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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.
The UN-REDD Programme fifth Policy Brief ‘REDD+ and the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets: Promoting Synergies in International Forest Conservation Efforts’ was launched at a side event of the 17th Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montréal, Canada, on Wednesday 16October 2013.There were presentations on the topic from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, followed by discussion involving the audience of some 40 people.
The Policy Brief explores how REDD+ activities and safeguards, and the achievement of the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets, can complement one another. The Brief highlights that both the UN-REDD Programme and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets address (i) the issue of forest loss and degradation and (ii) the conservation of biodiversity. The report considers the five Aichi Biodiversity Targets of most relevance to REDD+, and their potential synergies with REDD+ planning and implementation. These Targets address the loss of natural habitats, including forests (Target 5); the sustainable management of areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry (Target 7); the expansion and improved management of networks of protected areas (Target 11); the restoration and/or conservation of ecosystems providing essential services, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and the vulnerable (Target 14) and the conservation and restoration of degraded ecosystems to increase their resilience and their contribution to carbon storage, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification (Target 15). The Policy Brief is illustrated with examples from the Philippines and Tanzania where ongoing initiatives aim at enhancing multiple benefits from REDD+, and especially the conservation of biodiversity. It concludes with some options to enhance synergies between REDD+ and biodiversity actions, which may be useful for REDD+ and NBSAP (National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans) decision makers to consider.
The interrelated challenges of forest conservation and climate-change mitigation led to the birth of REDD+, an environmental finance mechanism that is endorsed by international negotiations and agreements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The traction of REDD+ relies on the positive incentives, notably international climate-change finance, that developing countries would acquire against demonstrated achievements in reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and other forest-related activities. In order to be effective and lasting, REDD+ was originally conceived as a mechanism with a nation-wide scope, anchored to national-level policies, national implementation measures and public/private transformational investments. Such national scope would foster, achieve and demonstrate sustainable development with a social and environmental performance of magnitude. The national scope of the REDD+ mechanism is thus not arbitrary – it lays the basis for mainstreaming, impact and permanence.
In fact, defining the scope and scale of actions to mitigate climate change has been a central matter in international negotiations. The UNFCCC, through its Kyoto Protocol, enabled a dual approach: developed countries with a large legacy of carbon emissions were compelled to national targets of emissions reductions; whereas a number of “flexible mechanisms” allowed a project approach to climate change, notably in developing countries, consisting in the implementation of discrete, local interventions (the Clean Development Mechanism is a clear illustration). This project-based approach stimulated and engaged a myriad of entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations, among others, into preparing and conducting numerous climate-change mitigation projects, from community-based actions to industrial innovations. This approach was appealing and became predominant, also permeating the REDD+ arena.
The project approach to climate-change affairs certainly nurtures experimentation and yields some benefits. But it is proving deficient to address the scale of the climate crisis and to deliver the UNFCCC goals, resembling more a therapy than a transformational endeavour to tackle the causes of the malady. Furthermore, stand-alone projects scarcely influence policy, while their long-term impact remains unclear, not to mention the risks of displacement of the emissions, particularly in the land-use and forest sectors. Accordingly, a second generation of instruments for climate change emerged after the Kyoto Protocol: REDD+ being the most paradigmatic of them. Their aim is national-wide schemes, engaging national policy as well as promoting national performance and safeguard measures. These second-generation mechanisms are meant to better foster transformations towards low-carbon and climate-resilient societies, connecting policy with action, and engaging large territories, all of which should serve the climate-change cause more resolutely.
National efforts for REDD+ are advancing in a number of countries, such as Costa Rica, the Republic of Congo, Viet Nam and Zambia. They prove complex and lengthy, which this is understandable since deploying innovative mechanisms nation-wide and reforming policies are major tasks. Conversely, local projects on REDD+ remain a tangible means to test innovations and to accomplish concrete results. In fact, REDD+ projects of diverse sizes and designs are advancing in several countries, such as Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Kenya and Tanzania. The investment phase for REDD+ also accepts pilot projects – as geographically discrete interventions – yet the underlying philosophy of REDD+ remains the achievement of country-wide performance and compliance with UNFCCC objectives and criteria (e.g., UNFCCC’s Cancun Agreements: Decision 1/CP.16). In fact, pilot projects for REDD+ are proliferating with determination, to the extent that they seem to be overcoming the very national REDD+ processes with which they should be integrated. While national REDD+ processes are obviously cumbersome and tend to create some fatigue, pilot projects attract the attention of many stakeholders for their concrete nature and for bearing fruits sooner. However, are pilot projects on REDD+ contributing to, aligning with, or rather alienating national policy for REDD+?
The reality is that most pilot projects for REDD+ are poorly connected to national-level policy processes, sometimes prevailing as “successful” ventures against the complexities and discredit of national governance. This disconnection can undermine the aspiration of the REDD+ mechanism, as set out in UNFCCC negotiations and agreements. Pilot projects for REDD+, no matter if well designed or even if earning carbon credits, will prove an insufficient effort if they do not influence national development policies and institutions. They will only have a punctual impact, and a likely ephemeral effect, whether on climate-change mitigation, on forest conservation or on enhancing local livelihoods. Furthermore, pilot projects often broadcast a disparity of methods in designing and implementing REDD+ activities, for instance when defining reference levels, carbon rights or benefit-sharing arrangements. Such disparity, although healthy in terms of experimentation, will later cause controversy: for instance, project beneficiaries may enter complaints, or even grievances, if they feel their project is more difficult or yields fewer benefits than another. Such disparity will also undermine the ability of governments – and their prerogative – to establish national standards and policy for REDD+.
REDD+ projects can, however, support national REDD+ processes well, through advocating REDD+, experimenting with REDD+, and creating a critical mass of practice on how to craft REDD+. Meanwhile, developing national policy is required to stimulate an orderly emergence of projects, providing them with common methodological guidance, endowing them with legitimacy, and embedding them into a national purpose. How could both approaches to REDD+ cooperate and conciliate with each other? These are crucial questions for countries and stakeholders to address in the REDD+ readiness phase. There is need for specific actions to build a cohesive interface between national policy and activities on-the-ground for REDD+, in order to avoiding a dispersion of approaches or a disruption of the essence of the mechanism.
A number of actions and measures are proposed to help bridge these two REDD+ trends – national policy processes and pilot projects – allowing them to feed into each other. They are: establishing a regular dialogue between governments and pilot-project actors; drawing up basic national policy/guidance for REDD+; establishing national REDD+ registries (as an institutional, managerial device for organization, monitoring and transparency of projects); and exploring the so-called jurisdictional REDD+ projects (which tend to blend a project approach with decentralised governance).
First, regular dialogue between governments and project actors is necessary in climate-change practice, not just on REDD+, in order to exchange views, disseminate lessons from the field, craft alliances and set common benchmarks. The innovative nature of many UNFCCC instruments and initiatives, compounded with the lack of a specific policy framework in the countries, require governments to establish a regular multi-stakeholder dialogue, as an interim step, in order to build policy and methodological coherence across the board. In addition, consulting pilot-project stakeholders (from project entrepreneurs to community participants) will provide governments with extremely valuable information and field experiences for the design of pragmatic national REDD+ strategies, including the REDD+ implementation infrastructure (e.g., governance measures, monitoring systems, required socio-environmental safeguards). Equally, the public advice of government, via the proposed multi-stakeholder dialogue efforts, will assist local projects, helping them to better align with national development policy, and providing them with sufficient legitimacy (especially when basic national policy or national standards on REDD+ are absent, or under development). Therefore, regular REDD+ forums that put governmental and project constituencies together are proposed, and not just to share information and perspectives, but also to agree on common approaches and basic standards for REDD+. Some efforts in this sense are ongoing: the government of Kenya regularly invites pilot-project stakeholders to national consultation events for REDD+ (in return, pilot-project engage in contributing with local insights to such national policy dialogue); Cambodia has hosted exchanges between pilot projects and national stakeholders to identify successful ways to resolve forest-related conflicts; and the national REDD+ coordinating cell of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has actively provided technical guidance and support to the design of a number of pilot projects for REDD+ across the country.
Furthermore, establishing basic national policy on REDD+ (or some sort of formal guidance from government) is recommended and increasingly required, more so as pilot projects proliferate. REDD+ is a new mechanism and thus countries may face a policy vacuum for it – to which project entrepreneurs respond with tailored approaches, which are not necessarily in the best interest of the nation. Hence some national-level guidance is eventually needed, for a number of reasons, namely: to better organize and orient pilot-project initiatives; to define national priorities (such as may be geographic priorities or deforestation drivers that require urgent attention from project interventions); to inject some consistency in the methods and standards used by pilot projects; and, not least, to federate local efforts towards a national goal. In Africa, Kenya and Nigeria intend to develop a policy note and a decree-like instrument, respectively, to address such policy vacuum on REDD+ and to better frame pilot projects and local actions. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has already enacted legislation on REDD+ to provide such policy direction: a Prime Minister’s decree endorsing the national REDD+ process and its national-level managing structures (2009); a ministerial decree defining the basic procedures to formalize REDD+ projects (2012); and the Council of Ministers adopting the national REDD+ Framework Strategy (2012). In addition, national REDD+ strategies – which are the pivotal REDD+ policy instrument – should ideally define the criteria, standards and priorities for pilot projects, so that all efforts in the country, at all scales, contribute towards a common (and measurable) performance objective.
A third proposed action is the establishment of a national REDD+ registry, which represents an effective system for a government to organize, guide and monitor project initiatives in their country. REDD+ registries are on-line platforms that facilitate that REDD+ projects and activities align with essential national standards, guiding them towards common national objectives, while ensuring transparency, consistency and quality in the REDD+ arena. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been the pioneer country in conceiving and establishing a REDD+ registry, backed by a ministerial decree, although it still has to become operational. It has provisions for an approval process, by government, when carbon credits are involved, in order to ensure national oversight and further transparency in any credit transaction (which is a new, delicate matter). Colombia also intends to establish a national REDD+ registry, more so in view of the volume of early action, project-based activity so far. In essence, national registration instruments, even if imposing some operational restrictions and requirements to project promoters, will actually enhance their legitimacy. Yet registries should be well designed, with both realism and pragmatism: if the registration criteria, national standards and approval process for REDD+ are too demanding or very strict, they will suffocate project initiatives and kill REDD+ at the grassroots.
A final remark goes to the consideration of the typology of pilot projects for REDD+. A recent innovation in REDD+ is the concept of jurisdictional REDD+ initiatives, where a decentralized or local government is closely involved in, or may actually lead on a REDD+ initiative. This seems an advantageous type of pilot initiative because it matches with a public administration entity, thus integrating better the multi-sector dimensions of climate-change action. In practical terms, this form of REDD+ approach blends better local action with public policy, and may actually become favoured for its mix of project and governance elements. In fact, guidance and methodologies for jurisdictional REDD+ projects are emerging in the voluntary carbon market community (e.g., VCS, ACR) in recognition to this new approach and its advantages. Brazil and Indonesia are advancing the jurisdictional approach to REDD+, which fits the ‘sub-national’ scale as endorsed in the UNFCCC agreements.
In summary, national policy and local activities on REDD+ are advancing simultaneously, but often in a disconnected manner, somehow unevenly. This can create disruptions, maybe contradictions, in climate-change mitigation efforts. However, both trends are necessary and can actually strengthen each other, creating valuable synergies. The deployment of specific measures is required to bridge national policy with pilot projects, ensuring that both strata are compatible and mutually reinforcing: these measures range from routine dialogue to establishing registration systems, and from defining national standards for projects to allowing project lessons to inform national REDD+ strategies. This interaction, which may also become a healthy contest of ideas and methods, has started and should intensify. The desired outcome is the conciliation between the first and second generation approaches for climate-change action, probably getting the best of each on board. This will serve better to put into place the transformational policy and practices that the climate-change crisis urgently requires.
Bio: Josep A. Garí is a UNDP professional and the Africa advisor for UN-REDD, based in Nairobi. He holds a PhD on Political Ecology from the University of Oxford and has about 15 years of international experience in development practice, notably in Latin America and Africa.
REDD+ deals with forests. Its focus is on providing incentives for their better management and conservation, reducing deforestation and the deterioration of forest conditions. This means that REDD+ is not just forestry, but is a much broader, cross-cutting issue. It requires changes to business-as-usual in many sectors, in particular those that are land-use based. In turn, this necessitates the effective engagement of a variety of stakeholders in discussions on REDD+, in getting ready for REDD+ and in formulating and implementing national REDD+ strategies.
Within the UN-REDD Programme this requirement is very well understood and in many UN-REDD partner countries steps have been taken to go beyond the usual suspects (e.g. forestry agencies) and open venues to increase the diversity of stakeholders in national processes, including a variety of line ministries, and representatives of the private sector, NGOs, civil society and indigenous peoples.
Engagement can only be effective if those coming to the table are well informed. As we have learned over the last year, REDD+ is becoming more and more complex, which makes spreading the news and raising awareness on what REDD+ a significant challenge.
How both challenges of enhancing knowledge and understanding on REDD+ and involving a broad range of stakeholders into the discussions was the focus of a panel discussion during the Tenth UN-REDD Global Policy Board meeting. It enabled participants from Cambodia, Ecuador and Tanzania, to learn from each other through dialogue and develop a common understanding of issues. It also provided the Policy Board and observers from many countries, an opportunity to discuss and provide recommendations to enhance implementation of National Programmes.
On paper, it looks like many countries have made significant progress in reaching out to non-forestry stakeholders. Many countries have set up task forces (such as Cambodia’s REDD+ Task Force), committees (such as Ecuador’s Climate Change Inter-institutional Committee) and technical working groups (such as Tanzania or Viet Nam). In reality, there is still work do be done. Some bodies are not operating on a regular basis and they are dominated by the public sector. NGOs, civil society and indigenous peoples are often under-represented; the private sector remains almost invisible, except where technical working groups specifically focus on private sector issues. This is regrettable, as the private sector is a significant driver of deforestation and forest degradation, and without the involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples, it is difficult to envision major changes in forested (or deforested) landscapes. But the situation is not as bleak as described above. Consultation groups are being set up, with the intention of bringing in under-represented groups and giving them a stronger voice.
But can they have an informed voice or will their inputs and feedback lead only to more confusion? That depends on how well they are informed. Partner countries have invested significantly in raising awareness and in helping people at national and sub-national levels to understand what REDD+ is all about and what it might mean for them. A wide variety of materials have been produced, in national and local languages, and distributed widely. In many countries meetings have been held to convey messages directly to participants. There is no doubt that the understanding on REDD+ has been improved and that people feel more confident to participate in processes, such as the formulation of national REDD+ strategies. Yet, the number of informed stakeholders remains small and many have criticized that much information is too technical and not tailored for broader audiences.
Let’s keep in mind that REDD+ will ultimately be interested at the national level, not just in a small number of projects throughout a country. Millions of people with very different information needs have to be reached with the most suitable means. We need to go beyond booklets, flyers and posters. While UN-REDD National Programmes have established websites and experimented with screening video clips, communication approaches clearly have to be diversified. The first steps have been made by involving religious leaders, such as in Indonesia and Cambodia, who can reach millions instead of just hundreds of people. But Programmes have to be far more innovative. TV and radio programmes have been used for many purposes and are in many situations suitable to reach people, even in remote areas. Key messages can even be woven into soap operas to reach people who cannot read. And never underestimate the power of the print media. Building a small network of key journalists and feeding them continuously with interesting news, while result in articles they will reach far more people then the few that can make it to a workshop. Such approaches will not only be more effective, but they will also save scarce funds. It was also pointed out that difficulties in communicating effectively have arisen because of a focus on communicating how the REDD+ mechanism might work (a very complex subject), rather than what REDD+ means in terms of people’s livelihoods and land-use – a much easier topic to understand.
The call was therefore to think outside the box. To rely more on mass media in raising awareness and find constructive ways to help under-represented stakeholders to strengthen their voice. National Programmes will take the suggestions on board, but they also have to tread carefully to avoid raising expectations, especially of local people, many of whom are already expecting money to grow on trees.
Bio: Thomas Enters is currently working as the UNEP UN-REDD Regional Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific. He has been based in Thailand for the last 12 years working throughout the region amongst others for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and The Center for People of Forests. Although most of his work has been at the environment-rural livelihood nexus and forest policy issues in the Asia-Pacific region, Dr. Enters has also worked on technical forest management issues such as reduced impact logging.
With our planet facing the highest carbon emission levels in human history, with smoking fires from Sumatra choking more than five million people in neighboring Singapore, experts from around the world gathered in Indonesia to see how REDD+ is being used to help move economic development from a path of resource exploitation to one of environmental sustainability and human betterment.
“Our paradigm of growth has been based on the overexploitation of resources,” explained Mr. Marcellus Rantetana, Senior Assistant to the Presidential Special Envoy for Poverty Alleviation in Indonesia, speaking at the Global Symposium on REDD+ in a Green Economy, held in Jakarta, 19-21 June 2013.
“It has followed a rule of economic growth dictating maximized profit at all costs – some call it the ‘greedy economy,’” he added.
Countries such as Indonesia and others across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are creating a new development paradigm. They are integrating REDD+ and green growth into their national development plans, connecting better natural resource management with poverty reduction, improving governance, and shaping policies to better balance conservation and economic growth.
The Government of Indonesia is at the forefront of using REDD+ to catalyze change and avoid falling off the cliff of unsustainable growth. Its development agenda is designed to be not only pro-growth but also pro-poor, pro-jobs, and pro-environment. It has used the REDD+ framework to stimulate broader stakeholder engagement, policy alignments, and new strategies to ‘green’ the development agenda from the national to local levels.
“Indonesia has used REDD+ not only as a vehicle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also as a modality to support social equity, along with environmental and economic sustainable, while prompting economic growth and opportunity,” said
HE Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Head of the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) and Chair of the National REDD+ Task Force, Indonesia.
Professor Bambang Brodjonegoro, Chairman of the Indonesian Ministry of Finance’s Fiscal Policy Agency, outlined how fiscal policies can be used to reposition the country toward a green economy. He noted the value of excise taxes on measurable pollutants, tax breaks or subsidies for clean energy alternatives, and moves to eliminate national fuel subsidies that encourage consumption rather than conservation and clean alternatives. And he pointed out ways to fund forest conservation and management as part of pro-development initiatives, including those to promote greater energy independence and security.
However, the challenge of measuring the dividends of green economy investments was mentioned by many symposium participants. Measures of gross domestic product (GDP) do not capture social and green growth indicators. Nor do they indicate who owns the growth or account for the high social, economic, and environmental costs of the depletion and degradation of natural resources.
“The trade-offs and synergies from competing land uses need to be understood, so that we can identify which investments will have the most development impacts – which interventions will best reduce risk, increase security, and improve lives,” said Dr. Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director General-Research at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
“By applying information economics and looking at land use alternatives from a landscape perspective, we can obtain high-value information on the indicators we need – not just those that exist already,” he added.
REDD+ planning has brought the application of a landscape approach to the forefront as a way of both stimulating new thinking and bringing competing stakeholders around the table to consider land use tradeoffs from a more complete and informed perspective.
With improved human wellbeing as the target of both REDD+ and green economy objectives, presenters also noted that it is measures of factors such as decent jobs and income, improved social equity, access to functioning health care, and quality education that are the important metrics.
Addressing poverty and reducing wide income gaps also were underscored as critical measures of progress from leveraging REDD+ toward a green economy. Poor people who depend on forests are among the major contributors to deforestation and forest degradation to meet their basic needs for food, fuel, timber, and other resources.
“If we don’t tackle poverty, the green economy will be an illusion,” said Mr. Rantetana, pointing out that in Indonesia, 50% of the population lives on less than $2/day, and 90% survive on less than $5/day.
Further discussions highlighted that even small investments in social sectors can yield measurable increases in the yield and productivity of smallholder farms, putting more income in the hands of the poor and less pressure on forest lands and resources. REDD+ pilot programs are working actively with indigenous groups and other forest communities to combine higher income generation with sustainable agroforestry and forest management strategies.
The enormous potential of REDD+ to catalyze the political will, new models, research advances, and resources needed for transformative shifts to a green economy was readily evident throughout the symposium. It was clear that Indonesia and other developing countries are leading the charge to integrate REDD+ in a green economy that is low in carbon emissions, resource efficient, protects ecosystems, and improves lives not only for immediate rewards but also for the long term benefit of our planet.
Bio: Valerie Gwinner is a freelance writer working with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), which co-sponsored the Global Symposium on REDD+ in a Green Economy with the UN-REDD Programme and other partners. She was formerly Head of Communications at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru and Altarum Institute in Washington DC. She has been a Senior Policy Analyst and Project Director at the US Office on Women’s Health and Georgetown University, and consultant to CGIAR, US National Institutes of Health, UN Statistical Office, Rockefeller Foundation, and other organizations.
In the pursuit of a green economy, how we address the role of the private sector in contributing to deforestation and degradation, and its role in achieving REDD+, is currently very muddy. We need some tweaks in how we conceptualise the private sector and its actions to dig ourselves out. But if we can do this, we create scope to influence huge sums of money towards achieving REDD+ and green economies.
In a green economy, environmental friendly decision making must become the norm. The whole economy will need to be shaped such that everyone acts and invests in this way and that action goes further than it does today. It will not be feasible to continually ask for financial compensation for extra costs compared to business-as-usual actions on such a scale.
With public purses already squeezed, there has been increasing attention to ‘mobilising’ and ‘leveraging’ private climate finance, something reflected in REDD+ discussions. For example, the UK government is planning to focus most of the remaining $450 million earmarked for REDD+ in the ICF towards work with the private sector. The UN-REDD programme has recently begun to unpick the private sector actors in REDD+, as well as identifying options for assisting its partner countries to convene and catalyse private actors. However, on-going research by ODI into private climate finance has shown that there is little private finance related to REDD+, little in the world’s poorest countries, and really not much has been mobilised at all. We currently have little idea what engaging the private sector in this way really means, or how best to do it.
So, in order to be successful here, we need a crucial shift in thinking. Especially considering the scale of the challenge in terms of economic significance of these practices (global producer values for palm oil, beef and soy were $92 billion in 2011) and the wide range of actors involved (from multinationals to small-holders and forest dependent people). The way to have the biggest positive impact on the impact of the private sector spends is to influence all their investments to be made in pro-REDD+ direction, not to fund new activities on top of business-as-usual. We must both incentivise these changes (pulling), and create a policy framework to do this (pushing), not just ‘convene’ and ‘coordinate’ them. But if we can do this in a few targeted areas, we can affect sectors that make huge contributions to deforestation and degradation – the agriculture sector alone is the proximate driver of 80% of deforestation.
In a paper we wrote in advance of the UN-REDD’s symposium on REDD+ in a green economy (happening this week in Jakarta), we noted that greater engagement from the private sector is likely to depend on demonstrating and enhancing the opportunity presented by green economy transitions and responding to policy reforms and price signals. This also emerged from today’s session at the symposium on private sector involvement. Possible ways to ‘pull’ the private sector along was neatly summarised as: Long term commitments, Loud signals of the direction to be taken, a workable Legal framework and relatively Light regulation that companies can navigate. We also see examples of how meeting legal, social and environmental standards reduces reputational and operational risk for businesses, and the corporate social responsibility incentives to invest in REDD+ through the voluntary emissions markets (~$200 million in 2011).
In parallel there is also a need to turn our attention towards how the national economy shapes all private sector actions and investments through the existence of economic policies, instruments and incentives, or subsidies. ODI research into fossil fuel subsidies showed that consumer subsidies alone dwarf approved climate finance by 75 times. We can easily imagine that the amount of money being directed on activities contradictory to REDD+ and green economy principles is similarly huge in comparison to new finance available for REDD+. Only 9% of fast start finance was spent on REDD+, only about $1 billion per year. We know that changing a range of regulatory and economic instruments can have positive impacts. For example reforming property and land rights is a regulatory instrument seen as a pillar of implementing REDD+ in 84% of countries establishing REDD+ plans. Reforming rural credit policies, an economic instrument, in the Brazilian Amazon prevented $1.4 billion of loans being made between 2008 and 2011 and led to a 15% decrease in deforestation. What we must do is identify the subsidies that influence activities that drive deforestation, calculate their scale, and ensure instead that investments are ‘pushed’ towards those activities that can reduce deforestation and degradation, as well as meet other necessary principles such as social inclusiveness and equitability.
We must not simply shy towards softer interventions such as information provision, coordination and voluntary agreements if we are to address deforestation or transition to a green economy. To ‘mobilise private finance’ towards REDD+, we must get a better handle on how to influence private investment and spending away from destructive activities and towards good ones, by some active pushing and pulling.
It had been hoped that incentives for REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) activities would help tip the balance and make sustainable resource use the financially sound thing to do.
The incentives would, with appropriate and robust safeguards, use the finances and skills of the private sector to help tackle deforestation the world over. All of this is essential given the public sector alone will not be able to provide the billions of USD per year needed to tackle global forest loss.
Unfortunately these incentives have not materialised at the scale or speed needed to make this happen. Engaging the private sector has continued to be a challenge, not least because of the challenging global economic climate. The role of developing economies, and private sector engagement is worth focusing in on when we consider how and why we value the benefits of REDD+.
Emerging market and developing economies grew by 5.1% in 2012. However this has often been at the expense of the planet’s forests. This link needs to broken, but as PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index last year showed, it has been hard for many countries to break. Our analysis reveals a number of interesting relationships between economic activity and forest emissions over time. Brazil managed to reduce its annual emissions from deforestation (albeit from a high baseline) while increasing GDP and Russia also appears to have started to decouple economic growth from forest emissions. However, Indonesia’s increase in GDP has been accompanied by a steep increase in forest carbon emissions.
The UN-REDD Programme’s latest policy brief outlines some ways in which the challenge of engaging the private sector could be overcome. It highlights the need for a combination of public sector, demand and supply side interventions as well the important role of financial intermediaries in overcoming shortages of financial capital for sustainable activities.
A basket of actions is necessary to achieve the objectives of REDD+. However, in order to get policies, programmes and financing working in sync, the public and private sector need to have aligned objectives and indicators with which to measure success. Currently most public and private sector organisations focus on a narrow view of value and growth (with countries using GDP, and the private sector focusing on profit or share price). They have few metrics to record the growth (or loss) of the multiple non-market values of forest resources and the impacts of these losses on forest dependent communities.
However, we think that this is about to change.
Within the public sector, there have been movements to shift growth accounting away from the narrow view of GDP towards methods such as Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES), GDP+ and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts. These developments are looking to provide a broader view, taking into account the creation/depletion of the social and environmental capital needed to generate that GDP.
This approach also lies at the heart of ‘Green Growth’ economic planning process which many countries are embarking on. Green Growth brings together a consistent way to value the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, environment, and social – into a single policy planning framework. Encouragingly a significant number of countries (such as Indonesia, Colombia and Kenya) are already starting to think in these broader terms which will value the multiple benefits REDD+ can bring.
On the private sector side, PwC is working with leading organisations to develop a more balanced approach to measuring corporate value called Total Impact Measurement and Management (TIMM). This new decision-making model is driven by an organisation’s social, environmental, tax and economic impacts.
Puma are one of the pioneers of this approach and in 2011 published an Environmental Profit and Loss account for their operations. The results showed that land use change accounted for 25% of their total environmental impact (valued at $37 million), with the majority of this occurring due to raw material sourcing (conversion of forest to pasture for cattle and rubber plantations). These findings have inspired a commitment to reduce the impact of their products and the development of lower impact products such as the recycled ‘Re-Suede’ line of trainers. In addition, Puma’s parent company Kering (previously PPR) purchased REDD+ VCS credits from Wildlife Works as well as taking a 5% stake in the REDD+ in the project development company.
At PwC we highlighted how these public and private sector initiatives work together in a paper submitted to the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Armed with broader information, governments are able to apply sustainability principles to the decisions they make at a policy and project level, whilst the private sector will make better business decisions driven by an understanding how they create and destroy economic, social and environmental value.
The old adage, “what gets measured gets done” is often quoted. In the case of REDD these developments in reporting and measurement are important. Measuring the broader dimensions of growth will put greater value on sustainable use and protection of forests; hopefully a key step to finally breaking the link between unsustainable resource use and economic growth.
Christopher Webb is an Assistant Director at PwC and leads much of the firms work on climate finance and policy, in particular as it relates to sustainable landscapes.
Adam Gibbon is a Manager at PwC and focuses on REDD+ and climate smart agriculture with both private sector and government clients. He previously worked as Technical Manager of Rainforest Alliance’s Climate Programme.
‘I know it when I see it’, declared Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 when he struggled to construct a concise, legal definition in a court case. Movie buffs might also recall James Bond using the phrase when he was asked what he knew about gold in the 1964 film Goldfinger. To many working in or around REDD+, questions on the exact nature and role of the private sector might elicit a similar response.
The UN-REDD Programme released a Policy Brief today that offers some answers to several questions on the prickly topic of the private sector, the ‘who, what, why and how’? Interviews held while writing the brief revealed a wide range of views and emotions on the subject. At the narrow end of the spectrum, there are those who apply the term only to those involved in the world of carbon credits, or verified emissions reductions. At the broader end of the spectrum, there are those who view the term as encompassing all those involved in the drivers of deforestation and degradation. This tends to bring agriculture into the REDD+ dialogue, and the nexus between the two is an increasingly popular topic of discussion in REDD+ circles which is increasingly reflected in the international conference arena.
The Role of the Private Sector in REDD+: the Case for Engagement and Options for Intervention argues that the private sector, using the broader of the definitions above, will have to play a key role in trying to slow, halt and reverse deforestation and forest degradation. As the largest terrestrial land users in the world, they will be heavily involved in activities on the ground that are integral to REDD+. They will play fundamental roles as designers, developers, operators and enablers of ‘forest-friendly’ initiatives at a variety of scales.
The private sector is often cast as the villain in the REDD+ world, and there is certainly evidence from around the world to support this argument. However, it would be a mistake to think that REDD+ can function as an effective tool without the private sector in the future. They bring many positive attributes that will be critical to REDD+ including innovation, investment and the implementation of activities. As with a three legged stool, remove any one of these attributes and it is challenging to see how REDD+ can succeed at scale.
The UN-REDD Programme offers a neutral platform for forest countries to engage with the private sector and from which to support existing in-country initiatives. The sheer complexity of the issues being addressed mean that there is no policy ‘silver bullet’ and a range of tools to change behaviour are discussed. These tend to be most effective when used in combination and can include incentives, risk mitigation instruments, the setting of minimum standards and enabling conditions.
This brief is the start of a larger body of work on the private sector by the UN-REDD Programme. We would welcome any comments, thoughts or ideas in the comments section below.
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.
In order to be effective, the programme needs to be able to communicate effectively with a broad range of stakeholders both within and outside of the government and internationally. The same applies to other programmes developing REDD+ readiness in Cambodia supported by multinational and bilateral development partners, NGOs and others. Effective and efficient REDD+ readiness requires open communication of all information related to the process. All of thse initiatives are contributing to implementation of the Cambodian REDD+ readiness roadmap.
Therefore, in May 2013, a website of the Cambodia REDD+ National Programme was established and launched. With support from the UN-REDD Programme, the website was designed to incorporate key content and functions to ensure easy access to information on the REDD+ National Programme. It is an essential tool to help communicate progress on REDD+ readiness with stakeholders, inform them of events and upcoming developments, and to gain feedback on specific issues. The website constitutes an important tool for the Royal Government of Cambodia in its efforts to get ready for REDD+.
The website is one of tools to raise awareness of the REDD+ National Programme. As the programme is prepared and implemented, the website looks to fully share relevant information and documents of line ministries, donors, NGOs partners, networks, and related stakeholder groups. This approach marks the programme out as one of the most highly integrated national REDD+ programmes globally.
Mr. Timothy Boyle, Regional Coordinator to UN-REDD Programme said, “This website provides a one-step site to access all information about REDD+ in Cambodia. It does not supplant the web-sites of different partners, but rather serves to strengthen information flow for all partners. Few if any countries have established such a comprehensive national REDD+ web-site.”
Please follow our website link here: www.cambodia-redd.org