REDD and Doha Gateway: An Expectation Gap

ImageAfter an anticipated delay at the UN climate talks in Doha, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, President of COP18, took less than a minute to hammer through a series of ‘decisions’. He then declared the creation of the ‘Doha Gateway’. Immediately after this declaration, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC tweeted: ‘All #COP18 decisions adopted by acclamation. We have a Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol!’

 By maintaining the tradition of UN climate change conferences, the COP18 presented a new package of climate change expectations; this was in continuation of the Berlin Mandate, the Marrakesh Accords, the Bali Road Map, the Copenhagen Accord, the Cancun Agreements and the Durban Platform. The package of ‘Doha Climate Gateway’ decisions included amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to establish its second commitment period, an affirmation on the need to move towards a legally binding agreement that applies to all countries by 2020, a re-affirmation to continue efforts to scale up climate finance (Green Climate Fund) to help developing countries respond to climate change and developing a loss and damage mechanism.

Within a few hours of this development, the social media networks and corridors of Doha Convention Centre were heated up with frustration of environmental activists. The reaction of parties to the Doha climate deal was tepid and a few parties stated that Doha outcome is not revolutionary but a way forward, which is sufficient to expect more progress on increasing ambition in future.

Indeed, this expectation gap is also applicable for the REDD sector. Doha could not give a decision on verifying carbon emissions from deforestation. Many were expecting to get robust decisions on monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV[*]) of carbon emissions which would be linked with setting up reference emissions levels – the baseline from which countries measure their success in reducing emissions. This did not happen when negotiations on verifications issues were turned into financing and a deadlock was shaped between Brazil (a potential beneficiary of REDD+) and Norway (one of the largest funders REDD) regarding the language governing the standards by which deforestation-related emissions would be verified.

Norway has been advocating for an independent, transparent and internationally accepted verification process, which could enable REDD countries to move forward to the REDD+ implementation phase in a few years time, whereas Brazil and other developing countries have been calling for internal (national) verification requirements and denied to accept an external verification mechanism. It is important to mention here that many developing countries do not have the necessary technical prowess and capacities of Brazil to carry out verification of its own; and therefore, the proposition of having an independent and internationally accepted verification process sounds legitimate. Nevertheless, the key negotiation point on the MRV should have been on the ‘degree of independence of the verification processes’, which could have been helpful to decide how independent the verification process needs to be and how much would be achieved merely with bilateral agreements.  

With respect to the financing matters of REDD, countries struggled to come to an agreement in the LCA (Long-term Cooperative Action) negotiations meeting. However, the irony is that the final LCA Text (FCCC/AWGLCA/2012/L.4) did not make a decision on how REDD should be financed, instead, the LCA decided to ‘undertake a work programme on results-based finance in 2013, including two in-session workshops, subject to the availability of supplementary resources, to progress the full implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70’.

The LCA text also invites parties to submit their views on coordinating and implementing REDD, providing ‘adequate and predictable’ finance and technical support, and the institutional arrangements required for REDD.  The LCA text further requests that SBSTA considers ‘how non-market-based approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation’ could support the implementation of REDD. Indeed, all these ‘affirmations and requests’ exhibit good intentions of parties; which is not only an effort to find a market based solution of deforestation but also an attempt to find ‘ways to incentivize non-carbon benefits’. The real question is- do the future REDD negotiations in 2013 could derive and present a ‘complete, ambitious and implementable package’ to move forward to the REDD+ implementation phase?

Perhaps, a direct answer to this question is not yet present. The concern is that due to a lack of meaningful commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, progress on REDD+ may be held hostage until larger political issues can be sorted out. However, it does look like forests and REDD+ are going to be considered as an integral part of the next international treaty on climate change in 2020.

Keshav C Das, Senior Advisor, Climate Finance


[*] The dispute over verification took place in the SBSTA negotiation meeting. The draft conclusions proposed by the Chair of SBSTA (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.31) stated that the discussions will continue at the next SBSTA meeting, which will take place in June 2013 in Bonn.

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