The work of the UNFCCC COP is designed to develop resolutions that all Parties (country members) can agree to. Resolutions are reached on specific topics, guided by groups of national specialists are called Contact Groups. A key topic, and the one that most concerns me is REDD+: Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. COP 16 in Cancun made considerable progress with development of REDD+, though it concluded without agreement on four important issues. Yesterday I attended the first COP 17 meeting of the Contact Group on REDD+. It was great to learn about their ambition to develop a new resolution on REDD+ for consideration by the COP. It is hoped that it will adequately address at least two, if not three, of these four issues.
The four unresolved issues are: 1) finance; 2) safeguards; 3) reference emissions levels; and 4) monitoring, reporting and validation (MRV). Regarding fnance, it is widely agreed that a fully functional REDD mechanism will require finance to the tune of $40 billion per year. At Cancun a few governments (esp Norway, USA, Britain) have come up with $5 billion to start things off. It is generally agreed that mobilizaton of larger amounts of funds is beyond the purview of the REDD+ Contract Group; rather it is a matter for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Collaborative Action.
So the Contact Group will not try to make more progress on finance. Howver, they will try to make decisive progress on safeguards and reference levels If they still have time and energy, they will see what they can do on MRV.
Safeguards. The worry is that REDD+ will cause countries and communities to think of forests as just sticks of carbon, and forget about the hundreds of millions of poor people who rely on those forests and the wonderful functions that the forests provide for us all. To reduce this threat, REDD+ policies and intiatives should incorporate a number of safeguards, including, for example, free, prior and informed consent from affected populations. Anyone interested in safeguards can check out the expert consultation that was held on this topic in Panama in October 2011. http://unfccc.int/files/methods_science/redd/application/pdf/redd_expert_meeting_safeguards_cochairs_summary_131011.pdf
Reference levels. This is pretty tricky. The idea is that countries will be paid for not chopping down forests. But it would be ridiculous to pay them for every last tree every year. A more sensible idea is to pay them for chopping down less forest than the amount that we could reasonably expect them to chop down if no payment were made. This reasonably expected amount of deforestation is called the reference level in REDD+. And how, you may now ask, will the reference level be set? Figuring that out is the business of the Contact Group, and again, the contact group can rely on the results of another expert consultation held a few days ago:
The first challenging job of the co-chairs of the Contact Group is to take the outcomes of the expert consultations, and the advise of all parties, and come up with a draft resolution. They share the draft with the 200-odd contact group members, listen to members nit-pick at the wording for hours and hours, and, hopefully, come up with wording that all can agree to. That resolution will then be given to the Chair of the SBSTA to take along the next steps of the COP agreement process.
Lets wish them all the best.