need.
Well-designed incentives are powerful mechanisms that have consistently helped shape human behaviour and deal with complex problems over the centuries. The paper argues that we urgently need an interim mechanism that can create demand before 2020, otherwise REDD+ will fail when measured against the twin yardsticks of time and scale. If he were still making clocks in 2014, I have a feeling John Harrison might agree.
Bio: Iain Henderson joined the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) in Geneva in 2012 to work on REDD+ and Sustainable Land Use. Prior to this, he spent two years in Hong Kong, where he grew up, with WWF’s Forest & Climate Initiative working on finance-related issues. For the first 12 years of his working life, Iain worked in investment banks in London in the Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities divisions of UBS and Deutsche Bank.
Something extraordinary happened on 8 December. Not extraordinary as in “magical” or “stupefying”, but “out of the ordinary” for sure. Three government representatives from Ministries of Environment, came together to discuss publically, among their peers, the risks of corruption they face for REDD+ and how they want to go about it. Three REDD+ national coordinators, who, although they interact with their national anti corruption or oversight agencies, come from forestry rather than anti-corruption backgrounds.
Of course, it’s not the first time that government officials speak frankly about issues of corruption in their countries. Presidents run campaigns on the very topic (see here and here), speeches are made on a regular basis; excellent work is taking place at the country level in REDD+ or in the education, health or water sectors. But I found that the level of openness of the representatives from DRC, Kenya and Nepal at a global event (the UN-REDD knowledge and information session on sharing national experiences on transparency, accountability and integrity, which – full disclosure- I co-organized) was quite refreshing.
Most importantly, governments collectively made a strong case for the relevance of anti-corruption work for REDD+. Not solely because their countries have international, regional or national legal obligations; nor because they know that understanding and tackling the problems of corruption will help REDD+ work effectively and equitably, but also by demonstrating how countries will use the result of the analyses and research they did during the last two years. For example, how Nepal nuanced its analysis of drivers of deforestation and forest degradation by assessing how each exact driver is catalyzed (or, in some cases, is not) by corrupt acts; how Kenya will use the results of its REDD+ Corruption Risk Assessment (or “REDD+ CRA”, an acronym you’ll see popping up more and more) to initiate a policy dialogue, develop its REDD+ safeguards and anticipate the type of grievances that could emanate from REDD+; how DRC is beefing up anti-corruption measures in the operations of its National REDD+ Fund.
Drivers, safeguards, benefit sharing: three topics that are key to developing a national REDD+ strategy, and three topics that benefit from REDD+ anti-corruption work. Congrats to DRC, Kenya and Nepal and already, and looking forward to a wider and deeper engagement in 2014!
Bio: Estelle Fach is programme specialist on anti-corruption for REDD+ at UNDP in the UN-REDD Programme in Geneva. In this capacity, and together with regional and country teams and global partners, she supports countries to assess and prevent corruption risks in REDD+.
While the Global Landscape Forum may have passed, only the tip of the iceberg has been scratched in pursuing integrated approaches to sustainable development. One panel discussion at this meeting of landscapes leaders, practitioners, and thinkers specifically targeted Landscapes in a Green Economy, drawing out some key insights on how to follow an alternate path to progress.
According to Mario Boccucci, Head of UN-REDD, “a business as usual approach” is no longer possible. His message: the “triple bottom line” is achievable, and trade-offs between development and sustainability are not inevitable. However, the premise underlying the concept of a green economy – that sustainability can be an engine for rather than a hindrance to growth – also relies on reorienting economic development so that we approach land management in a way that maintains natural capital. As President of EcoAgriculture Partners Sara Scherr noted, this move is often difficult because “it requires people to move beyond their comfort zone.”
Scherr pointed to the case of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), a project launched in 2009 to simultaneously reduce hunger, drive economic growth, and improve standards of living in a region stretching from Dar Es Salaam to the border of Zambia. SAGCOT initially followed an industrial agricultural model, but stakeholders soon realized that their goals could not be realized without acknowledging dependencies on the region’s pool of natural resources. This realization prompted a new focus on environmental sustainability, to be achieved through a green growth model and landscape scale planning. The resulting Green Growth Planning process demonstrated that opportunities for triple wins do exist.
SAGCOT’s story shows the importance of cross-sectoral planning and participatory processes. These concepts were also highlighted at Landscapes in a Green Economy as the panel turned its attention to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Boccucci set the stage by emphasizing that “REDD+ is not about forestry.” In reality, REDD+ must engage with drivers of deforestation and degradation from sectors largely outside of forestry. Agnes Leina, Executive Director of Il’laramatak Community Concerns (ICC), an organization working with pastoralist communities in Kenya, added that REDD+ programs should also build off of traditional knowledge and ensure equitable sharing of benefits.
Between cross-sectoral planning, multi-stakeholder coordination, and considering the suite of knowledge available across a landscape, the challenge of building a green economy can seem a bit daunting. Yet the benefits are worth the costs. As Heru Prasetyo, Deputy Head of Planning and International Relations for Indonesia’s President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, concluded in his remarks, “economy is the art of managing our household, and a green economy is one where human well-being and social equity are achieved simultaneously with sustainability.” If we want to meet multiple social, economic, and environmental goals, this complex process is the way forward.
By Rachel Friedman, Editor of the Landscapes Blog (blog.ecoagriculture.org)
Linking forests and people is a powerful idea.
Three months ago, on a Monday morning in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. An Indigenous group, the Grand Council of the Crees, have offices in Ottawa that serve as a technical and policy headquarters for their 9 communities and 18,000 people in northern Quebec, a French-speaking province in eastern Canada. Isaac Voyageur is a Cree, or one of the people of Eeyou Istchee in their language, a phrase in the Cree language that means the “People’s Land.” Isaac is one of these people.
He came in to work at 9 on that Monday morning. He receives his regular Global Forest Watch alerts or “GFW Alerts” via Facebook, which shows exactly where road building and logging has occurred as recently as the past two weeks in the more than 450,000 square kilometres of Cree territory in northern Quebec.
On this Monday morning, a few bright red points appear on a map within one of Cree traplines. He clicks to zoom in. There it is. Primary intact forest has just disappeared. The illegal loggers are probably still nearby. He immediately telephones a local Cree partner working near the affected trapline. “We’ve got activity. Latitude 49.92° N, Longitude 74.37° W. I’m e-mailing the map now. Go check it out.” After notifying the government authorities, his partner heads into the trapline, records the clearing’s GPS coordinates, takes photos with a smartphone, and uploads them instantly to the GFW website with a tailor-made app. The story is out that day. A successful effort to save the forests in the traplines has begun, and in time to stop more damage.
Ecologically intact boreal forests are critical to the survival of the Cree people. Although this is as yet a hypothetical story, the Crees, using the Global Forest Watch – GFW – system, will soon be “watching” these intact forests.
Using the latest technologies, Global Forest Watch will be watching from space and will link forests and people by mobilizing a convergence of recent advances in technology.
These advances in technology include:
- Inexpensive satellite pictures
- Cloud computing and open source software
- High speed internet connectivity
- Social media
Building the links between forests and people will create more transparency. It will empower communities, whether those communities be traditional collections of people who reside in the same place, or people scattered around the world who form a community linked by the internet with the same forest area in mind.
Near real-time satellite pictures, combined with credible ancillary datasets such as boundaries of logging concessions and boundaries of protected areas and community forests. And all this information will also be linked to information about logging supply chains – where the wood and wood products move. And people and organizations everywhere having ready access can activate the system whenever they wish for their forest area of interest.
Over the past 50 years, about half the world’s original forest cover has been lost, the most significant cause for that being humans beings’ unsustainable use of its resources. Along with loss of original forest cover comes loss of species and ecosystems.
When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with consequences, often dire consequences.
Despite our dependence on forests, we are still allowing them to disappear or become degraded.
Forests are threatened throughout the world for many reasons, including deforestation and degradation due primarily to logging.
Significant amounts of deforestation and forest degradation occur because there have been severe forest data challenges. Across the globe, forest data continues to be unreliable, out of date, dispersed across many different sources which may or may not be comparable, very expensive to access, too technical for the average person to understand, and not presented in ways that people can easily interact with the data and with each other around the data.
This situation makes the work of governments harder. It impedes law enforcement, public participation, and informed policymaking, and it facilitates corruption.
By watching forests through satellites and recent advances in social media technologies, GFW has multiple target users and applications that will catalyze conservation and sustainable management of forests. They include:
- Buyers of sustainable commodities
- Conservation and community organizations
- The media
- Suppliers of sustainable commodities
This new tool represents an important step in empowering governments and communities to make evidence-based, informed decisions in advancing sustainable forest management.
Peter Lee is the Executive Director of Global Forest Watch Canada. Previous to this, he was an Endangered Spaces campaigner for World Wildlife Canada and a biologist with the Alberta Government in Canada. He has also been a sessional lecturer at the University of Alberta and has worked in the forestry and oil and gas industries. He has a post-graduate degree in ecology and geography from the University of Alberta. Peter has served on many boards of charitable organizations, including the Alberta Environmental Law Centre, Nature Canada, Castle Crown Wilderness Association and Nature Alberta. His 40 year career has focused on improving sustainable land management in Alberta and nationally, throughout Canada, and internationally. His work with Global Forest Watch Canada focusses on monitoring the state of Canada’s forests using remote sensing and geographic information systems technologies.