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EU Forest Watch January 2011


Forest Watch Special Report – UNFCCC Climate talks, Cancun, December 2010

By Kate Dooley (FERN)

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in the resort town of Cancun in Mexico for the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP). After the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, Cancun was considered by many negotiators and observers to be a success, reviving a ‘spirit of multilateralism’ and restoring faith in the UN process. Positive press described the meeting as a stepping stone towards maintaining an international legally binding commitment to reduce emissions. Despite this, it is acknowledged that much work remains to be done, and many observers and developing countries raised concern at the increasing shift towards expecting action from the global South whilst those in the global North fail to show either responsibility for emission reductions or reliable funding commitments. e Cancun Agreements1 have incorporated the controversial Copenhagen Accord, and signal a likely shift from a binding regime to reduce emissions (the Kyoto Protocol) to unilateral voluntary pledges. Current targets put the world on track for temperature rises of 2.5-4.2°C (and rising) by the end of the century.2 e EU is now reviewing its position regarding a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol3 following the opposition of Japan, the US, Canada and Australia to another round of legally binding emission reduction commitments.

One of the other elements of the Cancun conference that was presented as good news was the agreement to establish a new global climate fund under the UNFCCC. No decision however, was taken on the size of the fund or where the money will come from. Enthusiasm was further dampened when, despite strong opposition from civil societ , the World Bank was given the task of being interim trustee of the fund, a decision to be reviewed after three years.

REDD Decision

  • e Cancun package included agreement4 on a proposal to protect

forests, known as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Following a three year negotiating process, ministers nalised a text which includes mention of social and environmental ‘safeguards’. Yet major decisions on how the scheme will be funded and how both ‘safeguards’ and deforestation will be monitored remain unresolved. Equall , UNREDD and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) appear to be designing systems based on the assumption that carbon osets will eventually deliver funding for REDD, even though UN talks have not reached a decision on the critical question of the role of carbon trading in nancing REDD. is is one of the most contentious issues among parties. e key elements of the REDD decision are:

REDD Objective: An overarching goal to slow, halt and reverse the loss of forest cover and carbon emissions, provided there is adequate nancial support. Acknowledgement of the need to address the ‘drivers’ of deforestation such as global demand for timber products as well as lack of good forest governance and unclear or unjust land tenure issues are also included.

Forest Peoples’ Rights: Human rights should be fully respected in all climate-related actions, with specic reference to indigenous peoples as vulnerable groups in the Cancun text’s ‘shared vision’.

  • e REDD decision ‘notes’ the UN declaration on the rights of

indigenous peoples (UNDRIP) and contains language on the need to ensure full and eective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, but there is no specic reference to the principle of Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). Whilst indigenous peoples at Cancun considered the references to human rights, including the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Climate change and UNDRIP as progress, these provisions fall short of demands for the full recognition and implementation of forest peoples’ rights.5 ere is thus widespread concern that the progress made on paper will be insucient to ensure that the rights of forest dependant peoples will be protected in implementation of REDD.

Safeguards: Much of the discussion and debate on REDD during Cancun focused on safeguards, and in particular, to what degree developing countries would agree to monitor, report and verify (MRV) implementation of these. From the beginning it was clear that there was strong opposition to this, in particular from Brazil who did not want MRV of safeguards in REDD to become part of national inventories. Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Costa Rica and others successfully weakened safeguards language despite resistance to such moves from Tuvalu, the EU and Norway. e outcome is that references to safeguards themselves have been watered down, and the nal decision merely requires “a system for providing information” on how the safeguards are being addressed in the implementation of REDD.

Sub-national accounting: Since forests were rst considered in the context of climate mitigation, it has been widely recognised that project based attempts to reduce deforestation are ineective due to leakage, where deforestation simply moves outside the project boundar , resulting in no overall reductions in deforestation rates. Indeed REDD was only accepted on the agenda of the Bali COP in 2005 based on the proposal that such leakage could be partially addressed by accounting nationally for any reductions in deforestation. Another shortcoming of sub-national and project-

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