As the negotiations of COP17 kick off in Durban, there are as many expectations flying around as there are participants. Compared to previous COPs however, most expectations are pretty low.
Overall progress in negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, or a separate, binding emissions reduction agreement including the emerging economies (China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa), is likely to be slow. Which in UNFCCC terms means that 2015 is likely to be the first window of opportunity for a deal to be agreed, so don’t hold your breath on that one.
Finance discussions, another integral part of the whole negotiations, will focus on the operation of the Green Climate Fund, however where the money is likely to come from, including solid commitments to provide funding, is likely to be sidestepped in Durban. So although the rules of operation for the Green Climate Fund may move somewhat forward, the actual implementation and long term clarity on climate finance is unlikely to.
So what does that mean for the REDD+ negotiations? There have been a number of recent articles and blogs on expectations for Durban, including from REDD+ country delegations, and they have been fairly measured in what they expect to be achieved over the next two weeks. Many highlight the opportunity for REDD+ to move forward on procedural issues, which are largely separate from the broader negotiations, however the constant caveat is that ground-breaking progress will be hindered by other negotiation tracks.
Issues such as clarifying the guidelines on a reporting system for the social and environmental safeguards , which are specific only to REDD+, provide an opportunity to make progress regardless of stalemates in other areas. Furthering discussions on the establishment of reference emissions levels, or reference levels may also provide an avenue for providing methodological guidance for the REDD+ agenda.
Similarly, the issue of REDD+ finance provides an opportunity to make some positive progress in Durban. As a result of discussions on this issue in Panama in October, there is now broad agreement that a range of sources of finance will be needed as REDD+ moves from readiness to implementation. A decision in this area is likely to leave the door open to include multilateral, bilateral and private sector sources of finance (including ultimately carbon markets), however without overall agreements on emissions reductions targets and mechanisms to achieve this, as well as on climate finance beyond the fast start period, the detail on where and how will be hazy. As always, the devil will be in the detail.
There are still a range of sticky issues requiring resolution for REDD+ to have sufficient clarity to really get off the ground. How other sectors such as agriculture and energy can be aligned to meet climate change and REDD+ goals to ensure coherent national priorities will be key for the long term success of REDD+. Similarly, sufficient commitment towards long term finance from developed countries, and international policy clarity will be needed to cement current interest from REDD+ countries and private sector involvement. These sticky issues are all things intricately linked to the wider negotiations, and therefore inherently difficult to resolve at the moment, given the broader context.
But it’s definitely not all doom and gloom. There is cause for optimism – REDD+ is happening on the ground, there are a range of innovative approaches involving local communities, the private sector, development partners and national and sub-national governments, using a range of landscape scale approaches and innovative financial transfer mechanisms. Durban will provide a good opportunity to showcase some of these successes, learn lessons from the challenges, and remind ourselves that REDD+ is only one part of the climate change agenda, and there is lots to learn, and many positive experiences from a range of initiatives, whatever their acronym.
Written by Kristy Graham, REDD-net Coordinator, ODI