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Tracking Transformative Forest Actions to Reduce Emissions

An Illegal Logging Case Study

This working paper explores the types of information and supporting data necessary to ensure that national strategies to reduce emissions are developed and implemented effectively. It does so by focusing on measures to address illegal logging, drawing on specific strategies and recommendations from Peru and Indonesia.

Executive Summary

Climate-related forest actions

The world’s forests play a unique and complex role in the global carbon budget, as emissions from land use change—particularly deforestation— represent around 12–15% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet forests also act as an essential carbon sink through storage and sequestration (van der Werf et al. 2009). Efforts to maintain standing forests or enhance total forest area will therefore be a vital component of international climate mitigation efforts.

At the 2007 meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries adopted the Bali Action Plan as a roadmap to a new international climate agreement. The Plan included a commitment to develop and implement “policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries,” commonly known as REDD (UNFCCC 2007, p. 3). During subsequent negotiations, the scope of REDD has expanded to include activities to manage forests sustainably and to increase and conserve carbon stocks (collectively known as REDD+).

While there continues to be a number of unresolved issues in the REDD+ negotiations, including how REDD+ activities would be financed and whether or not industrialized countries would be allowed to buy the emissions reductions generated by developing countries to meet their own targets, on one key element the negotiations have remained relatively steady: the need for a “performance-based” or “results-based” approach for recognizing and supporting actions taken under the Bali Action Plan. In practice this means countries need to have the ability to measure, report, and verify that they have taken promised actions to mitigate emissions (UNFCCC 2007; AWG-LCA 2009; UNFCCC 2009). For REDD+, these discussions have focused on the ability to quantify emissions reductions, including the capacity of all countries to complete and improve national GHG inventories over time.

In addition to the discussions in the UNFCCC, there are parallel conversations in which the issue of measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) has emerged as an important topic. These have occurred in programs that provide upfront finance for countries taking readiness and emission reduction activities like the UN Collaborative Programme on REDD (UN-REDD), the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), and in bilateral discussions between countries.

Finally, staff in countries responsible for developing REDD+ strategies have themselves identified the need to be able to track where REDD+ strategies are being successfully implemented in order to ensure proper policy design and implementation.

While it is not yet clear how all these initiatives will overlap in terms of the MRV discussion, in all three spaces there are several reasons why countries may wish or need to track activities and outcomes other than those represented by emissions reductions to demonstrate effectiveness in meeting their commitments to various stakeholders. First, given the complexity of the actions that will need to be taken, it may be difficult to track the performance of actions taken purely by looking at emissions reductions, particularly in the short term. Second, many developing countries will need financing support—in the form of grants, loans, or sales of future emissions reductions—to develop and implement national strategies designed to reduce emissions. Depending on country circumstances and the types of activities undertaken, demonstrating results to donor countries or initiatives may require tracking results using metrics other than emissions reductions. Third, and most importantly, domestic decision makers will need a broad array of data at their disposal to assess whether they are on course to achieving their climate mitigation goals and other linked objectives.

About this paper

This paper explores the types of information and supporting data that domestic actors will need to ensure that national strategies to reduce emissions are being developed and implemented effectively. It does so by focusing on measures to address illegal logging, drawing on specific strategies and recommendations from stakeholder processes in Peru and Indonesia, to consider:

  • the types of actions that countries may need to undertake;
  • the types of information they will need to gather to track implementation of mitigation actions over time and how they might begin collecting this information; and
  • the differential data needs for domestic and international MRV.

Based on this bottom-up information, we then provide options for how a performance-based approach in the UNFCCC and/or for upfront climate financing programs or initiatives could be developed without creating an additional burden on developing countries.

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