Climate Change / COP17 / Expert Perspectives / REDD+

Lessons from COP17: Linking REDD+ from Local to National Scales

From COP17 in Durban, South Africa, Adam Gibbon — technical manager of the Rainforest Alliance’s climate program — reports on plans to integrate various efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).

A recent report from Forest Trends indicates that there are at least 260 active REDD+ projects in 42 countries. Each year since 2002, the number of REDD+ projects has grown at a consistent rate. The projects range in scale from hundreds of hectares to hundreds of thousands of hectares. While they can have significant impacts at a regional level, ambitions for the negotiations underway in Durban aim higher. The goal is to make REDD+ operational at a national scale, and include it in the global agreement on mechanisms to reduce deforestation and degradation.

With deforestation and forest degradation accounting for 11 to 17 percent of global emissions, it’s clear that REDD+ must be part of any strategy to avoid dangerous climate change. Under fast-start funding from developed countries, preparation work is already underway for the development and management of REDD+ projects and programs in developing countries. The preparation involves (among other things): assessing national capacities; evaluating the drivers of deforestation; determining past rates of deforestation (and projecting future rates to generate a reference level); conducting stakeholder engagement; designing strategies to reduce deforestation and degradation; and designing forest monitoring systems. As part of this approach, countries may begin working at a more manageable ‘subnational’ level, in particular states or provinces.

REDD+ is moving forward at many different scales — national, subnational and project. But how will all of these initiatives interact, if the end goal of national level REDD+ is to be achieved?

• How will a project’s monitoring contribute to (or rely upon) national monitoring?
• How will different methods used for calculating expected deforestation rates and carbon stocks be harmonized?
• How will equitable benefit sharing mechanisms be designed for payments made for emissions reductions?

We need a so-called nested scheme, where projects can sit beneath subnational schemes which sit beneath national schemes. This should enable REDD+ programs to avoid inconsistencies (i.e. double-counting of credits), and move toward harmonization. The Rainforest Alliance has been active in designing the elements of such a nested scheme. Our climate program director, Jeff Hayward, and I are contributing to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Jurisdictional and Nested REDD Initiative. Jeff sits on the Initiative’s Advisory Committee, while I have been leading one of the technical teams, which provides input to the committee. The initiative is exciting because it provides an opportunity to seek input from a wide variety of people to develop the detailed framework under which nesting can work. The technical recommendations are now available for viewing and in early 2012, a public comment period on a revised version of the recommendations will open.

How can these recommendations be applied in practice? The Rainforest Alliance’s Omar Samayoa is coordinating a pioneering project in the northern lowland forests of Guatemala’s Petén region, the country’s last remaining expanse of forest. Recently, protected areas in the region have suffered from low budgets, inadequate institutional presence, and ongoing deforestation. Sixty percent of Guatemala’s annual deforestation occurs in the Petén. However, Forest Stewardship Council/Rainforest Alliance Certified concessions — managed to comprehensive standards for social, environmental and economic sustainability — have bucked the trend and remain standing. The project aims to apply carbon finance to support ongoing management issues like tenure resolution, supporting local planning and law enforcement, delivering grants that support sustainable production and provide other social benefits for communities. To access carbon finance, the project is being coordinated under a regional scheme that includes two other projects, and all projects share estimates of deforestation made from the same model. It’s a concrete example of the nested approach in action.

Together with colleagues at the Rainforest Alliance, the VCS and many other institutions, I am excited to continue our work in strengthening REDD+ and demonstrating how it can work at multiple scales so that we can achieve a REDD+ mechanism with maximum efficiency, maximum integrity and, ultimately, maximum benefits for forest dependent communities and biodiversity.

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