The first week of COP18 is over, and so is the SBSTA – the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. After a relatively slow start, REDD+ negotiators really started feeling the time pressure, as the closure of the week drew nearer and several unresolved issues remained.
After long negotiation marathons lasting until 5 am on Friday, and after repeated extensions on Saturday, it was still impossible to find consensus among the Parties on issues relating to National Forest Monitoring Systems and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV).
Among the most contentious issues were the redlines imposed by Norway and Brazil, with the first insisting on international verification of emissions reductions under REDD+ before payments would be made, and the latter fiercely opposing such external verification.
The SBSTA plenary has therefore advised that the draft text be forwarded to the next session, to take place in Bonn in June 2013.
Nevertheless, several Parties will be pushing for negotiations to continue during the second week, when the COP is convening. This would mean that the REDD+ SBSTA issues mentioned above would continue to be negotiated and that a COP decision could still be adopted in Doha. This, however, could be complicated, as other REDD+ issues are currently under discussion in the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) negotiation track – including 3 rather controversial proposals from the EU (on creating “incentive levels” for REDD+ payments), the Coalition of Rainforest Nations (on creating a new institution for REDD+) and Colombia (on a non-market mechanism for REDD+).
Simultaneously, civil society is attempting to ensure that yet other issues are addressed or that a process is established to address them. In particular, groups have been pleading for discussions on how to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation – a controversial issue, but nevertheless crucial if forests are to be conserved and sustainably used.
One such driver of deforestation and forest degradation – as well as peatland degradation – is agriculture, and this sector too was a source of contention. Parties discussing whether to create a new work programme on agriculture under SBSTA were split among those wanting to focus primarily or exclusively on adaptation to climate change in the field of agriculture (mainly the Least Developed Countries) and those wanting to work both on mitigation and adaptation (mainly the developed countries, with some notable exceptions from developing countries, such as the Gambia).
Again no consensus could be reached, and therefore the multiple proposals on the table will be forwarded to the next session in June.
It now remains to be seen what the second week will bring. Will REDD+ continue to suffer from inflexible redlines, or will Ministers come to Doha ready to make things happen? We’ll just have to wait and see.