Policies and Perspectives: REDD+ in Africa
The UN-based fund that helps compensate developing countries combat deforestation should start fighting the causes as well as the effects. That was one of the main recommendations from forestry experts who gathered at the climate change conference, COP 17, in Durban.
The discussion mainly focused on deforestation in Africa, particularly in the Congo Basin, which has the second largest rainforest after South America.
Key Takeaways from the Roundtable
- The REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism was designed to offer governments an opportunity to benefit financially from maintaining their forests and to help developing countries move from dialogue to actions, in reducing deforestation and forest degradation.
- Currently, the REDD+ financing mechanism is at different stages of advancement in different countries and regions and a number of issues regarding its design and implementation are yet to be resolved.
- There is much scepticism surrounding the REDD+ programme as some feel that the initiative is impossible to succeed as it takes decades for the local communities to benefit from REDD+ projects. This raises the question amongst communities if it is worth investing in the initiative. This opinion is further supported by the fact that there is a large gap between the initiatives and the implementation, which is displayed by the current pilot projects in Africa that give a sense that not much is happening.
- The above opinion can be argued when looking at the current projects taking place in the Congo Basin. According to Ms Clotilde Mollo Ngomo (CBFF), the Congo Basin’s level of preparedness is at a very high level which will enable it to implement projects as soon as the funding is secured. This led to the topic of securing private sector funding, which was discussed by Dr Armin Sandhoevel (Allianz Climate Solutions).
- There is a desperate need to secure funds for implementing these projects, however, according to Dr Sandhoevel; the uncertainties of REDD+ are a concern for investors. He suggested that communities should attract investors by through close cooperation with investors, having the same self-interests as investors as well as having an open and transparent perspective. It must also be emphasized that Africa is in competition with other continents (e.g. Asia) in terms of securing funds.
- How the communities are benefitting from this initiative and how these communities are utilising their funds is of major concern. The speakers in the panel all agreed that the funds that a community receives should be used towards the drivers of forest degradation (e.g. agriculture) and not for other purposes.
- For this initiative to succeed, community participation needs to be increased. The capacity is there, but the will is not.
Many initiatives address the challenges associated with deforestation in Africa. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have become important platforms for dialogue on reducing deforestation in Africa, especially as its implications to climate change are increasingly recognized.
Despite the ongoing dialogue since the ascent of these conventions, African forests remain threatened by deforestation. Contracts with commercial lumbering and mining companies in forested areas are lucrative and forest-dwelling communities use slash and burn as farming techniques. Because of these realities, in addition to land tenure issues, policy frameworks are either non-existent or weak.
The REDD+ mechanism was designed to offer governments the possibility of benefiting financially from maintaining their standing forests and help developing countries move from dialogue to actions aimed at reducing deforestation and forest degradation. Launched in 2005 at the UNFCCC COP 11 to compensate countries for reducing deforestation and forest degradation, the REDD+ financing mechanism is at different stages of advancement in different countries and regions.
Regional economic and trading blocks in Africa are increasingly interested in combating deforestation given the economic and climatic implications today. COMESA, for example, has come up with a Climate Initiative and launched a bio-carbon African initiative in 2008 which main thrust includes agriculture, forestry and land use.
Whilst REDD+ could lead to the transfer of billions of dollars from industrialized countries to tropical nations by generating sales of emissions reduction credit, a number of issues regarding its design and implementation are yet to be resolved.
The consensus in climate negotiations is that efforts associated with REDD+ will ultimately be measured and rewarded based on national-level accounting systems. But while developing countries are building capacity to implement and manage these national systems, state, provincial, and project initiatives are evolving rapidly and must be integrated into different accounting scales to ensure the environmental integrity of the system as a whole and to mobilize finance. Some of these outstanding challenges are discussed below.
- Monitoring, Reporting, Verification: Measuring and monitoring emissions from forests and land-use is complex. Specific parameters must be defined at the domestic level to ensure that forest cover and condition, and carbon stocks are measured consistently across jurisdictions. Consistent results require the standardization of certain elements and concepts. To ensure appropriate emission accounting and the transfer of incentives in the form of carbon credits or payments, rules are needed to integrate the various levels of accounting, management, and incentives, which are referred to as “nested systems” that nest project or programs within national- or state-level REDD+ accounting systems and makes it possible to locate incentives at the appropriate level of governance. Potential issues and options for countries and states or provinces, and the international REDD+ system include: (i) creating a common, applicable definition of forest at multiple scales; (ii) defining eligible activities and how to account properly for different land-use and forestry activities at different scales; and (iii) harmonizing accounting periods for REDD+ activities implemented in different time periods.
- Distribution of Incentives: Emission reductions from REDD+ can be rewarded by carbon credits (recognized in voluntary and/or regulated markets) and results-based payments from public sources (e.g., Green Climate Fund, bilateral REDD+ funding). Options to be defined in international negotiations might include directly distributed incentives from an international REDD+ mechanism to projects (as under the Clean Development Mechanism) or direct distribution to national and/or sub-national governments with a subsequent (indirect) distribution to sub-national programs or projects. At the national level, governments with the authority to allocate credits or funds must make a range of policy choices, including deciding whether and how to incentivize project activities (striking a balance between these and use of funding for policies and programs), opting to allocate tradable credits or distribute benefits/payments; and defining the criteria or basis for allocating incentives.
- Regulatory Aspects: The regulatory and institutional setup for REDD+ will have a considerable impact on the ability of nested approaches to ensure credible emission reductions and to attract private investment. International and national policymakers must do a number of things: (i) Define the basic institutional setup, such as the main regulatory entity responsible for overseeing domestic implementation, and the contours of the powers of that entity. (ii) Establish approval procedures at international and domestic levels. (iii) Create a registry to support domestic policy options that could function as an electronic database that evolves domestic MRV capacities grow.
- Managing Risk of Government Failure: Risk mitigation mechanisms can be designed for projects and governments. At the project-level, risk mitigation tools may be needed to address the issues of permanence and project performance. However, when rewards or incentives for sub-national project activities are linked to the overall performance of the government, additional risks are generated beyond a project’s control. Risk management tools include: (i) buffer and reserve accounts; (ii) insurance mechanisms for reversal of carbon stocks; (iii) government guarantees; and (iv) penalty fees for sanctioned deforestation. These tools could be applied in many different combinations.
- Multi-actor Participation: One major obstacle facing REDD+ is the insufficient participation and involvement of stakeholders. REDD’s founding principles include making it accessible to local communities, encouraging their mobilization so that they can be the primary beneficiaries. Many experts believe that stakeholder involvement and the success of the REDD+ process require improvements in the lives and living conditions of populations on the ground. COP17 offers an excellent occasion to present the lessons learned, the challenges and the perspectives to mobilize the interest of the international community.
The roundtable will describe the broad experience in Africa of addressing the challenges of REDD+. It will draw on the CBFF experience with REDD+ pilot projects in the DRC as part of government efforts to define a national REDD+ strategy and on the experience of the African Development Bank in forestry and agriculture, to introduce and promote sustainable natural resource management in national development agendas.
The roundtable will address and raise questions, including but not limited to the following:
- What are the particular challenges and particular role of REDD+?
- Given the state of implementation, what is REDD+’s potential to improve development, livelihoods, carbon storage and the conservation of forest ecosystem services in Africa?
- What potential does REDD+ hold in terms of being scaled up to support development, given the challenges associated with Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV), governance, and people’s expectations?
- What lessons can we draw from REDD+ pilot projects in Africa, the Amazon and in Asia?
- How can the experience of countries advanced in the process (e.g. Brazil, DRC) inform that of other countries?
- What recommendations should be made for forest savannah ecosystems such as in East and West Africa?
- How can the challenges be resolved regarding the knowledge capacities of local communities and management institutions in the REDD+ processes?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various multi-stakeholder platforms in forest governance issues at regional, national and local levels?
Moderator/Chair and Panelists
- Moderator: H.E. Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation
- Donors: Representative of Norway, Ministry of Environment
- Practitioners: Mr. Raymond Mbitikon, COMIFAC
- Advocacy: Prof. G. Kowero, Coordinator Africa Forest Forum, World Agroforestry Centre
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