Community-based forest monitoring can support forest peoples’ rights under new climate agreement


Lucy Goodman

"You cannot protect the forests from Paris, Oslo, New York, London. Only those of us who are protecting it already can continue to do so." - Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara – AMAN), speaking at the Global Landscapes Forum 2015. 

Abdon Nababan's statement about forest protection resonates now that the Climate Convention agreement has been released.  Delegates at the twenty first national UN climate conference (CoP 21) have achieved consensus in Paris, but communities and indigenous peoples will have a critical role in the way the agreement plays out on the ground.

With conflicting statements from governments and civil society, what has been agreed in Paris remains uncertain.

Francois Hollande, French President said of the agreement when addressing the parties:

"You've done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud to stand before your children and grandchildren."

While on the other hand Naomi Klein, climate change author and activist, told the BBC that the draft agreement:

"[Has] enough loopholes in it to drive a gas guzzling SUV through them".

Therefore the picture coming out of Paris is confused. It has high ambition, but important legal gaps. 

However, there is some common ground between critics and supporters of the Paris agreement. They affirm that the period between 2016 and 2020 will be key, and that early action on the agreement would generate meaningful momentum. This is important, as a past success of the Climate Convention, and its guidance on REDD+, has been to increase the international momentum behind, and focus on: climate change and forestsforest governance and forest peoples' rights. Thus, while performance-based payments for REDD+ actions under the UNFCCC have not yet emerged, the process has generated scrutiny on forests and important donor funding trends.

As Forest COMPASS focuses on community-based forest monitoring as a model to support human rights approaches to Climate Change mitigation and sustainable forest management, our question is whether scrutiny and donor funding trends resulting from the Paris Agreement will generate opportunities for the community-based monitoring model. What follows is the text we think is relevant from the draft decisions and the Paris Agreement for generating these opportunities:

55. Recognizes the importance of adequate and predictable financial resources, including for results-based payments, as appropriate, for the implementation of policy approaches and positive incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks; ...

Page 8 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1

This text underlines that REDD+ finance should be adequate and predictable, which could enhance funding streams for MRV and therefore community-based forest monitoring. This is important because funding streams for community-based forest monitoring are currently lacking, as raised by Jaime Nalvarte (Director Ejecutivo, AIDER) at a Forest COMPASS event on the 4th of December. He reported that this is the case in Peru, because funding for REDD+ itself is so limited.

Also from the draft decisions:

...while reaffirming the importance of non-carbon benefits associated with such approaches; encouraging the coordination of support from, inter alia, public and private, bilateral and multilateral sources, such as the Green Climate Fund, and alternative sources in accordance with relevant decisions by the Conference of the Parties;  

Page 8 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1

The continuation of the paragraph above emphasises the importance of non-carbon benefits. Forest COMPASS's interview with Tebtebba demonstrates the importance that indigenous peoples and forest communities place on benefits beyond carbon, such as biodiversity, ecosystem integrity and cultural identity. Therefore we welcome the reference above, and the following, from Article 5 of the agreement:

"...reaffirming the importance of incentivizing, as appropriate, non-carbon benefits associated [with REDD+]".

Page 24 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1

As 22% of tropical forest is owned or managed by indigenous peoples and forest communities, their efforts, through community-based forest monitoring, will be critical for identifying whether non-carbon benefits are an outcome of REDD+.

Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, also reaffirms the Warsaw framework on REDD+:

2. Parties are encouraged to take action to implement and support, including through results-based payments, the existing framework as set out in related guidance and decisions already agreed under the Convention for: policy approaches and positive incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries;  

Page 23 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1

"Related guidance and decisions" include previous guidance on REDD+ safeguards and Safeguard Information Systems. This, we hope, will stimulate momentum behind community-based forest monitoring for providing information on REDD+ safeguards. We have argued in a previous article and during GCP's official side event on the 3rd of December, held jointly with CCBA and UNAM/University of Twente, that communities are well positioned to provide information for REDD+ safeguard information systems.

Finally, from the text:

Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,

Page 21 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1

In order to participate in any climate change mitigation or adaptation approaches, forest communities and indigenous peoples have argued that human rights approaches will be critical. While this paragraph recognises the importance of human rights, “Acknowledging” is weak language in the agreement. We would have welcomed stronger language to create an enabling environment for community-monitoring.In summary, the Paris agreement was a mixed success for community-based forest monitoring and therefore rights and sustainable forest management. Important references were made to forests and forest people's rights, but much of the related text is considered fairly weak in legal terms, e.g. using the words "Acknowledging" and "Noting". This weak language may reflect the fact that, as it was felt during the negotiations, indigenous peoples and forest communities were not being heard.

Community-based forest monitoring is one potentially powerful model through which indigenous peoples and forest communities views, information and data can be integrated more strongly in the way in which the Paris Agreement plays out on the ground. Therefore we hope the momentum and donor trends generated by CoP-21 will support this model. 

International Forest Agendas/s