Ivo Mulder
Ivo Mulder
Topic: How to accelerate REDD+ following COP21 in Paris
Ivo Mulder is the REDD+ Green Economy Advisor for UNEP on behalf of the UN-REDD Programme (an inter-agency initiative managed by UNEP, UNDP and FAO that works with +50 partner countries). He leads ...
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Number of questions: [2]
Posted on 07/02/2016 11:17:28
Even without accelerated implementation of REDD+, there are many individuals, communities & organisations expressing very grave concern about indigenous human rights & also the likely efficacy of these proposals with regards to total global carbon emissions. Please could you help me understand
1. how indigenous communities, cultures & rights will be protected
2. how it will be assessed how the carbon offsetting is impacting global emissions
3. if there is possibility for much greater dialogue about expanded solutions ~ with indigenous people as guardians & protectors of their own cultural lands.

I offer most humbly, as I am neither an expert in indigenous communities nor environmental matters:
it seems to me that REDD+ is a variation of "business as usual"; where natural resources are being quantified in terms of economics so that they can be quantified by predominantly Western thinking as having an intrinsic value. They then become a commodity to be bargained / sold. There surely is a risk that emissions at source would only be encouraged. There is also surely a risk that additional areas of forest may be threatened ~ so that a price can be extracted for their "protection". Most seriously of all there is a risk of the indigenous communities living on these areas would become even more threatened. Making natural resources as a commodity additionally very often offends the sacred beliefs of the indigenous communities themselves & I could therefore imagine resistance from these communities in working with UNEP & others. Surely this may make them even more vulnerable?

Is there any way that Indigenous people could be empowered to be the guardians & protectors (& owners if that would be an acceptable paradigm to them?) of their cultural lands. In circumstances as dire as the current planetary ones we are facing, it would appear to me essential that the communities within humanity who really know about protecting these ecosystems so crucial to the healing & future healthy functioning of our planet, are EMPOWERED strongly to be able to do so.

I am sorry to take so long in my question; & I am sorry it is partly off topic. But I have grave concerns & in any "accelerated" implementation of REDD, part of the "how" must surely be: how to ensure that indigenous rights are protected & that it has the impact on global carbon emissions that you hope for.

Kindest regards,
Yours sincerely,
Dr. Jo Veltman
Jo Veltman (from United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
Dear Dr. Veltman,

Thank you very much for your question, which is not easy to answer but let me try.

REDD+ at its heart is a financial concept or mechanism to reward developing countries to 'reduce or remove forest carbon emissions compared to a baseline (called 'forest reference level' or 'forest reference emission level') and which complies with the relevant social and environmental safeguards'.

What this means is the following: countries can be financially rewarded if they reduce/remove forest carbon emissions and how they do it is up to them. UN-REDD (or the World Bank or any other institution) is simply there to help them out. In other words the "means to achieve results" are up to the government and its stakeholders. There are - however - a number of provisions that governments will have to adhere to, which relates to the three points you stated.

1. How indigenous communities, culture & rights will be protected: Governments will have to consult with local communities, indigenous groups, etc as part of their strategy to reduce/remove forest carbon emissions. Personally I think that "community-based conservation" and/or "giving ownership or tenure rights to indigenous people" to be measures that are likely to lead to positive conservation outcomes, strengthening local livelihoods and which will also likely lead to proper protection of forest areas (including the carbon stored). Personally I think it's very risky for donor governments to make forest carbon agreements with recipient countries without consulting local communities.

There have been cases where this was not carried out properly, such as in Panama. See http://therules.org/redd-versus-indigenous-people-why-a-tribe-in-panama-rejected-pay-for-their-carbon-rich-forests/. Here local communities rejected a carbon deal between the World Bank and the Government of Panama for failing to include them in the consultation process. The World Bank and UN-REDD had to basically re-do the process and acknowledge that it was a mistake not to involve local communities. In this case the organisation representing the communities in the end decided to participate in the REDD+ process again, but they remain (justifiably weary).

The bottom line is that (and I can only speak from the UN-REDD side) through FPIC (free and prior consent) and through the "environmental and social safeguards" work - which all countries will have to do / comply with in order to receive results-based funding for REDD+ - we genuinely try to do whatever is in our control to ensure that local communities are a beneficiary of REDD+ implementation.

2. How we ensure that carbon offsetting is impacting global emissions: Every partner country will have to submit a "forest reference level" or "forest reference emission level" to the UNFCCC - which will be independently verified by a 3rd party. This FRL / FREL is basically a benchmark or baseline from which any efforts to reduce or remove emissions will be assessed. In addition, every country will have to put in place a "national forest monitoring system" (NFMS) which periodically (say every year) tracks the progress that a country makes (this could be through remote sensing using satellites or through other means). In this way donors receive a certain level of assurance that recipient countries are actually achieving results.

3. If there a possibility for much for much greater dialogue about expanded solutions: See my answer to point 1. Ultimately governments decide what measures they want to implement. If they fail to include local communities / indigenous groups then it's the responsibility of UN-REDD to notify governments that they actually have to do it. However, we cannot sit on the chair of a environment, agriculture or finance minister and tell them what to do. However, please do realize that we do a lot of work on 'stakeholder engagement' (including FPIC) and 'safeguards': See http://www.un-redd.org/AboutUNREDDProgramme/GlobalActivities/New_Multiple_Benefits/tabid/1016/Default.aspx and http://www.un-redd.org/Stakeholder_Engagement/tabid/55630/Default.aspx.

To answer the general gist of your message: I do understand that there are concerns about the "commoditization" of natural resources (including carbon stored in trees). We do have to realize though that around 12 - 17% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation/forest degradation (if you include emissions from agriculture) this amount increases to at least 24%. So whatever solutions we're trying to carry out it'll have to include tackling land-based emissions from forests - agriculture and other land-use such as mining, oil & gas and infrastructure.

Are payments to reduce/remove forest carbon emissions the best way? The answer is that I do believe that some form of positive incentive is necessary to reduce forest carbon emissions / deforestation. I sometimes hear - especially from NGOs - that forest ecosystems are "priceless". While I certainly believe that is true the actual price at present is "0" (beyond the timber value and some non-timber forest products such as rubber, fruits, nuts, etc). I neither hear a credible alternative from people denouncing the 'payments for results' concept. The whole concept of REDD+ was simply born from the fact that nobody at present is happy with BaU where millions of hectares of forests are lost every year. So unless there are credible alternatives that are supported by donors, developing country governments, the private sector and local communities I'd certainly like to hear it.

I hope this answer is remotely useful. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact me on ivo.mulder@unep.org

Best wishes,


Posted on 05/02/2016 09:23:06
Are you vegan and why?
Marcia de Norie (from New Zealand)
Dear Marcia,
No I'm not a vegan, but I try to limit my meat consumption by eating vegetarian a number of days a week.
Best regards,