Good COP, Bad COP

REDD around the corner?
by -- December 16th, 2009

Today, the world moved closer to a REDD agreement.

Today I was invited to an event hosted by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a group whose mission is to establish an international mechanism to pay developing countries to reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).   The event was saturated with dignitaries who have supported AD Partners efforts over the last few years – from heads of state such as Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana to other high-ranking officials such as World Bank President Robert Zoellick to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to conservation icon, Jane Goodall, the heads of major US NGOs, to author/columnist Tom Friedman to British business magnate, Richard Branson – the A list count was high.  While that added to the drawing power, the events were every bit as substantive as splashy.

As mentioned in other posts, REDD is one of the signature initiatives of COP 15, attempting to create strong and durable financial incentives for developing forest countries to substantially curtail future deforestation. Numerous economic studies identify REDD as one of the most cost-effective options to reduce greenhouse gases while simultaneously delivering a range of other ecological benefits.  But efforts have traditionally stalled over concerns that REDD reductions are too hard to measure, report and verify.  President Jagdeo made the interesting that observers are quick to point out the problems of REDD, while ignoring the problems of other mitigation options.  He sees REDD as a solution, not a problem.  He has his reasons, having successfully procured funding from the Government of Norway in advance of Kyoto and has a vested interest in ensuring that this seems like a legitimate endeavor.  In my research, I have sometimes been one to raise questions about the effectiveness of these policies – whether reducing deforestation in one place just shifts it to another – a phenomenon called leakage.   But his statement resonated with me. All new ideas meet resistance and for many its easier to criticize than create.

REDD will likely take billions of dollars in public and private sector financing. Throughout the AD Partners event, the leaders present suggested that the negotiations were close to delivering a signed agreement on REDD, with the basic structure and parameters set, the role of private market financing still in negotiation, and the level of government financing awaiting firm pledges.  The event’s final speaker, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack used the moment to announce that the United States has pledged $1 billion to finance early REDD initiatives and promised more if other countries stepped forward. This move was both substantive and symbolic.  For a REDD agreement to emerge from Copenhagen, national commitments of funds will be necessary.  Norway anted up, the US matched the pot – who has the river card?

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