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Press Releases

December 7, 2011

For Immediate Release

The Tropical Forest Group launched Phase 1 of the US REDD Finance Database (www.usreddfinance.org) on December 7, 2011 at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa.

The Tropical Forest Group (TFG) has archived and transcribed all instances where US government agencies state either financial flows for sustainable tropical forestry or quantitative forest impacts (such as hectares protected, trees planted, kilometers of firebreaks, etc). The goal of the database is to improve transparency around US government REDD+ finance and monitor how well the US is meeting its fast start finance REDD+ pledge of $1 billion.

The information is in a searchable online database (www.usreddfinance.org). The US REDD Finance Database currently records 800+ discrete instances where US agencies state financial flows to countries or quantitative impacts on forests. The US REDD Finance Database website includes a library of all the data’s source documents. The database compiles information from US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Tropical Forest Conservation Act annual reports, the US State Department fact sheets on Fast Start Finance, and data submitted by the US government to the REDD+ Partnership’s Database.

“The US REDD Finance Database allows American taxpayers and the international community to see for themselves how America helps developing countries conserve their forests and what quantitative impacts on forests are being reported,” said Cara Cummings of the Tropical Forest Group. John-O Niles, Director of the Tropical Forest Group adds, “The US REDD Finance Database is a model for aligning financial support from a donor with measurable actions in threatened forests worldwide. It’s an important tool in this new world of disaggregated climate change governance and cooperation.”

Key elements of the US REDD Finance Database are: every reported financial flow or forest impact is linked to the source document from where the data came, the fiscal year of the financial flow or forest impact is indicated where possible, every stated financial contribution denotes which agency reported the finance and which agency was responsible for the finance, linkages between finance and impacts are indicated where possible, locations within countries of stated impacts or finance are provided where available, grantees or specific programs are indicated where possible.

Questions on the database should be directed to: reddfinance@tropicalforestgroup.org


December 5, 2011

On Saturday, SBSTA 35 approved draft text on methodological guidance for REDD+ at COP 17. The three issues on the table were 1) reference levels, 2) safeguards, and 3) measuring, reporting and verification (MRV).

The draft text on MRV is a SBSTA decision, largely pushing this work to the next SBSTA. The draft COP decision on reference levels is overall strong, and punctuated by the establishment of a process that will assess the reference levels after countries submit them. Many groups think the text on safeguards, however, has been diluted since the Cancun Agreements.

To read the two texts adopted by SBSTA, please click on the links below:

The draft SBSTA conclusions

The draft COP decision


December 1, 2011

What’s a rhino or two worth?

Talk about irony. Just outside the COP17 conference center in Durban South Africa, a large rhino statue greets incoming delegates. And in the past few weeks, two rhino sub-species have gone extinct – the Vietnamese Javan rhino and the western black rhino. Extinct.  As in, never again in nature on this Earth.

By all indications, multitudes of species will go extinct in the near future. Despite the promise and excitement of REDD+, for these rhino subs-species REDD+ was too slow. The price of ivory has skyrocketed. The resources of developing countries to fight poachers are inadequate. Goodbye rhinos.rhino COP 17

Since 1992 at the Rio Conference, the world has known deforestation is the main cause of species extinctions and the second cause of global warming. Each year, this planet permanently loses thousands of species and emits billions of tons of carbon dioxide as a direct result of cutting down rainforests. And 20 years ago, UN reports indicated reducing deforestation significantly would cost tens of billions of dollars per year (a few dollars per person per year) to stop two global ecological calamities from happening.

No significant help arrived for tropical forests between 1992 and 2005. And then, in Montreal Canada, a new ray of hope emerged in the UNFCCC process. In 2005, world leaders agreed to launch a REDD+ process. The idea was to leverage substantial new resources, potentially billions of dollars per year, to help developing countries reduce deforestation.

And now in 2011, at the next round of climate change negotiations, how are things going? For good news, REDD+ has spawned significant creativity and attention surrounding tropical deforestation. Donor governments have pledged $4 billion in new funds to help arrest deforestation. The private sector is being proactive on REDD+ even in the absence of a compliance reason to reduce emissions. Developing country governments are taking measures to reign in deforestation, clarify land tenure, address drivers of deforestation and get a better grip on where deforestation is happening and how to stop it.

The bad news is that REDD+ funds are slow to reach the forest communities where they are needed. There is not enough money yet. About $1.5 billion per year has been pledged, but around $30 billion is needed. And the entire UNFCCC process is faltering. There probably won’t be any meaningful global policy to slow climate change in the near term. Similarly, efforts around REDD+ have stalled. There is no UN REDD+ Mechanism.  There are no clear rules for how to account for carbon emissions or avoided emissions. There is no link between the $4 billion in REDD+ funds and the UNFCCC.

Still, here in Durban South Africa at COP17, climate change negotiators are working on a few elements of REDD+ that could add up to important progress. There are discussions of a Green Climate Fund with aspirations to funnel $100 billion per year to developing countries to prevent and adapt to climate change. Some groups have called for a dedicated window within that fund to stop deforestation and promote climate-friendly agriculture. And technical experts here in Durban are hammering out three key REDD+ issues under SBSTA. The first is how to build systems that monitor impacts of REDD+ on local and indigenous people. The second key issue is how to establish measurement, reporting and verification procedures for REDD+. And the third issue, probably the most important, is how to establish REDD+ reference levels. These three issues were first discussed in earnest today at the negotiations, once in open meetings and once in closed door meetings. By tomorrow morning, there will be draft text that TFG will report on.


September 19, 2011

TFG submits Again on REDD+ Reference Levels

As the next round of climate change talks approach, there United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) asked again for official submissions on REDD+ reference levels. To any normal person, the latest submission on the topic by TFG is a 9-page exercise in arcane ecological intergovernmental complexity. But for the UNFCCC and hopes for a new REDD+ Mechanism, reference levels are absolutely essential and long over due. If you want to really tickle your brains, read this. More…

Diplomats and observers to this process can’t do anything for the two rhino sub-species that just vanished from Earth. Maybe the statue that greets the 15,000 negotiators, press, and observers will remind us of the urgency to reach an agreement before too much more irreparable damage is done.