Earlier this week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released the first draft of the co-chairs latest negotiating text that governments will finalize in Paris this December. The new draft succeeds in whittling the 90 pages from June’s negotiations down to a comparatively succinct 20 – progress indeed – but this new text has left out a significant piece of the climate change solution puzzle: forests. Conspicuously absent from the new draft is any explicit mention of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Previous versions mentioned REDD+ in several sections but this new text has left them out completely; this would be a grave mistake.
This draft will be discussed at the upcoming pre-Paris meeting, to be held in Bonn on October 19th. Given that the current text does not explicitly mention forests, we expect that the text will be amended before it is ready for Paris. Obviously every country will want to insert their preferred language, and there is the risk that this text expands to its unwieldy previous length. But negotiators must recognize that forests are a critical piece of global mitigation and finance efforts.
Deforestation and forest degradation accounts for about 10% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, which makes REDD+ an important element of global climate action. The text that will kick off negotiations in Paris needs to have clear and specific mentions of the key mitigation role that REDD+ can play, the levels of finance needed to pay countries for reducing emissions from deforestation, and a way for countries to meet a portion of their national climate commitments (also known as “INDCs”) by using REDD+.
The draft negotiating text is divided up into two parts: the draft agreement section (with 26 amendments) and the draft decision. The former is supposed to be the high-level political agreement that has the big-picture objectives, while the latter has more details on specific sections, including mitigation, finance, and adaptation. An explicit mention of REDD+ would fit well in both parts, in particular in the mitigation and finance sections. That would communicate clearly to national governments that forests can and should play a role in their efforts to achieve emission reductions. While nothing in the current agreement explicitly discourages countries from incorporating REDD+ into their own strategies, unambiguously demonstrating to governments that they have the international community’s blessing would help embolden them to implement REDD+.