Joanna Durbin is currently attending the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa. Read other COP 17 posts. This blog focuses on REDD+, a mechanism for compensating countries to protect standing forests; learn more on CI’s climate page.
While the main work at the climate talks in Durban is the painstaking, word-by-word negotiation of the decisions that define whether and how countries will commit to addressing climate change, side events provide a great opportunity for nations and NGOs to explain the actions they already have been taking — and how those actions can support the negotiations.
One of the hot topics under discussion here is REDD+ safeguards, which aim to ensure that REDD+ activities do not harm communities, biodiversity or other valuable ecosystem services like water provision; instead, REDD+ must respect rights and deliver multiple benefits for local people and broader sustainable development.
Last week, I was pleased to be involved in a side event on this topic hosted by the government of Ecuador and Conservation International. There, government representatives from Ecuador and the Brazilian state of Acre and from civil society groups in Nepal and Cameroon explained how they are exceeding the minimum REDD+ safeguard requirements — thereby demonstrating that developing countries are willing and able to address and report on safeguards effectively.
These countries are all using the REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards (REDD+ SES) that provide a comprehensive framework of principles, criteria and indicators for high social and environmental performance of government-led REDD+ programs. Together with Phil Franks of CARE, I have been closely involved in facilitating the development and use of REDD+ SES as part of the initiative’s secretariat, so this event was a good opportunity for me to reflect on progress as we heard directly from the people leading the use of REDD+ SES in their countries. As they ran through the clear benefits — and the significant challenges — of building their safeguards information systems, the main message was clear: Addressing the safeguards in detail and reporting on them in a meaningful way has served to strengthen government commitments to safeguards and provided a platform for engaging civil society.
Last year in Cancun, progress on REDD+ safeguards was a step forward; however, much more detailed guidance is needed to be sure that safeguards are implemented effectively. COP 17 has made very little progress filling in the details on safeguards. I really hope that the message from the participants in our side event will spread and build confidence in stronger, comprehensive, transparent reporting on safeguards through effective participatory multi-stakeholder processes. If adopting this approach brings recognition to Ecuador, Acre, Nepal and the other countries joining the REDD+ SES initiative, then they and others will be encouraged to continue — which, I hope, will ultimately translate into bolder agreements on safeguards in future climate talks.
Joanna Durbin is the director of the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance, based at Conservation International.