Incorporating social and environmental protections in issues related to land, land use, and forests

By Allison Silverman, Staff Attorney Climate & Energy Program
By Allison Silverman, Staff Attorney Climate & Energy Program

Let’s seize the opportunities to advance rights related to forests and land in Bonn! Here’s how.

Forests play a vital role in supporting the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities, protecting biodiversity, and, yes, mitigating climate change. For years, Parties, civil society and indigenous groups have been working out how to address forests and land use in the climate regime.  The climate negotiations in Bonn this June 2015 provide a great opportunity to adopt and to apply a rights-based approach to support incorporating social and environmental protections in issues related to land, land use and forests. The REDD+ Safeguards Working Group (RSWG), a recognized coalition of Southern and Northern civil society organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities, of which CIEL is a core member, has developed two briefing papers providing a way forward.

The first presents an analysis of the draft negotiating text from Geneva, identifying causes for concern and suggesting a more holistic approach to the way land and land use should be addressed under a new climate agreement. Such an approach not only focuses on mitigation and carbon accounting, but also on adaptation, rights, food security, and biodiversity. In this briefing paper, more than two dozen of the RSWG members express their concern that the draft text does not incentivize ambitious decarbonization and does not include safeguards to prevent or limit the use of risky activities. Instead it places great pressure on land, jeopardizing food security, community livelihoods, land rights, ecosystems and biodiversity. With just six months left to negotiate a future climate agreement, Parties should focus on measures that build on both sustainable land-based adaptation and mitigation, that prioritize conservation, and that are based on both science and traditional knowledge.

The second paper argues that the global framework for REDD+ (a current initiative to incentivize developing countries to protect their forests) is incomplete and summarizes recommendations on safeguards reporting and non-carbon benefits. It is critical for the UNFCCC to provide additional guidance on safeguard Information Systems (SIS) and on Non-Carbon Benefits (NCBs). While we recognize that Parties will be focused on the new climate agreement, leaving little time or appetite to work towards an agreement on REDD+-related issues, as countries move towards results-based payments and as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is expected to disburse funding for REDD+ this year, greater clarity will be essential. Given that the issues related to the SIS and NCBs have been negotiated in the past, this briefing paper builds off of previous briefings and submissions from the RSWG as well as others (see below for a short listing). It also supports findings from a case study we prepared last year highlighting the value of international guidance for the development of national safeguard systems for REDD+.

The RSWG is not alone in its call for a rights-based approach. In fact, there are united positions and shared messaging. In addition to the briefing papers we have helped to draft and support, here are a few other materials out there we believe advance a rights-based approach to land and forests in the climate regime:

On a rights-based approach to land use:

On further guidance to the SIS:

On defining, incentivizing and monitoring NCBs:

There is a growing interest in a rights-based approach to both climate change generally as well as land and forests issues more specifically. Please comment and share other resources that will help build awareness and recognition of the importance of this approach. The movement for a rights-based, more equitable and just climate movement continues to grow!

Originally posted on June 1, 2015.