Archive for January, 2010

Indigenous Peoples Pushed for MRV Engagement In REDD and REDD+ as Rights Holders in COP15

Special guest article from Fiu Mata’ese Elisara*/Executive Director of OLSSI, Samoa



The Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) constantly monitored the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) negotiations. It continued to provide proposals and contributions as its members wanted COP15 to decide on a political framework to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (ILCs) and to enable their full and effective participation in climate mitigation and adaptation, including through REDD+.

The IIPFC suggested language on how the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) can contribute to make REDD+ monitoring anchored on a strong indigenous peoples’ rights framework, while ensuring that indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge is integrated in methodologies for monitoring and reporting. It welcomed SBSTA’s recognition of the need to ensure full and effective engagement of indigenous peoples in Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV), but as rights-holders, any engagement in REDD+ must be conditional on the full implementation of their rights as recognized in applicable international standards and obligations, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to their free, prior informed consent (FPIC) and to their full and effective participation at all stages and in developing and presenting their own parallel reports on REDD+ and forest developments on the ground.

The IIPFCC reiterated that forests are more than carbon to indigenous peoples and local communities, important for resilient ecosystems, livelihoods and human well-being and the scope of MRVs must include respect for human rights, secure land tenure, clarification of carbon rights and fully capture multiple forest values. The indigenous peoples argue that they can provide methodologies based on their traditional knowledge, consistent with their conservation of forests, enhancement of biodiversity and their cultural and spiritual values and that SBSTA organized an expert workshop that secures the full representation of ILCs, chosen by them, to address methods, measures, criteria and indicators to assess the social, environmental, economic and cultural implications of REDD+ actions. The IIPFCC believes that such an activity will build their combined capacities to apply traditional knowledge and climate science to ensure robust methodologies for participatory REDD+ monitoring and reporting.

This call was fully supported by the Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change in their response to draft text on SBSTA 30 Agenda item 5 on REDD text for a decision on methodological guidance for activities relating to REDD and REDD+, recognizing the need for full and effective participation of ILCs and the contribution of their knowledge in all stages of monitoring and reporting of activities and associated safeguards and subject to their FPIC. Also recognizing the importance of promoting sustainable management of forests and co-benefits, including biodiversity, that may complement the aims and objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements.

Both the ILCs and the Accra Caucus request all the parties to identify drivers and activities which result in increased deforestation and degradation in developing countries, and enact policies and measures to address these using the most recently adopted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidance and guidelines as a basis for estimating anthropogenic forest-related greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks and forest area changes.

They also requested that independent monitoring, reporting and verification be carried out on the impacts of policies, measures and processes undertaken on the rights of ILCs, biodiversity, and other social and environmental safeguards and that further work may be needed by the IPCC, in accordance with any relevant decisions by the Conference of the Parties, to provide supplemental guidance on the application of methodologies for estimating anthropogenic forest-related greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks and forest area changes.

The SBSTA was requested to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to use appropriate guidelines for effective participation of ILCs in MRVs and that all Parties support and strengthen developing countries’ capacities to collect and access, analyse and interpret data, in order to develop accurate estimates, recognizing that developing countries, when establishing methodologies to establish national reference emission and reference levels should take into account national circumstances, respective national capabilities and capacities, historical data, relevant socio-economic factors, drivers of deforestation, and existing domestic legislation, policies and measures and this data should be independently reviewed and submitted to the COP.

Requests were also made to set up a distinct and separate complaints mechanism which is accessible by all stakeholders and which is independent, transparent and consistent with all other relevant Human Rights instruments including the UNDRIP and urges relevant international organizations, non-governmental organizations and all stakeholders to integrate and coordinate their efforts in order to avoid duplication and enhance synergy with regard these activities.

In the light of the above, the SBSTA was asked to consider the application of a correction factor to reflect national circumstances, historically low deforestation and forest degradation, developmental divergence, and respective capabilities and capacities, resolution of terms such as forest, conservation and sustainable management of forests, developing country Parties that are requesting support shall follow the guidance decided by the COP and adopt how to address international leakage if applying sub-national approaches for demonstration activities and the development of guidance in monitoring and reporting with the full effective engagement of indigenous people and local communities.

As a rationale for this, national circumstances can be addressed by ways other than applying a correction factor, such as fund based payments for countries with historically low deforestation levels protecting intact natural forests, which don’t rely on artificially creating an appearance of changes in carbon stocks. It is crucial that leakage issues are not constrained to the domestic level. Domestic leakage is alleged to be relatively easy to address through the application of national baselines, but international leakage is the real threat to REDD in terms of addressing forest loss or deforestation, and considerations of international leakage must be part of any international REDD agreement.

* Fiu Mata’ese Elisara is the Director of Ole Siosiomaga Society (OLSSI) in Samoa. Read more…


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The Copenhagen Disaccord: The Copenhagen Accord leaves room for doubt, disappointment… and little hope.

Special guest article from Paula Moreira*, Instituto de Pesquisa Amiental da Amazônia (IPAM). For further information, please contact Paula Moreira (paulamoreira[at]@ipam.org.br)


On 19 December, 2009, the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP-15) closed, leaving much doubt as to the validity of the “Copenhagen Accord”, and what the next steps should be for governments to minimize the effects of global warming. The result of COP-15 was merely a political declaration which Heads of State called the Copenhagen Accord.

There is no question that this accord contains several problems. It is not legally-binding and the manner in which the accord was reached was unfair. The Accord was not reached in the UN Plenary, or through its working groups officially established under the Bali Action Plan. (Decision 1/COP.13). Instead, this supposedly global accord was drawn up behind closed doors by just a few Heads of State, thus making it politically impossible to secure its approval in Plenary by all the countries. So, a political accord was reached by 25 countries, out of the total 192 members of the United Nations. Finally, the accord does not set targets for reduction of greenhouse gases for developed countries nor mitigation actions for developing countries.

Despite all of these criticisms, it is worth emphasizing that there were some positive aspects included in the documents which, although a mere political declaration, can be used to build a legitimate and legal binding agreement which must be drawn up in the coming months. Firstly, the Copenhagen Accord was proposed by a group of countries which, for the first time, included the United States. Participation of the US represents an important step in the right direction for climate change mitigation. The declaration also recognizes the scientific view that the rise in global temperature should be less than two degrees centigrade to avoid human interference with the climate.

“Declaration” of Copenhagen’s Highlights

  • Financing
    With respect to financing, developed countries committed US$30 billion in additional resources during the period 2010-2012, specifically to help developing countries who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In the context of meaningful and transparent mitigation actions, the developed countries committed to jointly mobilizing US$100 billion per year up to 2020. These resources will be used to help to address the needs of developing countries. The funding would come from public, private, bilateral and multilateral sources including alternative sources of finance. The Copenhagen Green Climate Fund– part of the Copenhagen Accord—would be the financial entity of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change that will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries, including REDD+, adaptation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer.
  • Emissions
    Detailed emissions plans are set out in two annexes to the Copenhagen Accord; one shows targets for the developed world and the other lays out voluntary actions in developing countries. However, given that China has refused to allow international verification of its efforts, the Declaration provides no possibility of monitoring voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions taken by developing countries. The requirements of the plans in the annexes have not been fulfilled with the corresponding numbers related to countries’ targets and actions.
  • Forests
    The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the importance of reducing emissions caused by deforestation or forest degradation, and accepts the need to provide incentives to finance such actions using resources from the developed world.

Brazil’s potential leadership

Despite the disappointment and legal ambiguity concerning the effectiveness of the accord, Brazil should be commended for announcing a pledge of US$5 billion to help the most vulnerable countries in the world adapt to climate change. As highlighted by our Senate Marina Silva, by taking this symbolic gesture, developing countries are capable to embarrass rich countries and put them in an uncomfortable position, unblocking the negotiation. Furthermore, the target of reduction of emissions announced by Brazil in Copenhagen (36,1% – 38,9% of 2005 emission levels until 2020) became law though the Presidential Approval of the Climate Change National Policy on 29th December, 2009 showing the world that the country’s position tabled in Copenhagen was really a compromise.

The next steps

The President of the COP announced that the next climate change conference would be in Mexico, in November-December 2010. Nevertheless, many NGOs are urging countries to work for a strong agreement with political legitimacy in the next six months.

What is left, for the moment, is a mixture of feelings. A huge frustration of having spent a great deal of money and time to see this horror show of COP 15, not least the abysmal organization which left participants queuing for hours in the snow, without achieving a satisfactory outcome to the COP.

On the other side, the sole feeling of hope that Countries manage to transform the Copenhagen Declaration into a UNFCCC legal binding agreement in the next 6 months, with the fulfilled annexes of numbers of mitigation targets by developed nations and actions by developing countries, in particularly encouraged by the voluntary actions by developing countries such as the Brazilian example mentioned above.

Please, distinguished delegates, we call for action and not more disappointment in the next 6 months. Otherwise many of us, UNFCCC observers and climate campaigners, will be obliged to focus our work and energy on specific mitigation actions at regional and local level, giving up on the United Nations Climate Convention (UNFCCC) processes, in order to avoid more climate catastrophes that are already in place. We don’t have more time. We need action.

*Paula Franco Moreira is a lawyer with a Masters degree of International Socio-Environmental Law from the London School of Economics. She coordinates the area of inclusion and empowerment of indigenous peoples and traditional communities in the process of defining public policies on global climate change at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and is a representative of the Latin American and Caribbean civil society at the UN-REDD Programme’s Policy Board. Read more…

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