Climate Change / Expert Perspectives / REDD+

Reflections on COP16 and Predictions on the Future of Climate Policy and Practice

For politicians, environmentalists, climate experts and others, the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties is the annual platform for discussions and decisions on global efforts to combat climate change. The culmination of the most recent meeting — COP 16 — and the development of the Cancun Agreements marked the beginning of real, substantive progress on a range of key climate issues. However, details about the actual implementation of many components of the Agreements have yet to emerge. We took a look at a few of the key outcomes from COP 16, and compiled a partial list of the thorny issues that still need to be resolved.

What Cancun means for REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation while promoting forest conservation) and REDD+ Financing

Clear signals were sent on REDD+. This clarity should help to stimulate the flow of finance to tropical forest nations and guide the development of national REDD+ strategies, plans and programs.

However, a finance delivery mechanism for REDD+ and other adaptation and mitigation activities still needs to be developed and implemented.

What Cancun means for general climate finance

Developed countries committed to fast-start climate finance totaling US$30 billion by 2012 and to long-term finance totaling US$100 billion per year by 2020. While there is a commitment to funding, the sources of these funds are yet to be determined. The roles of the public and private sector must be defined, and quickly, if fast-start financing commitments are to be delivered upon.

What Cancun means for agriculture

No decision on agriculture was reached; opinions are deeply divided. In the interim, expect progress on agriculture to come through its possible inclusion in national REDD+ programs — for example, by countries recognizing sustainable agriculture as eligible for REDD+ finance.

What Cancun means for emissions reductions

The Agreements are weak on mitigation. They “urge developed country Parties to increase [their] ambition,” but this is voluntary. Notably, the need to ultimately limit the increase of greenhouse gas emissions to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels was recognized in a COP decision for the first time; however, even if all countries meet their most ambitious targets, we would still fall 40 percent short of the 2°C goal. At current rates, average global temperatures are projected to rise 2 to 4°C by the end of the century.  It is uncertain if, or how, this gap can be bridged; the political will is currently lacking.

We have also failed to receive binding commitments from the US and China on the second implementation period of the Kyoto Protocol. Ambitious commitments from the world’s biggest emitters will be key to any successful extension of the Kyoto climate deal.

What else is on the table for 2011?

As this partial list implies, while the Cancun Agreements represent progress, much work remains. In 2011, we look forward to:

  • The UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) developing a strategy to set a national forest reference emission level and/or forest reference levels; national forest monitoring systems; and guidance on how safeguards will be addressed and respected. Progress in this area will help tropical nations transparently monitor, report upon, and verify their emissions reductions activities. SBSTA’s first 2011 session is in June, and the Rainforest Alliance and our partners will issue position papers on these issues for delegates.
  • Continuing to monitor — as an observer — the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Program as new countries apply for funds and currently supported countries advance their REDD+ readiness activities.

Want to learn more? A few recommendations for further reading:

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