IUCN report on REDD and national implementation

In December 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published what the MEA Bulletin describes as a ‘comprehensive’ report on ‘national legal frameworks for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD).’ Focusing on four case studies – Brazil, Cameroon, Guyana and Papua New Guinea – the study ‘identifies main themes for ensuring successful REDD legal regimes and elaborates relevant legal and policy considerations with regard to each.’

Since the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia (2007), it has been generally accepted that any climate change regime must include a mechanism for tackling the issues of deforestation and forest degradation. Certain initiatives have emerged in this area including the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) which assists developing countries in preparing themselves for participation in a future REDD mechanism, and the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) which builds REDD capacity in developing countries.

The IUCN report analyses the issues that arise at the national level with regards to the legal frameworks that are needed for REDD-related activities. According to John Costenbader, the author of the reports introduction, ‘Once a future global REDD regime is established, it is essential that it operates within national legal frameworks that are customized to the specific needs of each country, but which strive to achieve the ‘three e’ REDD goals of equity, efficiency, and effectiveness, as well as clarity.’

The report elaborates on four main themes that it identifies as crucial for ensuring the formulation of national legal frameworks for REDD initiatives. The first is ‘Land, Forest and Carbon Ownership.’ Rights to land and forest resources need to be made clear in national legislation, while also being granted to those who are skilled at managing forests for carbon sequestration (the capturing and long-term storing of carbon dioxide). The second theme is ‘Participation’. National legislation will need to ensure that ‘REDD stakeholders’ are involved in the development of REDD initiatives. The more inclusive a REDD project, the more likely its effective implementation will be. The third theme is closely related to the second: ‘Benefit Sharing’. REDD national legislation needs to sufficiently incentivise forest owners to ensure that ‘keeping trees standing is an attractive alternative to deforestation’. If forest owners do not benefit from REDD initiatives then they are likely to block implementation out of fear that they will have a detrimental impact on their livelihoods. The fourth, and final, theme encompasses three interrelated issues: ‘Additionality, Permanence and Baselines’. Additionality states that a REDD project must achieve emission reductions that would not have happened otherwise. If this was not the case then it would simply be a waste of resources. In order to effectively evaluate additionality, it must be measured against baselines that are set according to either past levels, or future projections, of deforestation. Finally, any reductions made as a result of a REDD initiative must be permanent. (http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/eplp_77.pdf).

While the report recognises that countries’ circumstances vary widely, the authors are clear that, according to their extensive research, the four themes that they identify have a universal relevance.

-Bill Eichler, London