Liveblogging the REDD debate in Copenhagen: Week 1

13 Dec 2009
Posted by Chris Cosslett

I am liveblogging about the REDD discussions taking place during COP15 in Copenhagen.  While I won't actually be in Copenhagen, I will be gathering news and information about the proceedings and posting analysis and links regularly throughout the week. In monitoring the ongoing events, I will be especially interested in trying to understand and explain the positions being taken by countries and groups of countries during the negotiations. It will also be interesting to see how and whether discussions on REDD get caught up in broader aspects of the climate change negotiations. If you have any news or thoughts, please e-mail me or register and add your comment below. All times are GMT+1.

Sunday, 13 December
6:30 PM - Tony La Viña, a negotiator for the Philippines and facilitator of the REDD contact group, as reported on the Forest and Climate blog:
“There is room for optimism. The text has enough detail, but is short enough to allow for a decision" he said. He explained that many issues such as structure and scope are generally agreed, and safeguards including ones for indigenous rights and biodiversity protection are approved in concept although the legal language not firm. “I think we can have an agreement that’s good for forests, good for climate and good for people and communities,” he said, but warned that anything can happen in negotiations, and a REDD deal may still depend on how an overall climate change deal develops.
5:30 PM  - Some interesting new posts on CIFOR's new Forests and Climate Blog, including photos and other highlights from Forest Day 3.
4:00 PM - Some recent, interesting #REDD tweets to pass along. According to Gufalei: "Kevin Conrad says that he believes that negotiations will finish allowing subnational projects and will have deforestation goal." Meanwhile, AP_ClimatePool tweets provides following quotes from Nobel Prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom: "The key is that we don't have one size fits all for every country." She adds that REDD must be applied "in various places in ways that are responsible and creative." Finally, Ostrom warns that: "[REDD] could lead to a lot of corruption and a lot of peole [sic] harmed. We have to be careful about this."
11:00 AM - Forest Day 3 today, here again is the programme. To the participants: enjoy! And let's hope all the activity helps to stimulate improvement in some key outstanding areas of the draft REDD agreement.
Saturday, 12 December
11:00 PM - At today's Third meeting of SBSTA31, the decision on methodological guidance for REDD was adopted. View video excerpt of meeting here.
8:30 PM - UPDATE ON CURRENT NEGOTIATING TEXT - Following are key REDD-related elements of the CURRENT text of the LCA draft statement (i.e., the document that really counts):

  • The deforestation target remains out (ref. my 1:00 PM post of yesterday). I believe this reflects an unwillingness on the part of developing countries to commit to such a target until financing aspects are agreed, possibly including financing beyond REDD itself.
  • Deforestation, degradation, conserve forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks are all mentioned, implying a broad scope of financing related to forest management.
  • Safeguards related to the above activities have been moved to the Preamble section, which is a non-operational portion of the text and with a weak wording of "should be promoted."
  • The issue of conversions to plantations is covered by reference to "...safeguards on the conversion of natural forests."
  • The draft text contains references to 'indigenous peoples', 'biodiversity' and 'enhancement of other social and environmental benefits.'
  • Financial architecture  remains bracketed, with funds to come either from [a new fund to be established under the guidance of the COP] [and] [or] [existing bilateral and multilateral channels]

The above represents progress in some respects, but leave ample grounds for concern in others. Safeguard provisions, for example related to conversions to plantations, appears inadequately dealt with to meet biodiversity-relaetd concerns; in addition, the lack of resolution of  the financial architecture bears watching, with 'multilateral channels,' or better yet, 'multilateral initiatives,' preferable to other options.
6:00 PM - Watch a video of yesterday's press conference by the Global Canopy Programme: "Negotiation and Science Update on REDD"
11:15 AM - If you look at the SBSTA decision, you will see that it refers to decision 2/CP.13. This is a reference to the Report of the Bali COP13 meeting held in 2007. That decision, which provides critical context for all things REDD at Copenhagen, can be read here.
9:15 AM - As mentioned immediately below, SBSTA has agreed on a Decision text related to Agenda Item 5. To be precise, these are "Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair" (i.e., the Chair of SBSTS31) on "Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action."  The main, one-page text, which is actually just an introduction, is here. The actual substance, presented as an Addendum to the draft conclusions, is here. We will be parsing this latter document throughout the day (and perhaps for many days to come...).
1:00 AM - The SBSTA Agenda Item 5 on REDD, which was first opened some 5 years ago, and discussed in a Contact Group since Monday, was closed on Friday, i.e., a decision text was agreed. This is the first SBSTA decision taken at COP15 and is being seen as a very positive sign for REDD.  Here again is the link to the generally positive discussion of REDD during the SBSTA Plenary session on Tuesday.
Friday, 11 December
11:45 PM - One aspect of the REDD negotiations that has received very little attention in the press so far is what is known as 'the institutional architecture.' This issue basically boils down to whether future inter-governmental REDD funds (as opposed to private sector funds made available via offset markets) would remain largely under the control of the United Nations or whether such funds would instead be managed by the World Bank. In the past couple of years, the World Bank has established a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), while the UN has established UN-REDD, mainly with Norwegian funding. It has remained unclear, however, what might be the longer-term role of each mechanism. Several of the proposals being discussed in Copenhagen would apparently rely heavily on the FCPF Charter, an approach which is not likely to go down well with many NGOs or, indeed, many of the developing countries. A possible compromise to look out for could involve a fund structure that includes both a UN-administered Trust Fund and a WB-administered Trust Fund under a common governance structure, a precedent for which exists in the form of the Iraq Reconstruction Facility
11:30 PM - UPI is reporting that of the more than 20 REDD plans that have apparently been put forward so far, a joint proposal put foward by Norway and Brazil appears to be in the lead for the moment. The proposal was referred to by U.S. President Barack Obama, who said "I am very impressed with the model that has been built between Norway and Brazil that allows for effective monitoring and ensures that we are making progress in avoiding deforestation of the Amazon." Brazil also apparently rejected on Thursday an EU proposal for a binding target to reduce deforestation by 50% by 2020, in the absence of equally binding financial commitments from the developed countries. 
11:00 PM - A thoughtful analysis of the U.S. pro-REDD negotiating stance from the Rainforest Action Network, emphasising the potential importance of REDD as a way to reduce the cost to U.S. polluters of meeting emission reduction targets, via offsets.
1:00 PM - After several days of generally upbeat, if vague, noises regarding progress in REDD negotiations, Reuters is reporting on concerns being raised by Raja Jarrah, CARE International's lead advisor on REDD. In an article entitled "Rich nation's reluctance could sink targets for stopping deforestation, assuring local participation," Reuters reports that the draft text will no longer contain a target for halting deforestation either in percentage terms or in terms of a target date. Also, there are concerns regarding attempts to "water down" text aimed at protecting the rights of indigenous and local communities. Finally, financial commitments remain unclear. "If a REDD agreement has no target for ending deforestation, no commitment of resources to achieve this, and no protection for the rights of people, we might as well not have it all," Jarrah is quoted as saying.
9:30 AM - Part I of today's official daily programme lists the following REDD-related activities:

  • 9:00 - 9:30: REDD in the Amazon (Amazona Sustainable Foundation (FAS)
  • 13:00 - 14:00: Coalition for Rainforest Nations
  • 14:00 - 14:30: The tri-national MAP region in the heart of the southwestern Amazon speaks about their positions on REDD (Amazon Environmental Research Institute - IPAM)
  • 15:00 - 16:30 Contact Group for REDD under SBSTA.

Today's REDD-related side events, listed in Part II of the daily programme, include the following:

  • 13:00 -14:30: How to make joint national-international actions on REDD work: Experiences from Indonesia (Indonesia)
  • 14:45 - 16:15: REDD and the Amazon Forest Guardians: Indigenous peoples from Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia engages (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin - COICA)
  • 16:30 - 18:00: REDD in the Congo Basin sub-region: Opportunities and challenges (Commission des forets d’Afrique Centrale - COMIFAC)
  • 18:15 - 19:45: REDD in the real world: Lessons from global research (CIFOR)

Thursday, 10 December
11:20 PM - The New York Times is reporting on concerns that forested developed countries are trying to revise forest carbon sink accounting rules in their favor, which could lead to 'gaming the system' while undermining progress being made in other areas at Copenhagen. Proposals currently under discussion deal with counting carbon from croplands, soils and tree plantations as well as accounting for forest fires.
7:50 PM - OECD has released a new Working Paper entitled "Promoting Biodiversity Co-benefits in REDD." According to the accompanying Press Release: "The paper discusses potential biodiversity implications of different REDD design options that have been put forward in the international climate change negotiations and examines how the creation of additional biodiversity-specific incentives could be used to complement a REDD mechanism, so as to target biodiversity benefits directly." No indication yet regarding how and to what extent the REDD mechanism being developed at Copenhagen will focus on biodiversity co-benefits. Many observers are calling for strong linkages to be built into any REDD mechanism in order to maximize potential biodiversity benefits.  
12:30 PM - Our technical problems related to displaying REDD-related excerpts from COP15 videos have been solved. The first such clip, from the SBSTA31 meeting on Tuesday, can be viewed here. If anyone would like to recommend additional excerpts, please contact me here with the link to the COP15 video and recommended beginning and end times.
9:00 AM - The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent piece out this morning highlighting the new CIFOR report and associated Press Conference (the latter is definitely worth watching, by the way)
8:45 AM - To get an idea of the extent of activities and negotiations currently taking place in Copenhagen, it helps to look at one of the daily agendas. Today's agenda covers literally dozens of negotiating sessions, side-events, plenary sessions, etc. Of particular interest is the proliferation of 'Drafting Groups' or 'Contact Groups', which are typically working on specific items associated with the Meeting or Conference in question. In the case of REDD, one drafting group and one contact Group are meeting today:

  • Under AWG-LCA Agenda Item 3: Drafting group 3 on arrangements for REDD-plus activities in the context of subparagraph 1 (b) (iii) of the Bali Action Plan, facilitated by Mr. Tony la Viña (Philippines).
  • Under SBSTA Agenda Item 5: Contact group on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action 

Today's REDD-related side events include the following:

  • 9:00: Monitoring forest emissions and governance to achieve REDD (Imazon)
  • 11:00: Monitoring REDD for climate compliance (Global Witness)
  • 11:00: Youth, forest protection and survival (SustainUS)
  • 13:00: Indigenous perspectives on forests and climate change (International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests and the Global Forest Coalition)
  • 16:30: Making REDD work (Conservation International)

Wednesday, 9 December
6:15 PM - Ecosystems Climate Alliance has highlighted the following concerns regarding shortcomings of the REDD negotiating text that emerged from November talks in Barcelona:

  • "no explicit language that will ensure an objective of protecting intact natural forests;
  • no provisions to monitor vital social, environmental and governance safeguards in developing countries;
  • no text addressing the social and economic forces which drive demand for forest products and result in continued forest destruction;
  • no accounting of the massive emissions from peat soils;
  • inadequate protection for the rights of indigenous peoples; and
  • inadequate safeguards for the conservation of biological diversity."

It will be interesting to see whether and to what extent these concerns are addressed in whatever emerges from the Copenhagen negotiations. Certainly, there is no sign of these concerns having been addressed in the so-called "Danish text."
5:40 PM - CIFOR is also organizing Forest Day 3 on Sunday Dec. 13th, featuring keynote speakers Elinor Ostrom, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri and Gro Harlem Brundtland. A program for the day's events is available here.
5:00 PM - Falling squarely in the category of "As if we didn't already have enough to read..." is a 390-page report, issued today, from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The document, entitled Realising REDD+: National strategy and policy options, concludes that "payments for avoided deforestation could shift power from agents of forest destruction to proponents of protection." CIFOR's Director General, Frances Seymour, summarises the situation admirably: "We must balance the risk of taking action in less than perfect conditions against the risk of lost opportunities if we are too cautious. Designed appropriately, REDD+ has the potential to catalyse needed reforms, while protecting vulnerable communities. In a world facing catastrophic climate change, the risk of doing nothing is too great." 
4:30 PM - In an interview with Reuters yesterday, Brazil's climate change Ambassador Sergio Serra made two important points related to REDD. First, he argued that a deal on REDD could only be concluded as part of a broader financial pact to help less developed countries fight global warming. "If we are not near an agreement on the global financial package, I doubt we will have the sectoral or limited package on REDD," said Serra. He also reiterated Brazil's call for a 10% cap on REDD offsets for any single country. "We would like to see...the 10% as a limit," he said.
2:45 PM - Today's REDD-related events (better late than never):

  • 11:30 - REDD: Getting the safeguards right (Rainforest Foundation Norway)
  • 13:00 - Capacity development for national GHG inventories in non-Annex 1 countries for REDD (Papua New Guinea)
  • 16:00 - GMO trees, plantations and REDD (Global Justice Ecology Project)
  • 18:15 - Development of social and environmental standards for national REDD+ programs (Nepal)
  • 20:00 - Madagascar's progress towards a national REDD system (Madagascar)

12:45 PM - Tuvalu calls for a suspension of the COP unless the contact group is established. The Chair has agreed to suspend the COP and has now opened a separate meeting, namely the "Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)." Informal consultations will take place until 3 PM re. the proposal.
12:25 PM - COP15 at loggerheads this morning over the question of whether to establish a contact group that some fear could lead to the death of the Kyoto Protocol. Island states strongly supporting the proposal, which was made by Tuvalu, with India, Venezuela. China and others opposing. Chairman unable to find a compromise so far.
11:45 AM - "Draft Copenhagen Climate Change Agreement: The Danish Text," which was leaked and published yesterday by the Guardian, has been a source of contention at COP15. Among other controversial aspects, the draft proposes transferring more control over the enforcement of an eventual agreement from the United Nations to the World Bank, a change which would be unlikely to sit well with the majority of developing countries. Paragraph 12 of the so-called 'Danish text' reads as follows:
"12. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is an important aspect of the necessary response to climate change. Developing countries should contribute to enhanced mitigation actions through reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, maintaining existing and enhancing carbon stocks, and enhancing removals by increasing forest cover. Parties underline the importance of enhanced and sustained financial resources and positive incentives for developing countries to, through a series of phases, build capacity and undertake actions that result in measurable, reportable and verifiable greenhouse gas emission reductions and removal and changes in forest carbon stocks in relation to reference emission levels. Parties collectively endorse the Framework in Decision X/CP.15, with the aim of stabilizing forest cover in developing countries by [X] and reducing gross deforestation in developing countries by at least [XX%] by [2020] compared to current levels."
Tuesday, 8 December
11.10 PM - Thomas Lovejoy's eloquent New York Times Op-Ed: "The Earth is Crying out for Help" discusses the importance of REDD and ecosystem restoration.
10:50 PM - We are having difficulty embedding the video from today's SBSTA31 session, so are instead providing the link for now. While REDD is discussed at various points throughout the meeting, the main continuous discussion of REDD as an Agenda item runs from 1:24:17 to 1:58:33 of the video. While SBSTA is a subsidiary body, and thus not directly responsible for designing the REDD architecture, it is nevertheless interesting to see the various parties' positions being stated here.
10:20 PM - Scientific American has a new article on peat bogs, swamps and mires as priorities for preservation and restoration. It will be interesting to see how and whether a REDD mechanism agreed here treats them.
2:10 PM - A new article, based on a report by Global Witness, raises the specter of 'carbon crime' in the absence of an effective monitoring framework for REDD.
12:40 PM - At the conclusion of the SBSTA31 session on REDD, a Contact Group was established to prepare draft conclusions and a draft decision by Friday, for adoption by the meeting and presentation to the Plenary Session on Saturday. Discussions of the Contact Group begin today at 4:30. (Closed doors or open doors?)
12:30 PM - The representative of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) has made the final statement under the REDD Agenda Item and was the only speaker to receive applause!
12:15 PM - Trying to catch every word of the SBSTA31 meeting but missing most due to a slow internet connection. Once this session has been posted by COP15 on demand, I will be embedding the video and providing commentary. For now, I can say that substantial emphasis is being given by participants to the following issues: the need to resolve outstanding methodological issues, the rights of indigenous and local forest-dependent communities, sustainable forest management and ecosystem-based approaches. 
11:00 AM - Meanwhile, on the more official side of the schedule, the 31st Session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 31) began this morning at 10:00 AM. Item 6 on its Agenda is: "Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action." WATCH IT HERE NOW.
10:00 AM - Good morning and welcome to Day 2 of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP15)! We will be doing our best again today to help you make sense of the evolving REDD landscape at COP15.
First off, according to the UNFCC website, the Day's REDD-related meetings will include the following (for newly issued reports, we will be adding links as we get them):

  • 10:30 - World Growth new report: Anti-forestry campaign threatens anti-poverty growth strategies
  • 11:00 - World Bank report launch: "CDM - 10 years of lessons learned" (should include some lessons for REDD)
  • 11.30 - Global Witness / Ecosystems Climate Alliance -- Forests and Climate: real action or greenwash?
  • 13:00 - Coalition for Rainforest Nations
  • 20:00 - GFC, GJEP: REDD Realities: The gap between REDD Dreams and the real-life forest policies

Not on the above list, but being reported by REDD-Monitor, are the following side events:

  • 10:00 -  Brazilian Vegetarian Society: Amazon forest destruction and climate change
  • 13:15: REDD Readiness in Tanzania
  • 21:30: Film: " The Story of Cap and Trade"

Monday, 7 December
6:50 PM - Video of the Woods Hole Research Center Press Conference from earlier today on "The End of Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon" is viewable on the COP15 webcast page. 
5:20 PM - This video was released today on YouTube by RealClimateNews. It describes the potential that REDD offers to limit deforestation in Brazil.

5:00 PM - This film was shown today at the opening of COP15.

1:15 PM - Statements by delegations at COP15 continuing. The Swedish statement on behalf of European Union refers to the need for both public and private financial flows in support of, among objectives, REDD.
12:45 PM  South Africa has announced its willingness to reduce emissions by 34% below current levels by 2020 and by 42% by 2025. READ MORE.
12:00 PM - Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) is reporting that UNEP will give "full support" to India's position that developing countries should be compensated for increasing area under forest. This follows the recent release of India's State of the Forest Report 2009, which estimated a three million hectare increase in forest area in the country since 1997. Whether REDD will cover reforestation and afforestation is an important issue that may be resolved in Copenhagen. IANS article requires password, alternatively see reprint here.
11:30 AM - A St. Kitts and Nevis delegate is tweeting from the meeting @liaonet #cop15 #weforest
11.00 AM - Some REDD-related highlights of today's meeting schedule:

10:30 AM - Technical note: we are working on installing our video filter, which should allow us to embed selected videos from across the internet. Hopefully later today; stay tuned.
10:15 AM - The welcoming ceremony of the United Nations Climate Change Conference is about to get underway.   WATCH IT HERE.

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