After a grueling couple of weeks, delegates at the climate talks in Cancún, Mexico succeeded in producing an agreement on a range of important issues ranging from REDD+, to financing that will cover costs of adapting to climate change, to ensuring transparency and accountability of countries’ efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Negotiating early into the morning on Saturday, December 11th, the 194 member states to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) collectively expressed widespread support for the deal, even though most countries had to make compromises.
Representing decisions within two parallel negotiating tracks, and termed the “Cancún Agreements”, the accord demonstrates that the UNFCCC is functioning, restoring its battered image after the failure of the climate talks in Copenhagen last year. Now there’s reason to be optimistic that further multilateral agreements can be reached before 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends. In the final hours of negotiations early Saturday morning, country after country stated support for the package, and more than that, appreciation for the way the negotiations were deftly handled by Mexico, embodying a spirit of transparency and democracy sorely missing in Copenhagen.
The Rainforest Alliance, represented at the conference by a team of agriculture, forestry and climate change experts, is particularly supportive of the text regarding REDD+, including the following positive points:
- The scope of REDD+ remains intact, encompassing not only reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation but also conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks (in Article 70).
- A call for the development of national level forest monitoring and reporting , with sub-national monitoring and reporting being acceptable as an interim measure (in Article 71-C).
- A call for including social and environmental safeguards to accompany REDD+ activities (cited throughout the text) and guidance (in ANNEX 1) on setting up systems for safeguards that include:
- “Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty”;
- “Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”;
- “The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular, indigenous peoples and local communities”;
- “Actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity….[actions] used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits.”
- Consideration of both market and non-market (i.e. fund-based) approaches to financing for REDD+ activities, which take into account the differing circumstances of developed and developing countries (Articles 80 and 84).
The landmark agreements should help push the developed countries to make good on the financial commitments made at COP15 last year in Copenhagen, which could total nearly $30 billion by 2012.
This financing is targeted towards a suite of “REDD-readiness” activities, such as developing national forest inventories and baselines, building capacity and initiating demonstration projects – - the cornerstones of any successful REDD+ program.
While the Cancún Agreements represent significant progress, the breadth of needs that must be met to make REDD+ operational, technically and socially, across the tropics, are daunting. Nonetheless, the Rainforest Alliance delegation departs from Cancún on a highnote, committed to re-doubling our efforts to make REDD+ work.
 The government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia objected to the agreements, but was overruled in light of the broad consensus reached among all other parties.