Status summary of the work of SBSTA on REDD+ and agriculture
One of the biggest outcomes of last year’s 17th Conference of Parties (COP) was the adoption of the Durban Platform (Decision 1/CP.17), which sets 2020 to be the year for a new climate treaty coming into effect . REDD+ will have to be fully included in such a new treaty. However, the question remains – what happens until then?
It’s clear from the attitude of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the Convention that it believes that finalising methodological guidance for REDD+ must be progressed. That is just what the SBSTA has done, through carrying on with its programme of work contained in Appendix II of 1/CP.16 and extended at COP17 (FCCC/SBSTA/2011/L.25).
See below for an update on the status of the five areas of work of the SBSTA on REDD+; the SBTSA’s new mandate to consider agriculture; and the SBSTA’s programme of work.
It is the right approach by the SBSTA to carry on furthering the scientific and technological guidance for REDD+ and making sure that everything is in place in time for the new climate treaty. However, technological guidance alone cannot solve the issue of climate change and halt tropical deforestation. Progress under the political negotiation tracks of the Long-Term Cooperative Action and the Durban Platform is fundamental.
Status of the five areas of work of the SBSTA on REDD+
1. Develop modalities for reference levels
Durban saw progress on the modalities for forest emission reference levels (FRELs) and forest reference levels (FRLs). The Conference of the Parties at Durban adopted the recommendations of the SBSTA (Decision 12/CP.17), which agreed that FRELs and FRLs have to be expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year and will be used as benchmarks for performance. At its 36th session (14-25 May 2012, in Bonn), the SBSTA was due to develop further guidance on the process for technical assessment of FRELs and FRLs, but instead, it agreed to initiate this work in Doha and complete it at its 39th session (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.9/Rev.1 – Paragraph 7).
2. Develop guidance for information systems on safeguards
Safeguard information systems (SIS) were also an area of progress in Durban. The Conference of the Parties adopted the recommendations of SBSTA 35 in December 2011 in Durban (Decision 12/CP.17), including the characteristics of such systems, and that the information provided should be reported periodically via national communications. In Bonn, SBSTA 36 was due to start its work on providing further guidance on how to provide safeguard information in a transparent, comprehensive, effective and consistent manner, as well as developing the timing of the first report and the frequency of the consequent reports. Initial considerations began, which will be continued at its 37th session in Doha and completed by its 39th session at the end of 2013 (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.9/Rev.1 – Paragraph 6).
3. Develop modalities for forest monitoring systems
In Durban, SBSTA 35 carried on with developing modalities for national forest monitoring systems (NFMS) but no final decisions were reached other than that work will be continued and will be completed during its 37th session; a round of submissions , , were also invited. In Bonn, work on NFMS was prioritised and a “possible draft decision” text was adopted at the closing SBSTA plenary (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.9/Rev.1 – Annex NFMS). The draft continues to refer to relevant guidelines of the relevant Copenhagen decision (4/CP.15), and of the most recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, whether the guidelines shall or should be taken into account is still being discussed. The Copenhagen decision establishes the characteristics of the NFMS and encourages the effective engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities in monitoring and reporting . The elements of the possible draft decision contain many brackets, indicating the amount of work still outstanding. One of the bracketed concepts is the definition of ‘’complete’’ data provided by the NFMS, which might be defined as data that allows for the establishment of FREL and FRL. The guidance also mentions the potential linkages with the SIS and the development of a holistic system that considers the multiple functions of forests, although it’s not clear whether this would increase the scope of monitoring to include data other than greenhouse gas emissions and removals, carbon stocks and forest area changes. SBSTA 37 aims to complete the work and submit the final draft decision to COP 18 in Doha.
4. Develop modalities for measuring, reporting and verifying emissions by sources and removals by sinks
The 16th Conference of the Parties in Cancun decided that all results-based actions should be fully monitored, reported and verified (“MRVed”), and it requested that the SBSTA develop the modalities for MRV by its 35th session (1/CP.16). SBSTA 35 didn’t complete its work and postponed to complete it by its 37th session in Doha. During SBSTA 36 in Bonn, developing modalities for MRV was prioritised and a draft text was produced (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.9/Rev.1). Twelve of the fifteen paragraphs are in brackets, leaving much work to be done during the next session when SBSTA aims to complete its work. The three paragraphs not in full brackets (1,3 and 5) state that MRVing should be consistent with guidance contained in 4/CP.15, and should include any modalities developed for the MRV of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), which are discussed separately to REDD+; that an MRV system needs to provide data that is transparent, complete, consistent with FRELs and FRLs and as accurate as possible; and for this data to be provided through Biannual Update Reports (BUR).
5. Identify LULUCF activities in developing countries
In Cancun, the SBSTA was tasked (Appendix II of 1/CP.16) with identifying and assessing the mitigation potential of Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) activities in developing countries, particularly those linked to the drivers of deforestation and degradation. Initial discussions began during SBSTA 36 in Bonn and views already clashed regarding whether to address both domestic drivers and international drivers. Discussions will be continued at SBSTA 37, with particular focus on how to address the drivers of deforestation and degradation while taking into account national social and economic aspects (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.9/Rev.1 – Paragraph 5).
Related to but separate from its programme of work on REDD+, the SBSTA was mandated for the first time last year to consider issues related to agriculture (2/CP.17 – Paragraph 75-77). The work will form part of the discussions on sectoral approaches under the Convention, i.e. the essence of Article 4 paragraph 1(c) of the Convention, which is to reduce further emissions from the relevant sectors. SBSTA 36 initiated discussions on the issues and will carry on at its next session (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.19).
The work ahead
Despite the progress made on developing modalities for NFMS and MRV in Bonn, there is still a packed programme of work ahead for the SBSTA:
• Complete its work on developing modalities for NFMS
• Complete its work on developing modalities for MRV
• Continue considerations on how to address the drivers of deforestation and degradation
• Continue considerations on issues related to agriculture
• Complete its work on providing further guidance on the process for technical assessment of FRELS and FRLs
• Complete its work on providing further guidance on SIS