June 2015 - Sebastien Korwin. Held in Bonn, Germany from 1-11 June 2015, in conjunction with the ninth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 2-9), the 42nd meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) marked the end of an era as negotiators concluded negotiations on methodological guidance for REDD+, completing the ‘REDD+ package’. However, before examining the outcome of SBSTA’s work on REDD+, a quick recap of the ADP negotiations is in order.
The ADP negotiations focused on attempts to streamline the draft negotiating text that emerged from its February meeting in Geneva and due to result in a new climate agreement at COP 21 in Paris in December. After spending the first few days consolidating duplicated provisions and language, Parties engaged in the more complex and politically sensitive task of discussing the substance of the text, unpacking concepts and exploring ways of cutting, or ‘streamlining’ it, while still preserving the substance of each Party’s propositions. No small task. Delegates were broadly satisfied with the method of work proposed by the Co Chairs, noting the importance of preserving a Party-driven process. Nevertheless, many delegates expressed concerns regarding the slow pace of the proceedings.
Speculation on how things would move forward after Bonn was rife in the corridors of the newly completed World Conference Centre, particularly after France’s chief Climate diplomat, Laurence Tubiana declared in May that France would take the lead in producing its own text if Parties failed to make enough progress cutting the current text down by August. With a new ‘streamlined’ draft due to be presented by the ADP co-chairs in July, the stakes could not be higher, and the pressure is definitely on.
Completion of the international Framework for REDD+
In parallel to the ADP discussions, more progress was made under the SBSTA. Following the adoption of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ at COP 19 in December 2014, the international community declared that the international framework of UNFCCC requirements and guidance on REDD+ were complete. However, three outstanding issues remained unresolved after COP 19 (and still unresolved after COP 20):
• Consideration of the need for further guidance on safeguards, more specifically on the need for further guidance to ensure transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness when informing on how all safeguards are addressed and respected (as per decision 12/CP.17 paragraph 6)
• Ways to incentivize non-carbon benefits (decision 1/CP.18 paragraph 29(b))
• The consideration of how non market-based approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests could be developed to support the implementation of REDD+ (decision 1/CP.18 paragraph 39 recalling decision 2/CP.17 paragraph 67)
After much deliberation and a failure to reach consensus on these issues at COP 20 in Lima, the prospects of closing the discussions on REDD+ at SBSTA 42 were limited. In spite of seemingly insurmountable differences in position, particularly on safeguards and non-carbon benefits, Parties were able to reach a compromise outcome. Although lauded as a historic outcome by some, others, particularly civil society considered the outcome to be ‘skeletal’ at best.
What was actually decided?
• On safeguards
The SBSTA draft decision contained guidance on the types of information that countries could include in their summaries of information on how all the REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected, including the following ‘elements’:
o Information on national circumstances relevant to addressing and respecting the safeguards
o A description of each safeguard in accordance with national circumstances;
o A description of existing systems and processes relevant to addressing and respecting safeguards, including the information systems referred to in decision 12/CP.17, in accordance with national circumstances;
o Information on how each of the safeguards has been addressed and respected, in accordance with national circumstances;
Parties are also ‘encouraged’ to provide ‘any other relevant information’ on the safeguards in the summary of information. This could for instance, include a description of the process undertaken to prepare the summary of information.
Although less comprehensive than what has been suggested by non-official studies, this guidance is nevertheless and important step. The need for this guidance was further underscored by the criticisms of the most recent summary of information submitted by Brazil, in May this year.
• On Non Carbon Benefits (NCBs)
The SBSTA reiterated previous discussions that NCBs are ‘unique to countries’ national circumstances’. The draft decision also states “Parties seeking support for the integration of non-carbon benefits” into their REDD+ activities “may provide information addressing, inter alia, the nature, scale and importance of the non-carbon benefits” while also clarifying that “methodological issues relating from the implementation” of REDD+ “do not constitute a requirement for developing country Parties seeking to receive support” for REDD+ implementation. This somewhat confusing language clarifies that the realisation of NCBs is not a requirement for obtaining results based finance for REDD+ per se, while not completely closing the door on countries seeking to obtain support for the integration of NCBs into their REDD+ activities. Also of note is the acknowledgment that NCBs “contributing to the long-term sustainability” of REDD+. This may have implications for funders, who, looking to reduce risk in their funding decisions, prioritise REDD+ implementation that realises and reports on NCBs.
• On alternative policy approaches
The draft decision on non market-based approaches confirms that the implementation of alternative policy approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches are subject to the methodological guidance contained in previous COP decisions, including on safeguards and recognises such approaches as an alternative to results-based payments. The draft decision also links the implementation of these alternative policy approaches to REDD+ activities. Most importantly, the draft decision explicitly created a link to international climate finance by “encouraging” financing entities, including the Green Climate Fund to provide financial resources for such approaches.
The way ahead
The closing meeting took place on the 9th June, with the draft decisions being put forward by the Co Chairs. There were no objections and the three draft decisions will be put to the COP to adopt in Paris at its 21st meeting in December this year. Although the completion of this methodological package on REDD+ is positive there is still work to be done at the international level in order for REDD+ to be operationalized on the ground. Remaining issues include:
• The need for REDD+ to be integrated into the Paris Agreement;
• The need for predictable and adequate funding; and
• For all entities funding REDD+ (including multilateral and bilateral agencies) to ensure consistent application of this methodological package.