REDD+ Update

There have been great strides forward in the forestry sector since our last update. All the technical work on REDD+ was finished in Bonn this past month at the forty-second SBSTA session (SBSTA 42). A more than ten-year journey to codify highly technical aspects of terrestrial carbon monitoring has reached completion. Forest Trend’s Program Manager for Forest Trade and Finance, Gustavo Silva-Chávez, remarked that, “While REDD+ is finished on paper, the Paris global deal must provide the policy certainty to implement REDD+ on the ground.”

The SBSTA session in Bonn wrapped up technicalities in three areas: alternative policy approaches such as Joint Mitigation Adaptation (JMA) or non-market approaches, non-carbon benefits, and additional safeguard guidance. The resolution of the few last remaining technical details for REDD+ was an unexpected surprise for negotiators. Many thought there wouldn’t be agreement until December. As the Bonn text contains no brackets, all that remains is operationalizing the mechanism, and financing the program in Paris. This issue, where money to fund REDD+ programs and how REDD+ programs and emissions reductions will be included in a new agreement, is still a major topic of debate. Some countries (mostly developed) want to see all the financing and coordination done by the Green Climate Fund and bilateral and multilateral programs (such as UN REDD and the World Bank). Other countries (some developing) want to see an actual REDD+ Mechanism to actually bring together the technical parts and the finance and possible emissions reductions.

Nonetheless, the news from Bonn carries great optimism and momentum leading up to COP21. The successful culmination of ten-years of technical policy work in the REDD+ arena may encourage negotiators and nations to increase their political will and commitments in Paris.

The upcoming agreement represents a paradigm shift for international climate policy. The ADP has designed a protocol that directs the negotiations away from the previous top down approach and towards a bottom up approach. Nations have been asked to submit INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Commitments, in advance of COP21.

A nation’s INDC serves as its respective pledge toward attaining collective global emission reductions sufficient to keep temperature increase within 2°C above pre-industrial levels. An INDC may contain a myriad of domestic policy prescriptions in an attempt to meet this goal. The submissions thus far contain a great deal of variance in their ambition and policy avenues.

A point of contention remains regarding INDCS. The contention surrounds the idea of cultivating broad vs. narrow commitments. This notion involves the idea stated by Michael Grubb, editor-in-chief of the journal Climate Policy, that “‘bottom up’ intentions do not remotely match the ‘top-down’ ambition.” If the international community wants broad participation, nations’ ambition may be low. However, the hope is to create a flexible mechanism in which a nation’s commitment could be ‘ratcheted up’ as time progresses.

What is yet to be determined is how much of a role REDD+ projects will play in parties’ current, or future, INDC submissions. The inclusion of REDD+ as an emissions reduction strategy in an INDC remains contingent upon REDD+ being operationalized through the successful culmination of a treaty at COP21. Now all eyes look towards Paris, and whether the international community will be able to attain an overall climate agreement.

Authored by: Catherine Martini



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