CIEL Is In Bonn! REDD+ Safeguards And Incentivizing Other Forest Benefits

This week and next, CIEL’s Climate & Energy Team is in Bonn, Germany to participate in the UN Climate Change Conference. This conference is an interim meeting between the main negotiations where decisions are made (referred to as the COP) that take place every December. Bonn has become a second home to the Climate & Energy Team, as we travel there every year to advocate for a human-rights based approach to addressing climate change and advance discussions on key issues in the lead up to adopting decisions in December.  While many technical issues will be discussed, the most important objective is for the international community to determine how to increase mitigation actions to minimize the impacts of climate change – both in the short and long-term.  From a human rights perspective, this is critical because failing to take action now will lead to even more devastating impacts down the road. For a discussion of other issues that are relevant to human rights in the context of climate change, see our analysis of the last COP negotiations in Doha (December 2012).

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In Bonn, CIEL will be advocating for better human rights protections in a number of areas, including the negotiations on forests and climate change (specifically referred to as REDD+). We’ll also be tracking the discussions on mitigation and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – the UN’s carbon offsetting system designed to give developing countries access to cleaner, less polluting technologies. In the CDM arena, we’ll be focusing on the promotion of sustainable solutions rather than “solutions” that will cause collateral harms (like large dams).  Stay tuned for a more in-depth discussion of the CDM in a future blog post!

REDD+, in essence, is a way to reduce emissions by protecting forests in developing countries. A particularly important issue that will be discussed in Bonn is how to incentivize the many benefits that forests provide, not just their ability to absorb carbon. Because trees absorb carbon – it’s the earth’s natural way of managing temperature rise – conserving them benefits the climate. However, there are other benefits to protecting forests.  For instance, many indigenous peoples and local communities depend on forests to support their livelihoods. These communities have managed forests sustainably for generations, and they have rights to the land and natural resources that must be protected.  Protecting forests also provide other environmental benefits such as water and biodiversity conservation.  Although it is difficult to quantify these kinds of benefits, it is important to ensure that achieving them is a goal of any REDD+ activity.  CIEL will be working to avoid the risk that countries focus only on the carbon benefit of protecting forests; this singleness of vision could lead to the false conclusion that primary forests are interchangeable with monoculture plantations purely because they have a comparable ability to absorb carbon. However, such a replacement would drastically (and negatively) impact the viability of the entire ecosystem, reduce biodiversity, impair the watershed and local communities.

IMG_2445We will also be pushing hard for strong reporting on social and environmental safeguards that are required for REDD+.  These safeguards are aimed at preventing harm and promoting rights protection and biodiversity before a country receives money for, and begins to implement, REDD+.   Right now, there are ongoing discussions on the timing and way in which in countries will report on the implementation of safeguards.  This will be critical for building a REDD+ program that has the best interests of people and the environment at heart.   We will be working with our partners from around the world to push this issue and to encourage  stronger commitments from all countries to ensure that robust safeguards are in place.


Originally posted on June 4, 2013.