BOGOR, Indonesia — Harmonizing the flow of information between local, national and international institutions remains a key challenge to projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (known as REDD+), according to a recent analysis. The study cites obstacles and opportunities for monitoring, verifying and reporting (MRV) emissions reductions in three countries with REDD+ programs.
REDD+ is a “multi-level puzzle” that requires an integrated approach to the structuring of international and local governance levels if MRV accuracy and accountability are to be ensured, the study said.
“People should understand how complex and multi-level REDD+ is, from international to very local,” said Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, a research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who led the study on “Multiple levels and multiple challenges for measurement, reporting and verification of REDD+,” part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+.
REDD+ assigns financial value to carbon stored in trees, offering land managers conditional incentives to keep forests standing. The original goal of funding REDD+ from carbon emissions trading has not come to fruition as national governments struggle with multi-level challenges related to MRV in the land-use sector, the paper said.
“REDD+ is based on carbon measurement. The point of MRV is to monitor forest-change dynamics and related emissions reductions and removals to understand if there is any additionality associated with REDD+ activities,” Korhonen-Kurki said. “This includes maps, data … a lot of information that needs to be integrated from the local to the national level and beyond.”
Additionality, as typically defined, happens when there is a measurable reduction in emissions as a result of a project to incentivize it. If the reduction would have occurred in the absence of a payment or offset project, for example, then the reduction is not “additional.” Additionality occurs when carbon credits are claimed and counted beyond a “business-as-usual” scenario, which is not always easy to determine.
The report, which focuses on Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia, stated that in many cases, MRV in those countries faces obstacles from conflicting information, institutions and interests.
In Indonesia, different levels of government have been using a diverse range of forest resource maps and have only recently begun to move toward using a single set of maps for land-use planning, Korhonen-Kurki said.
“There are technical problems, but it’s mostly a governance issue, Korhonen-Kurki said. “Even in Brazil, where they use very advanced technology, if people don’t communicate and information doesn’t flow between levels, it doesn’t work.”
One crucial step in the REDD+ process is setting reference levels from which reductions in emissions are to be measured. Cooperation among various levels of government in this area has “critical implications for carbon accounting,” according to the research paper.
“That’s what the payments are based on,” Korhonen-Kurki said. “If some levels don’t participate, or if the most powerful decides, it may be more profitable for one than the other.”
The authors of the report quoted research showing a gap between historical deforestation as measured by national authorities and those of the Brazilian state of Acre. Depending on which data is used for reference, the incentives (and associated funding) for REDD+ activities in Acre would be quite different.
Research on the challenges of multi-level MRV in Vietnam and Indonesia suggests that “in the absence of a transparent benefit-sharing mechanism (to manage how financial incentives are transferred and shared) based on an official national MRV system, the approval of future REDD+ funds and the allocation of revenues might involve protracted negotiations among districts, provinces and central agencies, thereby increasing transaction costs and creating opportunities for corruption,” the report stated.
Both Vietnam and Indonesia have started initiatives to integrate forest-related data across levels.
“Some of the advancement of REDD+ in Brazil at the subnational level can be attributed to the active participation of six Amazonian states in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), which recognizes the key role of state and provincial governments in building REDD+ programs,” said Amy Duchelle, a Brazil-based CIFOR researcher and co-author of the paper.
The GCF began in 2008 through agreements between select subnational governments in the United States, Brazil and Indonesia, and has since expanded to include 19 states and provinces around the world.
Another option to increase cooperation between institutional levels is to boost local communities’ participation in the direct monitoring of carbon emissions, according to the paper.
“There are also examples of community-based MRV, or how local people can perform carbon measurements by themselves,” Korhonen-Kurki said. “Some work well, some have problems, but this is an avenue to be explored. However, some people involved in REDD+ questioned the reliability of community-based data collection.”
The paper warns that complex MRV processes should be simplified to make them more accessible to local actors before national MRV frameworks are put in place.
For more information about the topics in this story, please contact Amy Duchelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This research was carried out as part of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported in part by NORAD, AusAID, DFID, the European Commission, the Department for International Development Cooperation of Finland, and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.