Rainforest Plan for Forest Carbon Supervisor Stalls in UN

Discord over forest-protection efforts have emerged regarding whether a new UN panel should be empowered to control the flow of funds into projects to preserve woodlands.

The disagreement centers on a proposal by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, whose 41 members include Argentina, Kenya, Indonesia and Ghana, to set up an advisory body. The group would “improve coherence and coordination in the delivery of financial and technical support for the implementation” of so-called REDD-plus projects.

Climate envoys at a United Nations conference in Warsaw have made progress on a way to measure how much carbon pollution is avoided by preventing deforestation and how to calculate baselines against which to measure future savings, according to documents published on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Deforestation causes 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the WWF environmental group.

“The Coalition for Rainforest Nations, led by Papua New Guinea, is holding a REDD-plus finance decision hostage until countries agree to establish a ‘REDD-plus body’ under the UNFCCC,” Stephen Leonard, president of the Climate Justice Programe, said Nov. 18. “It happened in 2012 in Doha, and history is repeating itself here in Warsaw.”

Papuan View

Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea’s ambassador for climate and environment, said that REDD-plus issues are discussed in too many different parts of the UN climate talks and need to be grouped together under an overall coordinating body.

“The Rainforest Coalition wants a place in the process to handle all discussions, to scale up and to mobilize finance for REDD-plus projects,” he said in an interview in Warsaw on Nov. 19. “We want to create efficiencies in the fragmented and wasteful way in which REDD-plus is handled.”

Developed countries including the European Union oppose the move, saying that the coordination of finance and technical support could be carried out by existing institutions.

“The EU does not wish to set up a REDD-plus committee,” Isaac Valero-Ladron, a spokesman for Connie Hedegaard, the bloc’s climate chief, said by e-mail Nov. 18. “We would rather identify the coordination functions that are needed and whether these functions can be met within existing bodies under the convention.”

World Bank

Financial assistance for forest protection in developing countries is presently arranged and overseen either bilaterally by countries or by international financial institutions like the World Bank, with each lender setting up its own guidelines. Setting up a REDD-plus Committee would speed up the development of rules and policy that lenders could adopt, Conrad says.

“Some of the outside entities that deal with REDD-plus finance, such as the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, were set up so that they will recognize guidelines from the UNFCCC when they come,” he said.

Many environmental groups also oppose the Coalition proposal. Pipa Elias, a forest policy consultant at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said existing institutions may play the role of regulator.

“If guidance from the negotiations is strong enough, then there’s no reason why existing institutions like the Green Climate Fund or the Global Environment Facility can’t impact the flow of finance to REDD-plus projects,” Elias said in an interview in Warsaw Nov. 19. “Outside investors such as the World Bank will be influenced if Parties agree on strong governance within the UNFCCC.”

The Coalition proposal is less about governing the flow of finance and more about efficiency in achieving emissions reductions, Conrad says.

“We don’t want to govern the flow of finance,” he said. “We just want to set up some place that will structure and co-ordinate the process to maximize emissions reductions.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.