Surprising Development at UN Climate Meetings: REDD+ Is Finished

After 10 years of negotiations, countries today at the SBSTA meeting in Bonn unexpectedly agreed on the remaining three items that were on the agenda for REDD+.  Together with previous COP decisions, all major REDD+ elements have now been agreed to and there is sufficient guidance for implementation. (You can find the draft decision text here.)

The three items on the SBSTA agenda for REDD+ – additional safeguard guidance, non-carbon benefits, and non-market approaches – were the last remaining issues to be agreed on, and there was widespread skepticism that they would be finalized here in Bonn (see our previous blog post for more info). Prior to the start of the meeting here in Bonn, most countries and NGOs had assumed that, because of prior difficulties of addressing these issues – including technical and policy reasons –  they would be delayed until the COP 21 meetings in Paris.

Today’s breakthrough was unexpected, and countries should be praised for their hard work over the last decade. While REDD+ is finished on paper, the Paris global deal must provide the policy certainty to implement REDD+ on the ground. REDD+ must be able to generate significant amounts of finance to REDD+ countries, do so with environmental integrity, and contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible.

As during previous UN climate meetings, REDD+ surprised everyone by being the one issue in the UN negotiations that continues to show what can happen when countries listen to each other, compromise, and work to get the job done. Although the discussions of the overall climate negotiations (the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action or ADP) have been moving at a snail pace, perhaps the successful outcome of the last decade of REDD+ negotiations will provide positive momentum for the upcoming climate meeting in Paris later this year.

While the agreement on the REDD+ agenda here in Bonn is an admirable accomplishment, the work is not yet finished. The deal in Paris must still include the necessary elements to operationalize REDD+, including 1) incentives for the private sector to fund REDD+ programs at the national and sub-national level; 2) the guarantee that local stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples, benefit from REDD+; 3) an assurance that overall deforestation emissions decrease.