Painting Cancun REDD: A Win-Win?

Rebecca Chacko is attending the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Read other posts about COP16.

As negotiations in Cancun draw to a close, I am glad to see progress on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation “plus” conservation, the sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks). Political will on behalf of the Parties has enabled them to come up with a text that can achieve compromise while still creating a framework that can contribute to global emissions reductions. A REDD+ decision is within reach, and with good decision-making in the final hours, we can establish a REDD+ mechanism that reduces emissions, protects human rights and biodiversity, and provides the sustainable, predictable and adequate financing to do so.

An actual agreement on climate change? Is it possible? REDD+ has long been branded a win-win opportunity. What has been forgotten, however, is that a climate agreement is also win-win. Because when we avoid further dangerous climate change effects and adapt to impacts that are already inevitable, everybody wins.

So, what should negotiators learn from REDD+? In order to win, you have to play, and that means you have to put something on the table. The compromise we’ve seen on REDD+ so far has required contribution by everyone. Developing countries have shown a willingness to protect their forest resources. Developed countries have indicated that they are willing to provide finance. Nongovernmental organizations, indigenous peoples and others have helped to steer a path that maintains environmental integrity and protects rights.

It’s not all done yet. Regardless of the outcome today, there will need to be more work on REDD+, both in the UNFCCC and on the ground. But with an outcome in sight, I hope that negotiators working on various aspects of the text can adopt a spirit of compromise and the goal of making this planet better for everyone. Let’s paint the Cancun outcome REDD — REDD with compromise, REDD with integrity.

Rebecca Chacko is the director of climate policy in CI’s Center for Conservation and Government.


  1. Norman Lippman says

    REDD+ lacks binding land tenure and legal rights for forest communities

    Would you install solar panels on land you had no enforceable legal right to?

    Imagine you are have practically no legal rights, and millions of dollars annually will be granted or paid for the carbon holding capacity of your land. These are the basic problems that 1.6 billion people who depend on the forests face with the REDD agreement.

    Concerning these rights, the latest draft of REDD+ reads: “Requests developing country Parties… to address… land tenure issues, forest governance issues…”

    Requesting to address ownership issues and right to rule of law? Are these the kind of legal terms that the negotiators would accept for access to their homes, livelihoods, bank accounts or lives?

    The World Bank analyzed the importance land tenure to REDD+. It states about, ”the role of community-owned forests in carbon sequestration …” That”…the larger the forest area under community ownership the higher the probability for better biodiversity maintenance, community livelihoods and carbon sequestration.”
    “…The cost range of recognizing community tenure rights… is several times lower than the yearly costs estimates for … an international REDD scheme.”
    “…recognizing forest community tenure rights can be a cost-effective step to improve the likelihood that REDD programs meet their goals. “ World Bank, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT WORKING PAPERS Paper No. 120/December 2009

    From our development and documentary work with forest communities in 7 Latin American countries over 35 years, We believe that REDD+ should require that these resource statutory rights be made binding for all indigenous people and other forest peoples whose rights do not conflict with the rights of adjoining indigenous peoples. These rights should be a pre-requisite for the granting of REDD+ funds and funds should earmarked for the recognition, securing, resolution and enforcement of these rights.

    For more REDD text comments go to

  2. Rebecca Chacko says

    Respecting rights is a critical component of REDD+. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because REDD+ will not be successful if the people living in and around forests are not part of the solution.

    The draft decision being discussed today includes the following safeguards:
    • Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
    • The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders in particular, indigenous peoples and local communities in actions referred to in paragraphs 70 and 72 of this decision;

    As you can see, there are many issues involved—rights, knowledge and participation. A critical aspect of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Please see Johnson’s blog for why this is so important for rights.

    Of course, the safeguards are great principles, but how do we make sure rights are actually respected? The draft decision also asks participating developing countries to develop “a system for providing information on how the safeguards referred to in annex II to this decision are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the activities referred to in paragraph 70, while respecting sovereignty.” This way we will know if rights are being respected as REDD+ is implemented.

    The financing language also makes it possible for developed countries to provide financing so that developing countries can implement the safeguards.

    The language isn’t perfect, but it gets us a long way. The specific rules for REDD+ will be developed over the coming year, so we still have time to make these provisions even stronger. That will be the first step—getting the policy right. Just as important will be implementation. That is why Conservation International is working with governments, local communities, the private sector and others to inform how the implement REDD+. We are trying to help them, not just respect people’s rights, but also reinforce them. And beyond that, we and many others are working to make sure that people on the ground are active participants in the REDD+ process and that REDD+ improves their lives.

  3. Pingback: REDD in the news: 6-12 December 2010 | The Carbon Credits News Forum

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