At a glance :
- To avoid further delays in developing Safeguards Information Systems (SIS) for REDD+, a decision is needed on whether to provide further guidance, regardless of whether that decision is for or against.
- A major issue in the question of whether further guidance is needed is the trade-off of comparability and consistency among countries’ systems on the one hand, and the need to support country-driven and nationally relevant processes on the other.
- There is a real risk that more rules could lead to more work. However, if framed correctly and carefully, further guidance could help countries by providing templates and clarifying what is expected.
LIMA, Peru (27 November 2014)_An important topic at COP20 in Lima over the next 10 days is the question of whether the UNFCCC needs to provide additional guidance for Safeguards Information Systems for REDD+, which aim to ensure that REDD+ does no harm. In anticipation of the Lima meeting, the SBSTA – the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice, an advisory body to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties – called for submissions on whether the UNFCCC should provide further guidance.
Researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Solutions & Evidence for Environment & Development (SEED) analyzed the positions that countries and civil society organizations included in their submissions to the SBSTA in response to this question.
“We found that most of the submissions were not black-and-white, yes/no responses,” reports Mary Menton, lead author of the study, titled “Further guidance for REDD+ safeguard information systems? An analysis of positions in the UNFCCC negotiations”. “Many Parties, even those who were clearly in favor of additional guidance, had concerns.”
Menton spoke to ForestsClimateChange.org about the findings of the study.
FCC: What issues arose in your analysis of the question of whether further guidance is needed for the effective implementation of Safeguards Information Systems?
MM: We found that many Parties, even those who were clearly in favor of further guidance, had concerns, highlighting that there is a trade-off between different objectives and the need to prioritize among them. One of the biggest issues is the trade-off of comparability and consistency among different countries’ Safeguards Information Systems (SIS) against the need to support country-driven and nationally relevant processes. The submissions that favored further guidance called for the UNFCCC to require that specific types of information and evidence be included in all SIS. For example, some argued that SIS should include details on legal and policy frameworks or their processes for ensuring local participation.
In many ways, it is a question of priorities and perspectives
There really is no one “right” answer here, and discussions at the SBSTA meeting will need to work toward a compromise. In the brief, we suggest that this compromise may best be achieved by establishing further guidance on how countries can develop a country-driven approach and outlining the types of information and processes that could be included in the SIS.
FCC: How can further guidance simplify Safeguard Information Systems?
Some submissions highlight that, while the Warsaw Agreement requires countries to “address and respect” safeguards, there is no explicit guidance on what this actually means in practice. This absence can lead to a lot of extra work and parallel efforts in the search for the best solutions. At the same time, some were very concerned that further guidance would lead to even more work. Indeed, there is a real risk that more rules could lead to more work. If framed correctly and carefully, however, further guidance could help countries by providing templates and clarifying what is expected. Guidance could also ensure minimum standards of compliance and transparency—but whether or not this simplifies the process will depend on the priorities that are agreed upon at COP20 and on a conscious effort to avoid creating more paperwork.
FCC: Why do you think countries differ on having further guidance for SIS?
In many ways, it is a question of priorities and perspectives. Some of the countries that argued against further guidance prioritize a country-driven approach to REDD+ and SIS; they argued that further guidance would compromise the national relevance of the SIS. Yet many of the donor countries and civil society organizations were concerned that the current guidance—which many argue is inadequate—could lead to SIS that are inconsistent and that don’t really show how the safeguards are being addressed and respected.
According to most of the submissions by civil society, the current guidance is not enough to ensure the protection of local and Indigenous peoples’ rights. The differences in positions are also linked to questions of national capacity to develop and report on SIS.
FCC: How do national context and capacity factor into the development of an SIS and how do the UNFCCC decisions address and complement these components?
National capacity to deal with SIS varies greatly, in terms of not only institutional capacity but also the availability of data that could feed into the SIS. Some countries that are eligible for REDD+ are far advanced in their development of a SIS and felt they have the capacity to proceed without further guidance, whereas others acknowledged the need for further capacity building and guidance on how best to approach SIS development. One potential solution, would be for UNFCCC to encourage (and support!) South–South capacity building and sharing of lessons learned. It might also be possible to consider a tiered approach, as suggested by Norway, in which countries improve the quality of their SIS and reporting as they increase capacity and proceed through the different phases of REDD+ implementation.
FCC: Why should further guidance for SIS be prioritized in REDD+ negotiations at COP20?
Ensuring that countries really do “address and respect” safeguards is fundamental to preventing negative consequences from REDD+. SIS can help put systems in place for countries to monitor impacts and adapt their REDD+ strategies when problems are detected. Reporting on SIS is linked to results-based payments (for example, countries must submit a SIS summary to be eligible for funding from the Green Climate Fund), so countries need clarity on the requirements as soon as possible. To avoid further delays in SIS development, a decision really should be made, whether it is for or against further guidance.