A village sits behind a large hill which has been cleared of timber by slash and burn methods ready for agriculture, in north-eastern Myanmar. (Photo Courtesy jidanchaomian)

A village sits behind a large hill which has been cleared of timber by slash and burn methods ready for agriculture, in north-eastern Myanmar. (Photo Courtesy jidanchaomian)

by Teng Rithiny, the NGO Forum on Cambodia

“The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities” is one of UNFCCC’s Cancun Safeguards. How should a national REDD+ process be designed to include relevant stakeholders, especially indigenous peoples (IP) and civil society organizations (CSO) which have limited engagement in the policy process?

Earlier this year, the UN-REDD Programme organized a regional meeting of sixteen IP and CSO representatives from the Asia-Pacific region to share experiences of how their countries have been approaching this issue [see video].  The current IP and CSO members of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board and UN-REDD Programme country Executive Boards were given the opportunity to discuss challenges, lesson learned and opportunities to support the full and effective participation of IP and CSO stakeholders in national REDD+ processes. During the meeting, representatives from Myanmar shared how REDD+ is improving the culture of engagement between IP/CSO stakeholders and government representatives, as well as creating new mechanisms and opportunities for participation.

Following the regional meeting and Myanmar’s presentation of its Expression of Interest at the 14th meeting of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board, a mission to the country was undertaken in August by the IP organization Tebtebba, the NGO Forum on Cambodia, and the Asia-Pacific IP and CSO representatives to the UN-REDD Policy Board.

We had the opportunity to have a dialogue with Myanmar national CSOs and IP constituencies, as well as to learn and share how CSO and IP participation in the national REDD+ strategy process can be strengthened. We were also able to meet with the Forest Department from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Forestry and key development partners including FAO, UNDP and the Royal Norwegian Embassy. We shared with them the results of the national dialogue with CSOs and IPs in Myanmar, while advocating support for CSO and IP engagement in the national REDD+ strategy process.

The CSOs and the IPs we met with identified mining, fire wood consumption, over exploitation of forests and shifting cultivation as drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. By engaging in the REDD+ readiness process, they have an opportunity to address these key challenges through:

  • Coordinating and linking up with other like-minded CSO networks to strengthen participation in REDD+ readiness processes.
  • Strengthening the Myanmar Ethnic Minorities/Nationalities Network established during the ASEAN Forum in 2014.
  • Identifying interested and committed network members to participate in the technical working groups of the national REDD+ readiness process.
  • Deciding on an “interim representative” to the national REDD+ process and to coordinate the CSOs and EM engagement in the processes.
  • Collaborating in awareness raising activities for local community and forestry staff on REDD+, land tenure and community based forest management, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the process of free, prior and informed consent.

As part of our dialogue with national IP and CSO groups we shared useful examples of how other countries have dealt with complex issues, such as dealing with the representation of IPs in post-conflict situations, as well as providing examples of how other countries have approached challenges to full and effective engagement. During our discussions with the forest department, they expressed support for inclusive and participatory processes and welcomed the role of CSOs and IPs in developing and implementing the national REDD+ strategy successfully.

We will visit other countries in the region over the rest of our term as CSO and IP UN-REDD Programme Policy Board representatives to hold similar meetings. As with this engagement with Myanmar, such opportunities will allow us to build understanding with government counterparts and connect directly with CSO and IP stakeholders in countries so that we can better represent their perspectives at the global level.

La comunidad Wao de Miwaguno es 'protectora' de una de las 'puerta' de acceso a la reserva de la biósfera del Yasuní. En medio de la explotación petrolera ellos se esfuerzan por mantener su entorno natural y su cultura ancestral.

La comunidad Wao de Miwaguno es ‘protectora’ de una de las ‘puerta’ de acceso a la reserva de la biósfera del Yasuní. En medio de la explotación petrolera ellos se esfuerzan por mantener su entorno natural y su cultura ancestral. Photo: UN-REDD Programme Ecuador/ Armando Quichán

By Lola Cabnal, Maya Q’eqchi’, Observadora Pueblos Indígenas ONU-REDD+ para la región de América Latina

Los pueblos indígenas mantienen una relación armónica con sus bosques, agua, recursos naturales, biodiversidad y demás elementos de la Madre Naturaleza. Esta relación tiene su base en su visión cosmogónica de la vida y se sustenta en la estrecha relación e interdependencia, de todos los elementos de la naturaleza. Esta visión se refleja en las relaciones culturales, políticas, sociales, económicas y espirituales, que le dan una visión particular al concepto de desarrollo, entendido como el buen vivir, que se sustenta en el equilibrio y relación armónica entre el universo, madre tierra, la naturaleza y seres humanos.

Para los pueblos indígenas, es fundamental analizar las implicaciones de implementar programas y proyectos REDD+, en susterritorios. Para los pueblos indígenas, REDD+ es una iniciativa que tiene que definirse claramente, que tiene que consultarse ampliamente, se deben definir los derechos y propiedad del carbono, se debe construir un sistema de salvaguardas desde lo que establece el Convenio 169 sobre pueblos indígenas de la OIT, la Declaración de Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas y las leyes nacionales que reconocen los derechos indígenas.

En estos momentos REDD+ como planteamiento global y como documentos nacionales (R-PP o ERPIN) deben fortalecerse para que reconozcan, respeten claramente los derechos colectivos particularmente los relacionados a la libre determinación, tierras y territorios,  participación, consulta y consentimiento previo, libre e informado, para esto es necesario crear las condiciones para que los pueblos indígenas tengan una participación plena y efectiva.

La visión cosmogónica indígena, plantea que hay una interrelación, entre todos los elementos de la naturaleza, no separa, más bien integra; de ahí nace la dificultad y la critica a las políticas monoculturales, entre ellas REDD+, que además plantear conceptos ajenos a los idiomas indígenas, no se apega a la realidad y modelo de uso, manejo y conservación de los bosques en territorios indígenas.

En lo que se refiere a REDD+, los pueblos indígenas plantean que si no se les involucran en su diseño, planificación, implementación y monitoreo, afectará los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, impactara en el modelo o sistema de uso, manejo y conservación indígena, creara una posible división entre las estructuras organizativas, impactara en el sistema de conservación de los bosques, aguas, recursos naturales y culturales, biodiversidad y modelo económico.

REDD+ considera a los pueblos indígenas como otro actor más de sociedad civil y lo sitúa como partes interesadas relevantes, mientras deben considerarlos como un sujeto político, respetar y reconocerse como titulares de derecho sobre sus tierras, territorios y recursos naturales, y con el derecho al consentimiento libre, previo e informado, así como a su libre determinación para definir, a través de sus propias organizaciones, reconocer que el papel y función de las mujeres y la juventud es fundamental en estos procesos y asimismo su participación plena efectiva en las tomas de decisiones.

The world is on track to deliver the largest-ever ecosystem restoration effort: restoring 150 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes by 2020. To keep the momentum, countries need concerted coordinated support and finance from the international community for action on the ground.

By Mario Boccucci, Head of the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat

As the global community comes together in Durban 7-11 September for the XIV World Forestry Congress, the importance of forests in addressing climate change is set to take centre stage. Deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 12 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than the emissions from all the planes, trains, automobiles and ships in the world. It is only by including forests in a climate change strategy that we can hold the increase in global average temperature below two degrees. While forests hold the key to reducing carbon emissions, forests serve an even greater purpose to the more than 1.6 billion people around the world that depend on them. Forests provide livelihood, food, shelter and financial resources to people, and play a critical role in conserving biodiversity.

The mechanism that brings these two priorities together – reducing carbon emissions from forests and increasing the livelihoods of those that depend on them – is REDD+. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) has now been recognized as not just having environmental benefits, but also social and economic benefits, making it a key for developing countries to realize sustainable development.

This has been demonstrated through key global actions taken over the last two years, including the development of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ by parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2013, the endorsement of the New York Declaration on Forests at the September 2014 Secretary-General’s Climate Summit more than 160 global leaders, and the completion of the UNFCCC’s framework for REDD+ at the 2015 Bonn SBSTA meetings.

The global community has now endorsed REDD+ as an important element to climate change mitigation efforts. Developing countries have already been preparing for REDD+, with the support of the UN-REDD Programme, our partners at the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and others. Since the UN-REDD Programme was established in 2008 as a collaborative initiative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme, we have grown from supporting 9 pilot developing countries to 62. More than 50 of these countries have benefitted from direct funding to develop and/or strengthen their national REDD+ programmes or actions.

As REDD+ moves to enter its post-2015 phase, and more developing forest countries prepare to move past REDD+ readiness towards REDD+ implementation, the UN-REDD Programme has developed a new 2016-2020 Strategic Framework designed to meet the evolving needs of REDD+ developing countries.

Simply put, the strengthened post-2015 strategic vision for the Programme is one that aligns with the UNFCCC’s now defined requirements and guidelines for REDD+ and leverages not only the technical expertise of its UN agencies, but also the enhanced knowledge and experiences of partner countries that have participated in the readiness phase of REDD+. This readiness experience provides countries with a strong understanding of what are their national and regional REDD+ needs and what tools and capacities they need to successfully deliver REDD+. With this information, the UN-REDD Programme can now deliver support through a country-driven and country-needs based approach. Countries will also be well positioned, through the alignment with the UNFCCC, to realize results-based payments for their REDD+ results-based actions.

Additionally, the UN-REDD Programme recognizes REDD+ as a sustainable development tool, and will be continuing its work to support partner countries to address other REDD+ crosscutting issues including governance, stakeholder engagement, gender, safeguards and tenure among others. The Programme is also positioning itself to deliver its support in increased synergy with other players including our long-time partner the FCPF, and those new to the arena including the Green Climate Fund.

Through this new strategic framework for the UN-REDD Programme, we will be poised to deliver the highest quality and value of support to developing countries striving to realize the economic, social and environmental benefits of REDD+ and at the same time support the global community to progress in its fight against climate change.

Working together, forest-dependent communities, governments, the private sector and multilaterals including the UN-REDD Programme and others can continue this positive momentum and deliver REDD+ for the benefit of people and the planet.


For more information, visit www.un-redd.org and the UN-REDD Programme’s open-platform REDD+ Online Collaborative Workspace at www.unredd.net.

Land-use conversion to produce agricultural commodities is the most significant driver of deforestation, accounting for an estimated 55 to 80% of global forest loss. Photo Photo by Kate Evans for CIFOR.

Land-use conversion to produce agricultural commodities is the most significant driver of deforestation, accounting for an estimated 55 to 80% of global forest loss. Photo Photo by Kate Evans for CIFOR.

(This blog post originally appeared on the GLF blog)

By Ivo Mulder, REDD+ Economics Advisor, UNEP

A growing number of producers, traders and retailers have over the past few years made zero-deforestation pledges aiming to decouple production of palm oil, soy, beef and other commodities from deforestation impacts. The financial sector, however, has largely remained absent even though it is an important stakeholder as capital is a fundamental component of agricultural production systems. UNEP and the Natural Capital Declaration have now published a new report, which will help financiers to develop risk policies for loans and investments to reduce the probability that debt or equity will contribute to deforestation.

The new UNEP report provides a conceptual business case for banks and investors to develop soft commodity risk policies thereby reducing the probability of deforestation by requiring certain minimum standards and provisions from clients in the agribusiness sector. Furthermore, a new practical, Excel-based tool by the Natural Capital Declaration enables financial institutions to develop, update and strengthen their own risk policies for palm oil, beef and soy.

Land-use conversion to produce agricultural commodities is the most significant driver of deforestation, accounting for an estimated 55 to 80% of global forest loss [1]. The countries that are the largest producers of soft commodities such as palm oil, soy and beef are mainly located in the Amazon Basin, South-East Asia, and increasingly the Congo Basin, all of which contain the largest continuous expanses of tropical forests in the world.

Deforestation and other environmental and social concerns have led a growing number of soft commodity producers, processors, traders and retailers to make pledges to reduce deforestation. This is driven by increasing consumer demand for products certified as deforestation free, pressure from non-government organizations, new or improved government regulations and other factors. For example, the board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), an association of over 400 large retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries with combined sales of EUR 2.5 trillion (US$ 2.7 trillion) recommends to its members that they adopt a policy of “no net deforestation” in their supply chains by 2020 [2]. Unilever, Wilmar, Cargill, Nestlé, Mars and a number of other major companies connected to soft commodity supply chains have made commitments to develop sustainable supply chains aiming to decouple production of vegetable oil, beef or other grown or produced commodities from forest impacts.

However, while agribusinesses are taking steps to understand their impacts and mitigate risks that can become financially material, the financial sector has largely remained absent from putting in place certain provisions to limit the probability that clients contribute to deforestation. Banks, traders and asset managers have a considerable indirect natural capital footprint by lending to or investing in companies involved in unsustainable production, trade or sale of soft commodities. These can become material if there is a probability that such risks affect standard financial metrics such as costs and revenue (see Figure 1).

Because it is at present difficult to calculate the value at risk to lenders and investors, developing soft commodity policies presents an (intermediate) way for banks and investors to better manage their lending to or investing in companies or projects that could have high deforestation impacts. Soft commodity risk policies may be aimed at reducing access to financing for the most harmful activities by a corporation that lead to forest clearing or forest degradation or stimulate or even mandate clients to move towards more sustainable operations and supply chains for example through sustainable certification standards for soft commodities (such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil [3] or the Roundtable on Responsible Soy).


A Soft Commodity Forest-risk Assessment (SCFA) tool was developed to enable financial institutions to assess the strength of their existing risk policies or to enable them to develop new policies. It is based on an existing framework by WWF and developed further with input from financial institutions, experts and academics. The SCFA tool was applied to 30 financial institutions, which revealed the following:

  • 14 out of the 30 financial institutions evaluated encourage or require companies to avoid land use conversion in High Conservation Value (HCV) areas, and to respect the rights of local communities.
  • Half of the 30 financial institutions reviewed apply their policy to all of their financial activities, and 47% apply it to a subset of activities.
  • Of the 13 financial institutions that require or encourage certification, the majority of which are banks, five explicitly require companies to achieve or commit to a time-bound plan to achieve certification.
  • 37% of financial institutions assessed refer to legal compliance in their policies. Some financial institutions include this requirement in agreements with clients rather than in public documents.
  • 13% of financial institutions assessed have developed financial products and services aimed at promoting the production and trade of sustainable commodities.

However, even if a bank or investment firm has strict policies in place, this by itself is not a guarantee that it actually leads to a reduction in deforestation or forest degradation. Government regulation may be necessary to ensure a level playing field, whereby soft commodity producers will find it difficult to borrow money from banks, or otherwise obtain capital, without the same environmental (and social) conditions attached to it. Some evidence of a Central Bank regulation in Brazil where a condition was placed on rural credit in the Brazilian Amazon Biome, led to a 15% decrease in deforestation between 2008 and 2011 [4].

Another potential lever is when companies that produce beef, soy, palm oil and other commodities in developing countries depend on capital from (franchises of) internationally operating banks with relatively strict soft commodity risk policies. In this case, these soft commodity producers may increasingly be required by their financiers to reduce their impacts on (primary) forests resulting from their activities (see Figure 2).


FIGURE 2: Linking forest impacts and risk for soft commodity producers to potential responses by government and the finance industry.

In countries where producers of soft commodities have other options to obtain capital in a relatively easy way, including from domestic finance institutions with little or no environmental risk requirements or through their families or the informal market, the expected positive effect in terms of a reduction in deforestation and forest degradation may be limited. A new UN-REDD Info Brief outlines four steps for governments to assess if the financial sector can be a potential lever to stimulate a reduction in deforestation.

All in all, findings from this research has showed that a number of financial institutions have developed relatively robust soft commodity risk policies to reduce the probability of clients contributing to deforestation. In order to stimulate the broader financial industry to adopt similar stringent risk policies, though, beyond government regulation, it is crucial to develop a stronger business case linking deforestation impacts to effects on standard financial metrics such as EBIT (earnings before interest and tax), operational expenses or capital expenditure.


[1] Brack, D., & Bailey, R. (2013). Ending Global Deforestation: Policy Options for Consumer Countries. Chatham House; Kissinger, G., Herold, M., & De Sy, V. (2012). Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation: A Synthesis Report for REDD+ Policymakers. Vancouver: Lexeme Consulting

[2] Consumer Goods Forum (n.d.). Board Resolution on Deforestation. Available: http://www.theconsumergoodsforum.com/strategic-focus/sustainability/board-resolution-on-deforestation

[3] While RSPO and other standards require certain provisions that would in principle limit deforestation there is very little quantitative evidence that this is actually the case. The financial industry needs standardized frameworks like these certification schemes as individual due diligence is often too costly and time consuming. However, at the same time it is paramount to assess whether certification standards actually lead to lower levels of deforestation compared to conventional plantations without sustainability certification.

[4] Assunção, J., Gandour, C.C., Rocha, R., 2013. Does credit affect deforestation? Evidence from a rural credit policy in the Brazilian Amazon. Climate Policy Initiative. Rio de Janeiro

More information

UNEP press release: New Lending and Investment Tool Sets Agricultural Supply Chain on Sustainable Path, Reducing Deforestation Threat

UN-REDD Info Brief: Banking on REDD+: Can bank and investor risk policies on soft commodities benefit REDD+?

Description NCD Soft Commodity Forest risk Assessment (SCFA) tool and link to the tool and UNEP report: ‘Bank and Investor Risk Policies on Soft Commodities

About the author

Ivo Mulder is the REDD+ Green Economy Advisor for UNEP on behalf of the UN-REDD Programme (an inter-agency initiative managed by UNEP, UNDP and FAO that works with +50 partner countries). He leads the work on the economics of REDD+ and supports the work on private sector engagement.

Tullia Baldassarri Hoger von Hogersthal FAO DRC 2010 header

Interview with Duncan Chiza Mkandawire, chairman of the Nyika-Vwaza Association.

Duncan Chiza Mkandawire - Malawi rt sq

The Nyika-Vwaza Association (NVA) is a community-based organization established in 2000, which stands as an umbrella body for the local communities living adjacent to the protected area of Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh in Malawi. The organization’s role is to promote activities with these local communities that serve to reduce deforestation, strengthen rural incomes and increase biodiversity.

Interviewed at a recent REDD+ event, NVA’s chairman, Duncan Chiza Mkandawire, said, “We at NVA focus on the forestry and wildlife, and we have established committees that work collaboratively with the Forestry Department in terms of conserving natural resources. An additional role of these committees is to report any illegal activity—such as poaching, tree cutting, bush fires, charcoal burning—to relevant departments, for action.”

Mkandawire describes himself as a former teacher and he said, “In teaching, we rely on our communication skills, therefore I had to use my experience as a teacher to communicate more effectively with relevant communities when words describing REDD+ were not easy to translate into the local language.”

He explained that had to find a way to introduce REDD+ and communicate REDD+ messages to local chiefs. The ideal medium he discovered was the utilization of visuals (photos, short films). However, he noted, “One of the primary concerns of the communities when I was informing them on REDD+ was the same as in other countries—what will be our benefits?” He says he, therefore, had to help communities to understand the benefits derived from REDD+.

Mkandawire feels that communities are aware of the drivers of deforestation.

“If you go to my community in the north, you will be surprised that they are very aware of the drivers of deforestation and their effects,” he said, adding, “Thus to address them we have instituted committees dealing specifically with each driver of deforestation. We look at main drivers and institute committees to deal with these specific drivers. For instance, if it is fire, we organize training on how to manage these fires, or if it is charcoal burning, the specific committee will be trained to address this issue.”

However, the main challenge Mkandawire said he encountered was how to communicate to communities across large areas. “Even if chiefs are being informed, one needs to monitor if these messages reach the communities – so that is my role,” he explained.

Mkandawire said he is fully aware that communities will receive finance for measured success, which he said will be used to address the drivers of deforestation and improve governance. He also highlighted that innovative communication methods will have an added benefit of reducing fuel costs by enabling critical information to be shared with communities that are many kilometers away. He recounted that through a USAID-funded project, there was an opportunity to integrate Microsoft technology for mobile monitoring, which increased communication and connectivity within and outside the programme areas for more effective landscape management.

In addition to targeted communication, Mkandawire said local knowledge needs to be integrated at the policy level.

“People working on REDD+ projects need to be aware of what happens on the ground, as what is on paper might not be reflecting the reality on the ground,” he explained.

For Mkandawire, the national-level and multi-stakeholder Malawi REDD+ Expert Group meetings have been a crucial platform for sharing more practical challenges and information directly from the field.

“What I have learned is that messages to communities need to be visual (photos, videos) and simplified into local language,” he emphasized. “For example I have found the right terminology in local language for carbon stocks such as mphepo ziheni (bad air), and people associate this term with benefits from REDD+”.

Lastly, he added, “It is important that we combine workshops with field visits, to show others what we can learn from communities, and how to adjust projects to fit the needs of communities.”

(Reporting by Ela Ionescu, UN-REDD Programme Knowledge Management Specialist for Africa.)

Peat swamp

Peat swamp forest Peat swamp forests – Photo by Sophie Furnival/CIFOR

By Gabrielle Kissinger, consultant at UNEP / UN-REDD Programme

Indonesian palm oil production is recognized as a driver of deforestation and source of considerable greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in peat-rich areas. But what are the real drivers for palm oil producers—both large and small—to expand production into forests? Clearly market demand has a role to play, but so do the preferential lending rates, guarantees and tax concessions, streamlined permitting, biofuel blending mandates, and other fiscal incentives that producers can tap into or that motivate decisions to invest.

Agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide, and yet in order for countries to reverse this pressure, they must influence the underlying or indirect drivers associated with the production of agricultural commodities, which often include government fiscal policies and incentives that promote direct driver activity. Evidence is growing that fiscal incentives can have powerful adverse impacts on forests, and reforming them is a complex and politically sensitive topic. Despite these challenges, a few countries have started to call out the need to review and reform existing fiscal incentives as part of their REDD+ efforts.

In Indonesia, as in many countries that have sought to bring economic development to their forest frontiers, fiscal incentives and subsidy programs were often put in place to promote resource extraction, to encourage settlers to clear forests and make land productive for other uses. But this paradigm is changing, as our natural capital — forests, agricultural lands, water — are increasingly being understood in the context of building social capital and stable economies.

The post-2015 sustainable development goals highlight the key goals of halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss, sustainably managing forests, ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns, and promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth. One sustainable development target specifically calls for the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourages wasteful consumption and market distortions. Also, the Aichi Biodiversity Target No. 3 calls for the elimination and reformation of incentives and subsidies harmful to biodiversity by 2020. Income inequality and economic efficiency are important indicators for how far countries are along the pathway towards inclusive economic growth. And yet income disparities have increased within many countries, and risk development futures, with an increasing urban-rural divide. For REDD+ countries, forests do not stand in isolation, but rather are part of rural development and commodity production.

Rather than fiscal incentives that promote agricultural expansion being a problem for REDD+, they can be part of the solution to define low-carbon growth and development. The recent New Climate Economy report notes that many countries subsidize key agricultural inputs, such as irrigation water and fertilizer, in order to boost productivity, but evidence suggests these subsidies can also lead to waste and environmental damage. In Indonesia, while fertilizer subsidies are a significant portion of public spending on agricultural production, they have actually had a negative effect on agriculture sector growth. The country’s National Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMN) of 2015-2019 seeks to increase the competitiveness of agricultural commodities, including oil palm, and also identifies forestry/peat lands and agriculture as two of the five key sectors that are key to meeting Indonesia’s GHG emission reduction target of 26% by 2020. How can Indonesia achieve both these goals? The redesign of fiscal incentives can be a powerful lever in the toolkit, and could simultaneously help achieve the country’s goals of improving smallholder palm oil yields, which are currently very low, and increase the amount of certified production, while also conserving forests.

For REDD+ countries to assess options, there are success stories to consider and examples to follow. However, national circumstances differ and each country will have a varied approach to assessing how their fiscal policies and incentives can overcome inherent conflicts between sectors and competing land uses, and to send the right signals to the private sector. India provides a compelling example of how to overcome the perverse incentives that state and local governments had to undervalue and mismanage forests, and their declining revenue from forests was a concern to some states, due to the implementation of the National Forest Policy. India’s 14th Finance Commission recently made a slight shift to the intergovernmental fiscal transfer system, which will have considerable impact on forest management decisions at the Panchayat and Gram Sabha scales. India took action on two fronts: 1) increasing the amount of revenue allocated to states by 10%, and 2) Assigning a 7.5% weight to forest cover in the allocation formula of revenue going to states. The percentage weight allocated to forest cover is expected to deliver $6 billion a year to Indian states, which is perhaps the largest revenue-neutral fiscal incentive in the world to keep forests standing.

India’s recent fiscal policy decision is a decidedly simple one, yet with large potential impact on forests. Yet, solutions will not always be so streamlined, and rather will require the aligning of incentives (such as tax concessions, access to credit), disincentives (such as moratoria, regulations, fees) and enabling measures(such as adequate governance and enforcement), across scales and sectors, for mutually reinforcing outcomes. We can re-envision fiscal incentives and subsidies to support agricultural production that is compatible with REDD+, and anticipates tomorrow’s pressures on land and forests, with the appropriate tools to meet those pressures.

About the author:

GGabyKissingerabrielle Kissinger is a consultant to the UNEP and the UN-REDD Programme, and also principal of Lexeme Consulting based in Vancouver, Canada. She has worked for over 20 years at the interface between government policy and land use pressures, with various levels of government, companies ranging from start-ups to large timber companies and agribusiness, investors, major donors, and a full range of environmental NGOs.  She focuses on strategies for linking science into policy and decision-making in the areas of global land-use and climate change, REDD+, climate-smart agriculture, finance and investment that supports sustainable land use, government affairs and business solutions to sustainability.

This blog post originally appeared on the Global Landscapes Forum blog.

expo 2015

By Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Commissioner-General for United Nations participation in Expo 2015, Assistant Director-General, FAO Forestry and UN-REDD Programme Strategic Group member

The road from Rio+20 The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 summit, held in 2012, reaffirmed that food-related issues are among the most critical that humans face and must seriously address. Expo 2015 has explicitly acknowledged this by selecting the theme, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. The theme also aligns fully with the United Nations’ focus on food security, nutrition, sustainable development and climate change.

The current discourse on food and a lasting Expo legacy

For six months, Expo 2015 will be at the heart of the public global discourse on food, with visually impressive exhibits and informative events that present the state of the art of food as well as challenges and opportunities in the future. Expo 2015’s organizers are keen to ensure that its legacy will be far-reaching and long-lasting, with guidance on challenges covering a generation.

The United Nations: a key Expo partner

The United Nations (UN) has been a partner at many past expositions, and traditionally represented at a single UN pavilion. For Expo 2015, it opted, together with the Expo organizers and Italy, the host country, for a different and innovative approach. To render the strong synergies between the EXPO 2015 theme and the UN’s global mission more visible, a new form of design and representation was agreed, resulting in the UN being located not just in one place but present in various exhibits and events throughout the exposition site. The UN is also serving as a global advisor on food security to the host country.

Given Expo 2015’s thematic scope, the Rome-based UN agencies (FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme) were entrusted with the coordination of the UN common inputs, which comprise many forms:

  1. The Expo 2015 core basic message, or theme statement, was developed around the principles of the “Zero Hunger Challenge”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s personal vision of a world without hunger and a global call to action, which he launched at Rio+20. The display is prominently visible in Pavilion Zero inside the main entrance to the Expo site.
  2. Multimedia content provided by UN agencies and showcased in 18 “Spoon” installations has been positioned in several thematic areas and clusters around the Expo site.
  3. Three United Nations Days are being marked, including the main global celebration of World Environment Day (5 June) and World Food Day (16 October).
  4. UN guests or keynote speakers will be present at numerous events, and UN staff are designing communication tools and products to promote Expo 2015 in the media and reach people in the rest of the world who will probably not be able to get to Milan.
  5. Participating actively in the Expo 2015 legacy activities, such as the “best practices” competition, in which the UN has won three of the 18 awards, and supporting the Charter de Milano that will be presented at Expo during the meeting of Ministers for Agriculture from 4–5 June.

Expo, forests, trees and food

So what does all this have to do with forests?

First, let us recall the main conclusions of the 2013 International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition as well as the key messages of the State of World Forests 2014. These documents remind us that forestry is about people, and not just trees, and describe how forests contribute directly and indirectly, and in manifold ways, to food security. For more than a third of the planet’s citizens, this forest-food connection starts at the most basic level: using firewood to make raw food edible for consumption. And in 2017, forestry’s contribution to food security will again be under the spotlight when a High-level Panel of Experts will present its report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition to the Committee on World Food Security. FAO Forestry submitted a contribution to the scoping exercise for the report’s preparation.

Second, a large number of the Expo 2015 pavilions have been constructed with raw materials obtained from forests – principally wood and to a lesser extent bamboo. Visitors – physical and remote – will be able to see the many inspiring and novel examples of woodbased construction. This will hopefully encourage reflection on increasing the use of forestsourced raw materials in the construction sector, as part of an expanding “green economy”.

Finally, a number of events and pavilions are highlighting forests’ role in food security, such as that of Austria, where a real forest has been created within the pavilion’s perimeters.

On 25 June, the pavilion will also be the site of a special session on forests and food security, where the presence of Andrä Rupprechter, Austrian Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Indigenous People’s leader, Rigoberta Menchú, and a leading Austrian chef is foreseen.

I can only encourage you to visit Expo Milano 2015 to enjoy the wealth of perspectives on food that participants, partners and supporters wish to share, and thereby deepen your understanding, knowledge and appreciation of one of the planet’s fundamental gifts to its citizens: food.

Expo 2015 is taking place from 1 May to 31 October 2015 in Milan, Italy. More information on its theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, is viewable here.

This article originally appeared in issue 30 of the FAO Forestry newsletter inFO News.

Ensuring safeguards into REDD+ can benefit developing countries beyond climate mitigation.

Safeguards are central to the success of REDD+. Yet, progress has been slow in most countries, with some notable exceptions. In the current debate, it is often overlooked that sound REDD+ safeguards could benefit developing countries beyond climate mitigation by boosting investor confidence and attracting private and public investments into sustainable land-use.

By Tim Christophersen, UNEP / UN-REDD Programme

To obtain payments for results from REDD+, countries need to address and respect seven ‘Cancun’ safeguards, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But before such payments can be made, sizable investments are required to implement REDD+ actions at scale. Such investments include the costs for the implementation of policies and measures, and for changing land-use and forest management practices on the ground. Is there a link between REDD+ payments and securing the financing to achieve the required transformation of forestry and other land use sectors? What sort of enabling environment is needed to encourage the large-scale finance required to achieve sustainable productive landscapes commensurate with the level of ambition of the New York Declaration on Forests, as well as significantly contribute to the proposed Sustainable Development Goals?

Many potential REDD+ actions and related investment opportunities constitute complex sets of economic, social and environmental trade-offs. Ensuring a robust enabling environment is in place to remove, mitigate and manage risk will be of paramount importance. REDD+ safeguards can provide this assurance. By mitigating and managing risk, REDD+ safeguards could encourage the flow of private investments, including foreign direct investments, into improved land-use and forest management practices and for forest restoration.

There is growing private and public sector interest in investments into sustainable forest and land management. At a meeting in June 2015 in London, UNEP, CIFOR and other partners will convene a special Global Landscapes Forum event on the ‘Investment Case’ for forests and REDD+. Over 100 global funds, international organizations and key investors are lining up to discuss and learn about ‘bankable’ projects for investments into sustainable landscapes. The main problem is not the lack of funds but rather the lack of sizable, low- or medium-risk investment opportunities with reasonable rates of return. A favourite model that is emerging seems to be investments into sustainable landscape management that aims to combine several objectives, with climate change mitigation being only one of them. Demonstrating that a country applies strong REDD+ safeguards could enhance investor confidence for investments into such relatively complex projects.

In particular, two essential ingredients go to creating this enabling environment to incentivise investment in sustainable land use practices. Conducive policies, laws and regulations are required to attract commercial private financing and realise the potential of REDD+ at scale. The right mix of regulatory incentives and disincentives are required to reduce the investment risks and transaction costs for private sector to transition from business-as-usual to more sustainable production. Strong institutions – the right regulatory environment on paper will amount to nothing if the responsible institutions do not have adequate mandates, procedures and capacities to implement sustainable agriculture and forestry polices.

In adopting a country approach to safeguards (as the UN-REDD Programme has), the existing governance arrangements of a country – its policies, laws and regulations, together with institutions and institutional capacities – are deployed and strengthened to meet international REDD+ safeguard commitments. A country approach to safeguards commences with assessments of environmental and social risks and benefits of candidate REDD+ activities that will go to make up the national REDD+ strategy. Such assessments can then inform identification of relevant policies, as well as the institutional responsibilities and capacities to implement and enforce them, which will be needed to minimise the risks and maximise the multiple benefits of REDD+. This sends a positive signal to potential investors.

Up until now, the country approach to safeguards – and the identification of risks, benefits, policies
and institutions – has been entirely framed by the need to meet UNFCCC requirements to obtain payments for emissions reductions. The existing policies, laws and regulations demonstrate how the UNFCCC safeguards are being addressed on paper; the institutional capacity to implement these policies shows how these Cancun safeguards are being respected in practice. But before a country can obtain results-based payments, someone needs to make the investment in the REDD+ actions that will lead to REDD+ results. We have an opportunity to view the design and application of safeguards also in the context of private sector finance and investment requirements.

REDD+ countries are starting to look at the private sector as a possible source of finance for results-basedPhoto by Valter Ziantoni actions. However, the private sector has in most REDD+ countries only been marginally engaged in REDD+ until now. The UN-REDD Programme has started to change this by offering a range of Targeted Support activities to countries to enhance private sector engagement, for example in Costa Rica, Indonesia, Panama and Peru.

Generally speaking, three inter-related conditions are required to unlock private capital at scale: (i) activities that deliver competitive risk-adjusted returns, (ii) access to finance, and (iii) enabling conditions that create a conducive investment environment and reinforce political commitment to the target sectors or activities. Safeguards arguably contribute to all three categories yet we rarely acknowledge this nor frame them as such. There is potential to vastly improve our communication of these attributes. We must also do so in a language that resonates with the actors we are trying to appeal to, if we want to channel future private finance into more sustainable land-use activities.

If the ambitions of REDD+ under the UNFCCC and the outcomes of the New York declaration on Forests – which pledges to end natural forest loss by 2030 – are to be achieved, governments will need to strengthen policy frameworks (address safeguards) and their implementation (respect safeguards), setting higher standards for businesses to operate by. Safeguards need no longer been seen as a burdensome hurdle to the internal climate change agreement, but as a means to improve the investment profile of land use opportunities and, therefore, a strategic means to tap the necessary private capital that will be required to nurture sustainable development in productive landscapes. The UN-REDD Programme is offering partner countries technical expertise and a knowledge platform to explore these linkages and learn from each other on the journey towards REDD+, and ultimately towards a green, low carbon and socially inclusive economy.

More information about Safeguards available here.

About the author:
Tim Christophersen coordinates the activities of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on forests and climate change and he is a member of the UN-REDD Programme Management Group. As a partner organization of the UN-REDD Programme, UNEP focuses on providing support to developing countries on identification and analysis of costs of REDD+ Policies and Measures (PAMs); identification and analysis of non-carbon benefits; innovative finance; private sector engagement and development of environmental safeguards and Safeguards Information Systems (SIS).

This blog post originally appeared on landscapes.org here.

zambia_02 fao

By Ivo Mulder (REDD+ Economics Advisor, UNEP UN-REDD Programme), Ignatius Makumba (Director of Forestry, Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Zambia), Elsie Attafuah (Senior Regional Technical Advisor for Africa, UNDP UN-REDD Programme) and Thais Narciso (Programme Officer, UNEP UN-REDD Programme) 

You can’t manage what you don’t measure! While this certainly relates to establishing forest reference (emission) levels and national forest monitoring systems in order to measure periodic progress against a benchmark, one often overlooked piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the economic case for REDD+.

A major driving force of economic growth in many emerging economies is extraction of natural resources, both non-renewable resources such as copper, aluminium, oil and other minerals, metals and fossil fuels and to a lesser extent renewable resources like timber products. In the case of Zambia, the size of its economy was around US$ 20 billion in 2010 with the wholesale and retail sector (18%), followed by the mining (13%), construction (11%) and the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors (10%) contributing the most to national income.

However, in the words of Joseph Stiglitz, while a private company is judged by both its income and balance sheet, most countries only compile an income statement (GDP) and know very little about the national balance sheet. While Zambia’s income measured as GDP has been constant in recent years at above six per cent, its forest-related balance sheet has been depreciating steadily. It has the second highest per capita deforestation rate in Africa and the fifth highest in the world according to a 2009 study. The main direct drivers of deforestation are charcoal production, agricultural and human-settlement expansion and illegal exploitation of timber.

Depreciation of a country’s forest stocks also leads to significant greenhouse gas emissions and can affect the value added of other sectors such as agriculture, power generation and tourism. The UN-REDD Programme has therefore supported the Government of Zambia, as part of its National REDD+ Programme, to better understand the contribution of forests to the national economy, which are highlighted in the report Benefits of forest ecosystems in Zambia and the role of REDD+ in a Green Economy transformation.

First, in terms of the contribution of actual physical products, this study found that industrial roundwood, firewood and charcoal combined contribute about US$ 395 million per year to Zambia’s economy. In terms of non-wood forest products a wide range of plant and animal species are collected for use as raw materials in house construction, thatching and craft production, as well as for food and medicinal use. While much of this is used on a subsistence basis, these resources also contribute to household cash income, supplementing income from charcoal and timber. It is estimated that these resources combined contribute US$ 115 million to the national economy. The combined value of these products to Zambia’s economy is about US$ 511 million. Taking multiplier effects into account, the contribution is estimated to be US$ 761 million or 3.8% of the country’s GDP. This is in line with how the contribution of the forestry sector to national income is officially accounted for.

zambia forest contribution 04-2015

Second, forests also provide important regulating services, which can help other sectors such as energy and agriculture prevent operational and other costs. For example, in terms of preventing erosion and stabilising soil, forests can contribute significantly to the hydropower and agricultural sectors by preventing dredging costs of sedimentation and water availability for agricultural production. About 80% of Zambia’s electricity is generated through hydropower, and globally, reservoir sedimentation has been estimated to account for about 37% of the annual operating costs. Preventing sedimentation by ensuring that forests keep the soil together is estimated to generate an actual cost saving to the Zambian economy of US$ 247 million. Forests also contribute to the value added of the agriculture sector through pollination. The value of pollination services was estimated based on the output of crops, their degree of dependence on insect pollination, and the costs of alternative means of pollination obtained from the international literature. The value of forest pollination services was estimated to be in the order of US$ 74 million per annum.

The contribution of carbon sequestration was measured using the damage cost approach. Damage cost relates to estimating the cost (to the global economy) of emitting 1 ton of CO2-equavalent. Preventing this from happening by reducing deforestation and forest degradation contributes about US$ 15 million per annum to the Zambian economy. Lastly, nature-based tourism is the dominant form of holiday tourism to Zambia, and forests are an integral part of the nature-based tourism experience. The direct value added by forest-based tourism is estimated to be in the range of US$ 110 million to US$ 179 million per annum.

The total contribution of this second set of forest services is of US$ 446 million. Again, by taking into account multiplier effects the contribution is estimated at US$ 511 million or 2.5% of GDP. The contribution of forests to the income generation of productive sectors such as ecotourism, hydropower, and agriculture is usually not attributed to the forestry sector and therefore not included in the forest-related GDP. However, this study clearly found that if these regulating, supporting and cultural services seize to exist or are undermined, a series of measurable and physical costs will apply to these sectors in the medium to long term. One could therefore argue that depending on the estimate of the contribution of forests to GDP in Zambia, which range from 3.7% to 6.2%, there is an undervaluation of at least 40-68%. Besides, this discrepancy could be even higher as data were not available for many goods and services. For example, the contribution of forests to the provision of water quantity and quality in Zambia remains unaccounted for and directly impacts livelihood and key sectors of the economy such as mining and agriculture.

Taken all together, this study provides a clear rationale for Zambia’s newly installed government to accelerate REDD+ implementation because it makes macro-economic sense for the country itself. Forest valuation and accounting can be seen as an important door opener that paves the way for the government to develop concrete policy options that factor the contribution of forest ecosystem services into national accounts and development planning. The draft Zambia National REDD+ Strategy provides important guidance on how this can take place through its focus on a landscape approach at the watershed level and policy reforms at the national level that lessen the competition for natural resources among different sectors. The results-based payments framework agreed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change provides a crucial stimulus for the country to implement policies and measures that tackle both the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation in order to have the ability to receive results-based finance.

More Information:

Access additional REDD+ and a Green Economy information and resources

zambia forest undp rt

Personal reflections from Elsie Gyekyewaa Attafuah, Senior Regional Technical Advisor, UN-REDD Programme (UNDP), Africa

As we taxi off the runway at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on our way to Lusaka, I sit in my seat reflecting on my journey once again to one of the most beautiful countries south of the Sahara, Zambia. I am on my way to support and attend Zambia’s National High-Level Dialogue on the Strategy to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

This process is a journey to join key stakeholders and partners as Zambia deepens her efforts to mobilize support to address some of her most compelling developmental challenges – development, deforestation and forest degradation – and a journey that Zambia has undertaken to navigate challenges and tap into opportunities that REDD+ offers.

This journey brings memories of a blog I did a few years ago, Safaris and Strategies: Zambia’s journey to develop an integrated financing strategy.  As it is still relevant after five years, I have decided to adapt it to Zambia’s present REDD+ journey. It reflects good memories of strategy development processes that I have been involved with in Zambia, and there are clear connections between the two topics. This trip also represents a “home coming” for me. Only two weeks ago, I was working with the team in Zambia from within and as a Technical Advisor to the UN-REDD Programme in the country. Today I am based in Nairobi as the UN-REDD Programme’s Senior Regional Technical Advisor for Africa. It will be good to be back in Zambia.

We fly over Mount Kilimanjaro with its amazing mountain top snow, Mount Meru, Ngorongoro Crater and several rivers. The pilot is excited, telling us about all the niceties and beautiful nature that surrounds us. It sets me in a reflective mood and I reminisce about Africa’s beautiful natural resources, and the need to protect and conserve them; and about all the hard work the government, collaborating UN agencies and key partners have been engaged in to develop this strategy. I also reflect on the importance of Zambia’s REDD+ strategy and how valuable it is to Zambia achieving its Vision 2030 national development goals.

So why a REDD+ strategy? Why the title Safaris and Strategies? Come along with me on a journey towards the development of the national REDD+ Strategy. The journey begins now.

Her beauty and her resources

Zambia has great resources such as land, forests, rivers, plants, animals and biodiversity. It is one of the most beautiful countries on the African continent. The country is richly endowed with a wide range of indigenous energy sources including coal, and renewable energy sources including hydropower. It also has major perennial rivers such as the Zambezi, Kafue, Luangwa, Kabompo, Luapula, and Chambeshi rivers, while the 108-metre-high Victoria Falls is a must see. Inarguably, land resources are critical to the human, economic, social and sustainable development in Zambia. Key sectors of the economy depend on land – notably the agriculture, natural resources, tourism, trade, mining and energy sectors, which are key drivers of economic growth and export revenues in the country. Land provides employment and source of livelihoods for many rural communities.

Her challenge: the resource hemorrhage and its impact

One of the most compelling developmental challenges today, though, is deforestation and forest degradation. Between 250,000 and 300,000 hectares of forest are lost every year in Zambia. Deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil erosion produce negative environmental impacts, often worsening the effects of climate change and droughts, while generating huge economic and social costs that hamper the achievement of national development goals such as Vision 2030.

For these reasons, the REDD+ strategy embraced by the country is designed to build on ongoing national processes and programmes to address deforestation and forest degradation challenges. While, the strategy is not a solution to all the challenges faced by Zambia, it is a valuable means to address these.

I wake up from these reflections as disembark from the plane in Lusaka. I am excited. The road meanders and the driver navigates all the curves and some little potholes on the way to town. Perhaps, the road is a good reminder that charting the journey to the development of a REDD+ strategy has not been straightforward – there have been twists and turns.

Zambia is known for its wildlife and natural scenery for safaris. I plan to take one later to the South Luangwa National Park as I have never been. Not a bad idea after all. But as I reflect on the path to the REDD+ strategy, I see a semblance to safaris. A safari is an adventure, it is place to explore the known and the unknown, there are choices to be made, a mix of things to see, and nature’s beauty to enjoy. But going on safari can be tough and rough. The road can be bumpy but exciting and gratifying. The same can be said for developing a strategy.

Safaris and strategies: a journey of resolve, renewal and results

As we get ready to start the high-level REDD+ strategy meeting, I have no doubt in my mind, that it will be a success, though I am just a bit anxious. The country’s vice-president is scheduled to attend with senior officials and nothing must go wrong. There will be commitments to be renewed – and the resolve needed to work together and to achieve results. The high-level meeting is the crescendo and just the tip of the iceberg.

The actual journey towards the development of the strategy has been a long one. It has called for the ability to:

  • rally around a common vision to systematically address the fundamental drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, a vision built on sound evidence-based analytical work;
  • engender systemic change, transformation and innovation by defining key policies and measures that ensure the efficient and effective utilization and use of forest resources;
  • ensure strong stakeholder engagement and participation in strategy development at the national, provincial and local levels;
  • secure cross sectoral buy-in, commitment and support for the development and implementation of the strategy;
  • mainstream REDD+ into national planning, policy, programming and financing processes and to promote and awareness and advocacy at all levels in the promotion of REDD+;
  • have strong government leadership and direction around which people can rally; and
  • weave a strong team that is inspired and enthusiastic to work together and coordinate efforts around a common objective.

Lessons learned

I have learned several lessons and experiences from the journey so far. It reminds me of political economy – what I call the political economy of REDD+. The issue of REDD+ cannot be devolved from other social, economic and political processes. It is not a stand-alone issue. It is about the relationship and interconnectedness between individuals and society, between markets and the state, between a sector and other sectors, between a person’s vision and building a corporate vision. It requires methods drawn from economics, political science and sociology among others. It is about leadership, communication and perseverance. A charm offensive works, as well as being strong in character to navigate all the complexities in developing a REDD+ strategy. It is about being passionate about a course.

Zambia is ready for a new dawn

I wake up early on the day of the meeting. My eyes pop open and I can not sleep anymore. Waking up at dawn can bring some great feelings – at least – if you look at the symbolism it brings. The dawn signifies a new beginning and freshness. So perhaps it is a new dawn for Zambia as it sets out its vision to address deforestation and forest degradation – a new dawn as we set off towards the implementation of the REDD+ strategy and Zambia’s transition from REDD+ readiness to implementation. Hopefully, it is not just another strategy and it will be given all the attention it deserves – as it is about people, their future and their destiny.


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