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Tuesday’s Climate Summit in New York prompted a number of forest-related commitments, including a “Declaration on Forests” signed by 28 governments, 8 subnational governments, 35 companies, 16 indigenous peoples groups, and 45 NGO and civil society groups. I particularly welcome the announcement of two new partnerships to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+): one among Peru, Norway, and Germany, and another between Liberia and Norway.

These agreements are significant for at least six reasons:

Maintaining momentum in REDD+ finance

As described in a new CGD Working Paper by Marigold Norman and Smita Nakhooda (and my accompanying blog), the pace of new commitments to REDD+ finance has slowed following the disappointing outcome of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen in late 2009. The new Norwegian commitments of up to $300 million to Peru and $150 million to Liberia – and the fact that Germany joined the Peru agreement – provides a welcome signal to forest countries that at least a few donor countries are staying the course. The United Kingdom joined Norway and Germany in a statement announcing that the three countries “stand ready to scale up results-based finance for large-scale, REDD+ Emission Reduction programmes, if countries put forward robust proposals. This includes funding for up to 20 new, credible programs proposed by 2016 through a range of funding mechanisms.”

Linking REDD+ to indigenous peoples’ rights

The trilateral agreement with Peru includes targets for titling at least 5 million hectares of indigenous land, and at least 2 million hectares of indigenous lands are to be included in payment-for-performance to reward indigenous groups for protecting their forests.  Research shows that the presence of indigenous peoples is associated with less deforestation, and many indigenous groups have concluded that processes related to REDD+ can be harnessed to achieve their objectives, too. In light of recent murders of indigenous leaders by illegal loggers in the Peruvian Amazon, the commitment of state support to indigenous rights is especially timely.

Mutual leveraging of progress between national and international policy arenas

Experience in other countries such as Brazil and Indonesia suggests that there may be a mutual leveraging effect between international events and consolidation of domestic constituencies for reform of forest governance.  For example, the climate negotiations in Bali in 2007 focused Indonesia’s attention on the problem of deforestation and climate change, and were soon followed by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s historic pledge to reduce the country’s (mostly forest-based) emissions by 26 percent, or up to 41 percent with international support. Having Peru, host of the next Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December, leading by example sets a positive tone for the international meeting and could also serve to raise domestic awareness of and support for the new commitments.

Making the case for Africa

The bilateral agreement between Norway and Liberia provides the welcome addition of an African nation into the club of those experimenting with payment-for-performance finance of REDD+.  (While the Norwegian Forest and Climate Initiative includes a partnership with Tanzania, it has focused on more traditional input-based aid to specific projects). Many forest experts have expressed concern that while the payment-for-performance approach might work in a country like Brazil – with more advanced monitoring technologies and stronger government and civil society institutions – it might not be appropriate for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Liberia will provide an important opportunity to find out whether or not those concerns can be addressed.

Mutual leveraging of progress between government and private sector commitments

Another set of announcements made on Tuesday focused on getting deforestation out of corporate supply chains, especially palm oil. Such private sector commitments are an appropriate response to the large share of deforestation and emissions now embodied in globally-traded commodities. And as I’ve written previously, corporate commitments to get deforestation out of commodity supply chains may be an intermediate step to stronger government action. But the causality might also work in the other direction: governments making commitments such as those announced by Peru and Liberia will have incentives to demand that corporations implement their pledges to stop deforestation and to respect indigenous rights.

Creating a larger “n”

A problem faced by researchers (such as those of us here at CGD, with support from the Government of Norway) seeking to understand the potential of REDD+ (and indeed Cash-on-Delivery aid more generally) is that the number of cases where performance-based finance has been attempted at scale is so small.  Until Tuesday, the set included only three Norwegian bilateral agreements (Brazil, Guyana, Indonesia), one new and two prospective subnational pilots under the German REDD Early Movers program (Acre, Colombia, Ecuador), and one newly-approved initiative under the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund (Costa Rica).  Having two more countries to serve as learning laboratories for more effective development aid has got to be a good thing.

It’s easy to be cynical about the usefulness of big international meetings such as Tuesday’s Climate Summit in New York.  But as this one was designed to do, such meetings can sometimes serve as a catalyst for governments and others to make new commitments.  For the six reasons outlined above, the two new partnerships to reduce deforestation are indeed welcome. 

Disclaimer

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.