Saturday, May 26, 2012

Took Note of the Views

As of our last pilfered view of the REDD text coming out of SBSTA36, the inclusion of the technical assessment of forest reference levels (RLs) reads only as concept to be revisited in future conferences. It’s a decision to decide to be undecided until further decisions are in place. Patience we will have to have. The draft reads as follows:

“The SBSTA, in recalling decision 12/CP.17, paragraph 15, agreed to initiate work on developing guidance for the technical assessment of the proposed forest reference emission levels and/or forest reference levels at its thirty-seventh session with the aim of reporting to the COP at its eighteenth and nineteenth sessions on progress made, including any recommendations on a draft decision for this matter.”

We are disappointed that there was not more time or consensus to make the assessment of RLs a reality in Bonn. For REDD+ to become a functional mechanism, RLs must submitted by countries and properly assessed by a balanced team of experts from the UNFCCC Secretariat. Said assessments are the key to overcoming major technical hurdles to implementing REDD+. According to our legal reading of the Durban package, the COP had asked the SBSTA to outline this guidance for the assessment process. We fear that as time fills in around the Durban decision on RLs, their importance will be buried. Had there been true progress on this issue, the framework for assessment could have been put in place last week with a clear mandate. To this we will circle back and circle back again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Incoming and Outgoing

As of April, the directorship of the Tropical Forest Group officially changed hands in an honest shake. The incoming director, Jeff Metcalfe, was an original founder of TFG and ran the organization previously from 2006-2008. Welcome back, Mr. Metcalfe, to the glittering conference halls. The outgoing (the very outgoing) director, John-O Niles, has stepped into a new position as the Director of Forests and Climate at WWF.  Of his replacement at TFG, Mr. Niles says, “There is no one better suited than Jeff to take the reins of this unruly rhino.” Mr. Niles will retain a place on TFG’s board of directors and has promised to devote the hours between 3 am and 5 am PST every other Thursday to relevant matters. Whether or not he is awake. 

Friday, May 18, 2012


The thirty-sixth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) is well underway Bonn, Germany. While still productive, this ever-evolving drafting of the text is starting to feel more like an unraveling than a compiling. As if the entire process were a scrambled mass of threads, Earth sized, that needs to be disentangled. The more you pull on some strings the tighter they knot. The SBSTA was established in 1995 to provide the COP advice on scientific, technological and methodological issues. It is a key nexus for REDD as it is charged with the improvement of guidelines and reporting mechanisms for emission inventories. In the end, any effective climate policy from the COP must rest squarely on a foundation of hard data. Exactly how much carbon dioxide from exactly how many trees. The Tropical Forest Group is still following closely the particulars of the inclusion of forest reference levels in the text. In Durban, developing country parties were requested to submit REDD reference levels. COP 17 also agreed to establish a process for assessing the proposed reference levels and asked for SBSTA 36 to develop guidance on said assessment. We are still waiting to see if the delegates can extricate the language to address this assessment guidance in a way that will allow countries to move forward. All that is needed is a sentence or two drawn out of the snarled negotiations in a cohesive thread.