REDD+ in Paris – what could be in it for people and forests?

Curbing climate emissions means managing and using existing forests, and land sustainably. An IIED workshop in Paris will look at how the programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) can be made more effective, while also supporting local communities.

Nepalese women carry wood harvested sustainably from a forest. Forests cover nearly half of Nepal (Photo: Bikas Rauniar/Department for International Development, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

There are high expectations as to what the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris can deliver for the peoples of the world and for our planet.

The ambition is for a universal and legally binding instrument that can put developed and developing countries on the same footing to address dangerous temperature rise. Forests are recognised as having a key part to play in reaching this goal.

The United Nations REDD programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is one approach, providing support in 64 countries. The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) supports nearly 50 tropical countries and there is also bilateral support (particularly from Norway) to build capacity, policy and strategies to help lead to reduced emissions from forest loss or degradation.

IIED is organising a two-day event in Paris with partners to reflect on key issues that underpin the implementation of REDD+.

Turning rhetoric into reality

The source of emissions from land use, energy consumption and industrial activities are well understood and documented. The solutions are equally well known, yet the world seems unable to agree on instruments and commitments that can reverse our unsustainable development path. 

Governments have been urged to take the lead at a national level and put in place policies and legal instruments to drive emissions reductions. And there is also a role for governments in stimulating finance for activities to reduce emissions and drive demand for the carbon credits generated in the process. External markets for emissions are also important [link to briefing].

Insetting and offsetting

But with a conducive policy environment, developing countries can provide investors in the extractive, aviation, energy and industrial sectors with incentives to promote emissions "insetting" (ie reducing emissions in the supply chain) on the one hand while offsetting (paying for emissions reductions elsewhere) on the other. And indeed, these domestic actions are critical.

This is not meant to exempt developed countries from fulfilling their commitments to support REDD+ with finance to reduce forest loss and reward results. But rather it is meant to equally mobilise action within developing countries.

Developed countries must also commit to significantly cutting their emissions which come partly from economies that rely heavily on fossils fuels and industries that are yet to make full use of innovative technology options.

Lack of demand

A key problem is the lack of demand in carbon markets. At the end of 2014, 51.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in credits remained unsold (PDF). If carbon markets are unable to absorb this relatively small supply of emission credits, can this mechanism provide incentives for scaling up efforts to reduce emissions to the extent required?  

What initiatives will actually be undertaken in all those countries that UNREDD and FCPF are supporting? How will the world account for all the expenditure on the readiness process, strategy development and testing or renewing old approaches that could work if galvanized by REDD+?

Finance is also important to enable people to access the means and the know-how to implement sustainable land use management practices. Carbon credits, generated through sustainable use of existing forests, or through the rehabilitation of degraded lands, can benefit people and the ecosystems they depend on.

Focus of the workshop

Many voices in Paris will have their views on what REDD+ should be or do, on what it can or cannot achieve. There will be discussions about how the processes can be simplified and made more effective, how policies should guide practice, and how approaches to implementation should be participatory and inclusive, strengthening local voices, local rights, and local livelihoods.

While also recognising "the unruliness of carbon" – a commodity generated in landscapes where standing trees are expected to be a dominant feature

At our workshop we will look at how gender features in the analysis of the key drivers of land use change, looking particularly at equity, and at the gains and losses that men and women involved in commodity value chains obtain or incur.

We will draw on work with partners in Vietnam, Nepal and Tanzania (PDF) and expand the discussion by bringing insights from national government representatives and NGOs, as well as looking at links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goals 3, 5 and 8. Who participates is also an important aspect and we will keep a tab on. The UNFCCC has set the standards to monitor (PDF). But of course action will need to go beyond that.

The discussion will also look at the detail of REDD+ implementation at subnational level in Mozambique, sharing results from our work to establish socioeconomic baselines, reference levels, REDD+ delivery models and examining how this can form the basis for establishing indicators that can be used to gauge progress over time for livelihoods and reductions in forest losses.

And finally, the debate on the role of private sector will be considered from different angles. This will include sharing results from our research on private sector engagement in REDD+ implementation in Mai Ndombe (DRC) and look at the greening of the supply chain, particularly at how cocoa farmers in Ghana and Brazil can be better linked with carbon insetting in the chocolate value chain. Zero deforestation will be unpacked as well as reflecting on the role of private sector in closing the finance gap.

Isilda Nhantumbo (isilda.nhantumbo@iied.org) is a senior researcher in IIED's Natural Resources Group.

The research done under 'Inclusive REDD+' (gender and private sector) and 'Testing REDD+ in the Beira landscape corridor in Mozambique' and this meeting were funded respectively by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Norway through its embassy in Mozambique. IIED is grateful for this support. The opinions expressed in the context of the research and meetings are solely the responsibility of authors.