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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.

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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.

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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:-

Democratic Republic of Congo (T21 model);

Indonesia Greening National Development Plan;

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

 

ImageBio: 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. 

 

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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: Image 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

-        Crowdsourcing

-        High speed internet connectivity

-        Smartphones

-        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

-         Governments

-         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’s BiographImagey:

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.

Download the Policy Brief in English. French and Spanish versions of this UN-REDD Programme Policy Brief will be available shortly on the UN-REDD Programme website.

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.

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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.

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