GBMI-Europe roundtable: Resilience and Climate Finance, an overview of current opportunities and challenge
Climate financing mechanisms are one of the current many proposed solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. They have been operational since the launch in 2008 of The United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) and they vary enormously in size, their capacity to cope with the impact of climate change, the resources utilized, the degree of involvement of local communities, the designated countries of implementation and many more factors.
As part of the Green Belt Movement International- Europe’s activities in advocating for Climate Change, we gather views and experiences about current strategies hoping to make some clearance in the intricate jungle of the mechanisms aimed at addressing climate change. As a result of our latest Round Table held in London in late 2014, we had the opportunity to exchange knowledge and information to foster better understanding and collaboration among those working on climate, forest and community issues, and we were lucky enough to be joined by RSPB and FERN representatives.
During the session GBMI-Europe tried to answer the question: “How rural communities who depend on forests can become more resilient to climate change? “From the experiences shared by GBM and like minded NGOs, the main answer seemed to be: “through developing non-wood forest enterprise from the forest”. An interesting article from the Tyndall Centre discussing resilience in climate change responses can be found here.
Also we analysed UK contributions to international initiatives for climate resilience and finance mechanisms and realised that they have so far not provided funds for local community-led projects; with the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) having only spent ½ of their budget (£1.4bn) on overseas development and a focus on investing in large scale (e.g. £20m), readymade projects on forests.
Just recently, September 2014, at the UN Climate Summit in New York, UK along with more than 30 governments, private companies and several (but noticeable absents were spotted) NGOs signed up the International Forest Declaration to end deforestation; committing further financial investments. However, despite the praise for the declaration, there are some concerns as to its approach, mainly due to the focus on voluntary commitments rather than strong government action in the declaration. And the lack of a mention to strengthened governance (e.g. enforcing forest conservation and anti-corruption laws); secured and protected rights and territories of indigenous peoples and the link between forest conservation and management and land use.
The UK government recently also set out their vision for ‘Paris 2015: Securing Our Prosperity Through a Global Climate Change Agreement’; explaining why there is need for a global climate deal, why it will be good for the UK and what it needs to look like when it is finalised this year. The report focuses on how prosperity and carbon reduction can go hand in hand to grow the world economy, and reiterates the UK’s contribution of £3.87 billion to the International Climate Fund.
During the roundtable we also explored the most effective finance mechanisms available at the moment to strengthen local resilience and questioned what needs to change in existing initiatives. FERN shared its experience in developing projects under the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (under FLEGT) VPA mechanism especially in Liberia. As VPAs are meant to act as a practical mechanism for identifying and excluding illegal timber from the EU market, under the scheme, timber that is legally harvested and exported to the EU would be identified by means of licenses issued in signatory countries. Timber shipments to the EU from partner countries that do not have a VPA permit would be denied entry under the Agreement.
A good example of how this has worked is shown in the video –“Are people benefitting from Liberian timber?” The film showed how a VPA can allow local people to push for legal reforms and ensure those who live and work off the forests are the ones to profit from it. It also highlights how civil society can address issues with implementation of the agreement. Rural communities need to be able to make their own decisions and shape their own future. FERN considers VPAs successful in empowering communities in their advocacy capacities and is exploring opportunities to use such a mechanism to finance climate mitigation and adaptation projects.
RSPB highlighted their current work in forests, focusing on their international campaigns like the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, whose on-the-ground work is making a difference to places like the Harapan and the Sabangau rainforests, on the front line of advancing wave oil palm which is driving deforestation and the corrupt conversion of forest for plantation concessions. The work RSPB undertakes internationally in forest and biodiversity conservation also highlights the importance of empowering local communities (e.g. through Collaborative Forest Management agreements) and reducing locals’ reliance on selling forest products by using alternative income-generating activities.
One thing seems clear, that current models for climate finance mechanisms suffer from poor governance. In the case of community forest finance, the complexity of forest management system can keep the money away from communities. Once a successful governance model is found, forest finance mechanisms could work; perhaps a model that shows good governance by putting the power and control in the hands of the forest communities.