Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Durban COP 17: UNFCCC fudges decision on climate finance and makes little progress on REDD+ safeguard implementation

20 February, 2012

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at their recent COP17 did not support performance indicators for reporting on the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights in REDD+. However, they did recognise that REDD+ benefits have to go beyond carbon to include biodiversity conservation and support for local livelihoods.

Forest Peoples Programme, with a delegation of indigenous peoples from Guyana, Kenya, Cameroon, Suriname and Peru, attended preparatory negotiations and the 17th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa, in late November/early December 2011. The main purpose of FPP’s attendance was to support the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus and closely follow negotiations on REDD+ safeguards and finance. 

REDD+ negotiations at the COP developed along two streams: First, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) focused on adopting guidance for a Safeguard Information System (SIS) on how safeguards are implemented and considered in REDD+, and also examined the question of reference levels and reference emission levels for REDD+. The second debate on REDD financing modalities took place within the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA).

One key contentious issue in the SBSTA negotiations was the different interpretations of the safeguard reporting requirements. Most of the Parties were hesitant to adopt guidance that would include performance-related information, and their discussions on the reporting modalities were limited. The Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus lobbied to have specific additional reference to indigenous peoples’ rights and international obligations included in the final text at COP 17. However, the main outcome of this advocacy was a very general reference to the package of REDD+ safeguards (which protect indigenous peoples’ rights) adopted at the previous COP in Cancun (meaning that Parties recalled commitments made at COP16). The COP 17 decision on the SIS provides no guidance on the need to ensure reporting at the international level, nor to develop performance indicators, while specifying that the implementation of safeguards should support national strategies and possibly be included in all phases of implementation. This latter decision raises the potential risk that some governments might adopt a discretionary approach towards the application of safeguards in the different phases of REDD+. Indigenous peoples and social justice groups highlighted that it is essential for safeguards and compliance systems to be put in place at the inception of Phase 1 (REDD readiness planning and activities) before Phases 2 and 3 (results-based payments). Parties acknowledged that results upon which payments would be made need to encompass non-carbon benefits such as livelihoods, biodiversity and poverty alleviation. Parties and Observers were asked to provide inputs and submissions by early 2012 to inform discussions and negotiations on REDD+ finance that will occur throughout this year in the lead-up to COP18, which will take place in Qatar in November.

Regarding REDD financing, it was evident from the start of the negotiations that no clear-cut decision would be taken on whether to fully support market or non-market mechanisms, and that the final decision would be left to the discretion of national governments. Nevertheless, after tense negotiations, language was adopted according to which market-based approaches could be developed by the COP on the basis of experience gained from current and future demonstration activities. This triggered an over-enthusiastic reaction by some in the private sector and conservation NGOs, who read this as an endorsement of the project-based, sub-national REDD activities they are currently pursuing. Reference to future activities could be an invitation to continue on this track, but it is unclear how lessons learned could be fed into the COP process in the short to medium term. The final agreement reached in Durban also contains a balanced reference to safeguards. It again affirms that regardless of the sources of financing, any REDD action has to be consistent with the UNFCCC safeguards.

The need to ensure a robust and effective framework to implement safeguards and indigenous peoples’ rights at the national level as a necessary pre-condition before projects can start on the ground was further evidenced in a collaborative report on REDD in Peru, “The Reality of REDD+ in Peru: Between theory and practice - Indigenous Amazonian Peoples’ analyses and alternatives”, produced by Peruvian indigenous peoples’ organisations: AIDESEP, FENAMAD and CARE, with Forest Peoples Programme. Case studies in the report present evidence of the risks ensuing from the multiplication of local REDD and carbon projects on the ground, that stem from the lack of solid and consistent national legal frameworks to protect and recognise the rights of indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities.

In a side event organised by Rainforest Foundation Norway and Forest Peoples Programme, ideas and options were shared on how to ensure that safeguards are properly implemented and supported by REDD governments and financing institutions, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), whose mitigation window, agreed in Durban, will also support REDD activities and programmes. Among the key issues stressed by participants were the central need for land tenure reform and measures to recognise and respect land rights as a keystone for a rights-based approach to REDD planning and implementation. The need to ensure that governments have the necessary support, in financial and capacity building terms, to effectively implement safeguards and report accordingly was also highlighted.
Given the lack of stringent and immediate commitments towards an increase in climate financing and a global scheme to reduce carbon emissions, much of the discussion at the Durban COP mainly centred on institutional arrangements of the Convention. Of particular note, was the launch of the Green Climate Fund.

Indigenous peoples, among others, again called for direct access to financing to support adaptation and mitigation projects developed and implemented by indigenous peoples, based on their traditional knowledge. Key issues for indigenous peoples in this year’s work plan of the GCF’s newly established Board are:

• Direct access to financing.
• The adoption of safeguards anchored to international obligations and instruments, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
• Policies that engage with rights-holders and relevant stakeholders.
• The acknowledgment of indigenous peoples’ right to FPIC.
• Indigenous peoples’ participation at all levels in the activities of the Green Climate fund.

Further information

The full text of the COP decision establishing the Green Climate Fund can be found at:

Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations’ statements at the Durban COP can be found at:

The decision on a System of Information on Safeguards can be downloaded at:

The text of the COP decision including a section on REDD can be found at (pages 12- 13):

AIDESEP, FENAMAD, CARE and FPP Peru report, “The Reality of REDD+ in Peru: Between theory and practice - Indigenous Amazonian Peoples’ analyses and alternatives”, can be downloaded at: