Gains amidst the gloom at Copenhagen?

Delegation of indigenous peoples at The Climate March, Copenhagen COP15, 12 December 2009
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FPP

Gains amidst the gloom at Copenhagen?

There have been many commentaries and analyses of the outcome of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that took place in Copenhagen last December. The 'Accord' produced was cooked up outside the formal sessions by a minority of governments and was not adopted formally by the Conference of the Parties, but only 'noted' by them. It fell short of recognising the challenges and the urgent need to set up binding and fair commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing the financial and technological support for a transition toward low-carbon energy paths.

Much has also been said about how the conduct of the Danish presidency created the premises for a failure. Questions have also been raised about the decision of the US Administration and President Barack Obama to negotiate the 'Accord' with the newly formed BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, China and India) coalition, ignoring the normal UNFCCC rules of consensus-based agreement. There has been loud condemnation from excluded governments of the way the negotiations were carried out behind closed doors. The lack of transparency in the development of the Copenhagen Accord has seriously damaged the trust needed to reach consensus on such a crucial issue.

Amid such a generalised crisis in the negotiating process, parties found convergence in giving a strong political mandate to continue supporting and promoting REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries - Plus), as a result of a consensus that had built up at various level before COP15. High level meetings were held at the UN and the proposals of the Informal Working Group on Interim Financing for REDD (IWG-IFR) were high on the G20 and REDD countries' agendas.

The Copenhagen Accord therefore gives a green light to intensify efforts to implement 'quick-start actions' on REDD+ and appeals to donor countries to provide the necessary financial means to achieve the purpose. However, the Accord does not contain any language or commitment on respecting social, environmental and human rights safeguards. In fact, progress that had been achieved in the working group on REDD at the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) remained a draft.

The draft Decision on REDD that was sent to the Conference of the Parties for approval contained an important explicit reference to the need to safeguard Indigenous Peoples' and local communities' rights and to respect traditional knowledge in the operative section ­ affirming that these safeguards 'should be promoted taking into account relevant international obligations'. Additionally, it noted that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) has been adopted by the UN (though it does not spell out that UNDRIP must be recognised and respected). Reference was also made to the need to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, land tenure issues, forest governance and gender considerations in development and implementation of national REDD strategies. Indigenous peoples' organisations had been lobbying hard to ensure a strong reference to the need to uphold indigenous peoples' and local communities' rights in REDD and in the broader climate policies to be adopted in Copenhagen. They have indeed scored some achievements in garnering broad support from various constituencies, from government to civil society organisations and social movements.

When the negotiation moved from the technical to the political level at the Conference of the Parties and in the High Level Segment of Heads of State and Government all the draft resolutions sent to the COP were put aside, but they will be reconsidered in the lead up to COP16. In this context, the resumed work of the AWG-LCA will open a window of opportunity to try to further improve and consolidate language on indigenous peoples' rights, free prior and informed consent (FPIC) and recognition of traditional knowledge. In the meantime the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (SBSTA) will develop its work program on methodological implications of REDD that will also include a discussion on procedures and criteria to ensure the effective engagement of indigenous peoples in monitoring, reporting and verification.

The result of Copenhagen in terms of REDD+, therefore, can be read at different levels. On the one hand, it points to the need to re-articulate a critical analysis of REDD and ensuing proposals that might allow REDD+ and offsets to become an easy way out for countries that do not want to commit to climate justice by reducing their emissions and accepting to compensate for their climate debt. On the other hand, at a more pragmatic level, it sends an urgent message to indigenous peoples' organisations and social movements to ensure coordination of advocacy activities among different, but converging tracks within and outside the UNFCCC process. In fact, the outcome of COP15 and the positions and statements that circulated thereafter, point to a loss of credibility of the UNFCCC and to the subsequent risk of the atomisation of multilateral initiatives in favour of a plurilateral approach,that would marginalise the role of the UNFCCC in the lead-up to COP16.

In Copenhagen and soon after, various governments announced their decision to allocate funds to specific REDD projects (Amazon Fund, Indonesia REDD, etc), while others announced the intention to allocate a total of US$3.5 billion to support fast-track action on 'REDD readiness' in 2010. All these developments require careful monitoring; both for their specific implications, but also for the possible shock waves they might send to the UNFCCC process. In this sense, Forest Peoples Programme will continue to work at various levels: supporting the Indigenous Peoples' Caucus to the UNFCCC, working in the field with indigenous peoples' partners in selected REDD countries and monitoring activities and developments at the World Bank and UNREDD. The overarching goal is to contribute to and ensure a strong commitment to international obligations and instruments related to indigenous peoples' and local communities' rights, such as the UNDRIP, and the recognition, among others, of indigenous peoples' right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for any REDD-related activity that might affect their rights and their lands.

Inside the Bella Centre, Copenhagen, COP15. 16 December 2009

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© FPP
Evo Morales meeting with indigenous peoples and social movements, Copenhagen, COP15. 16 December 2009
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© FPP