The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes: A Bold Step Forward?

IMG_20131120_130517_803The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF ISFL) will add to REDD+ programs by including land use, as well as provide technical assistance, grant funding, and results-based financing (or payment for performance).

John_Kerry_official_Secretary_of_State_portraitU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has just announced, via video, an ambitious new program: the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, which will launch today as a part of the World Bank’s Vital Forest Fund.

The initiative was launched with significant funding pledges from the Kingdom of Norway ($135 million), the United Kingdom (around $120 million), and the United States ($25 million). The $25 million contributed by the United States is part of the $250 million that the US plans to announce today. The U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, explained that the United Kingdom’s contribution is an allocation from a previous fund that will focus on this initiative. Norway’s contribution is an allocation of its REDD+ money.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the world faces a great challenge because forests sustain us, and in many ways they are responsible for our way of life. We lose 13 billion square hectares every year globally. He emphasized that this is not just an environmental issue, an economic issue, or an energy issue. Kerry said that “the United States stands with global partners in our fight against climate change.” The BioCF ISFL was founded to combat these serious challenges.

The initiative focuses on the drivers of deforestation, as well as the real, grave, and growing threats of climate change. “This is a partnership between governments and the private sector,” said Todd Stern, United States Special Envoy for Climate Change. As Stern explained, in the United States we are fortunate to have a President and Secretary of State that have such strong views on climate change, however our challenge is that agriculture is a major source of economic growth, and the importance of the agricultural sector will only expand. The BioCF ISFL is distinct from previous climate and forest initiatives in that there is recognition of the important role that the private sector plays to spur innovation, leverage cutting edge expertise and knowledge, and mobilize capital necessary to scale up successful land-use practices and accelerate the greening of supply chains. Stern concluded by saying that he hopes that “the BioCF ISFL breaks down the myth that we have to choose between development and the environment.” The initiative is a great move forward, however it is bold to create a new initiative without addressing the problems that REDD+ faces regarding finance.


REDD-plus Body or COP Negotiating?

Because allowing countries to address issues such as equity, and financing in the COP is a more efficient institutional arrangement for coordinating support for the implementation of activities in relation to mitigation actions in the forest sector by developing countries.bonn-500x334

The draft text of the coordination of support for the implementation of activities in relation to mitigation actions in the forest sector by developing countries includes three options for institutional arrangements for coordination at the international level.

The first option of the draft creates National Coordinating Entities. The second option creates a REDD-plus body, as the overall advisory body to the Conference of the Parties, and the third option is that the SBSTA and SBI, at their fortieth sessions, to jointly continue their consideration of existing institutional arrangements or potential governance alternatives and make recommendations at the next COP.

The objectives of these different institutional arrangements for coordination would include:

  1. Strengthen, consolidate and enhance the sharing of relevant information, knowledge, experiences and good practices, at the international level, taking into account national experiences and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge and practices;
  2. Identify and consider possible needs and gaps in coordination of support, taking into consideration relevant information communicated under the Convention and other multilateral and bilateral arrangements;
  3. Consider and provide opportunities to exchange information between the relevant bodies established under the Convention, other multilateral and bilateral entities financing and funding the activities and elements referred to . . . on actions, and support provided and received for these activities;
  4. Provide information and views on the elements contained in paragraphs a, b and c above when providing guidance to the operating entities of the financial mechanism of the Convention, on means to scale up and improve the effectiveness of finance, including results based finance, technology and capacity building needs of developing country Parties, when implementing activities and elements referred to in decision . . . ;
  5. Provide information, as requested, to entities including, bilateral, multilateral and private sector entities that finance and implement the activities and elements referred to in decision . . . , and how these activities, including results-based actions, can be more effectively supported;
  6. Encourage other entities providing support, for the activities and elements referred to in decision . . . , to enhance efficiency, coordination and seek consistency with the operating entities of the financial mechanism of the Convention, as appropriate;
  7. Support the development of different approaches, including joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests considering the modalities of finance to be established, as agreed in paragraphs 14-20 of SBSTA 38, with a view to recommending a draft decision to the COP for adoption at its twentieth session;

Several major bilateral and multilateral funding initiatives have recently been created to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation (REDD-plus). Brazil has received the largest volume of REDD-plus finance through its Amazon Fund. Public and private finance may be able to play complementary roles in delivering REDD-plus finance. However, bilateral and multilateral agreements towards REDD-plus goals are also available financing options.

redd-infographic-stages-and-scaleA REDD-plus body may be successful because all of the concerns posed by the developing nations, and the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) are legitimate. Also, there is an increased efficiency because instead of countries having to reach out to multiple sources for funding, there would be only one international body, which would disburse the funds. Papa New Guainía (PNG) the leader of the CfRN has suggested that a REDD+ governance body is needed at the international level to review eligibility for results and coordinate support for REDD+ countries. The goal would be to provide a concise set of modalities on ways and means to distribute finance.

Many developed nations argue for the implementation of option three of the draft text. Reasoning that parties are better able to address issues related to financing at now, and at future COPs, either through negotiations or by holding workshops. Also, because each country has different financing needs decisions involving financing are best decided by private and public sources, or bilateral and multilateral arrangements between nations.

Story in this morning’s ClimateWire on PNG and REDD+ committee

Climate Mitigation and Incentives: A REDD+ Decision in 2015?

Climate mitigation for the land sector and forests should be implemented to incentivize non-annex 1 countries, and developed nations should finance these measures. The best way to provide incentives is for developed countries to commit to financing.

In the 2015 Paris COP there may be an agreement on forests and the land sector. However, before any agreement may be reached countries must come together and work towards goals that at least two thirds of countries may agree upon.


The Philippines’ negotiator urged other state delegates to include a footnote in any 2015 agreement including that Indigenous People and their traditional livelihood be preserved.

Climate mitigation should be viewed as a function of climate adaptation because of the synergy that is offered. The priority of the monitoring measures should be to ensure the sustainability of forest and agricultural lands. Monitoring systems that allow for credible measurement, reporting and verification of REDD+ activities are among the most critical elements for the successful implementation of any REDD+ mechanism. Monitoring of this mitigation and adaptation should include regulatory safeguards to protect safety and land use concerns. Guidelines must be common and basic.

Climate mitigation and adaptation are key to solving the problems that forests are facing. Since the 1992 COP in Rio, there have been many investments in natural resources. Forests around the world are facing extreme risks because of changes in climate, forest fires, and insects.


Prof. (Hon) Rachmat Witoelar

The Indonesian Negotiator, Prof. (Hon) Rachmat Witoelar noted, in his address during a high-level panel event on the land sector and forests, that REDD and REDD+ are a step toward a better quality of life. Nations must not only find a way to feed their people, but they must also develop communities, and preserve their forests. They must also create a sustainable livelihood in their rural communities.

The Russian Federation announced that it would support any accords to move towards sustainable forests, and agreed with many of the suggestions by state members in the high level panel. Norway is also ready to work in participation with other countries, to provide financing for REDD+ and work toward a 2015 agreement. While the Russian Federation, and Norway are ready, the United States of America believes that there should be no agreements until after 2020. The United State’s decision shows it is less likely to agree to any international implementation of a REDD+ program pre 2020. The United States is a supporter for REDD+, however they are concerned REDD+ results pre 2020 being used against future commitments.

All of the 30 countries participating in the high-level panel believed that forests and the land sector are critical components for mitigation and adaptation, because of the critical role they play play in reducing carbon. But many non-Annex 1 countries are faced with the need to develop in order to maintain and increase livelihood. Uganda, for example, recently released a National Forests Authority and listed forests as one of the key drivers of development.

Identifying Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation: Applied Strategies

Mar-13-photo-5The drivers of deforestation and forest degradation must be identified and monitored so that countries may develop strategies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Because REDD+ is entering phase two of payments for performance it is becoming a major issue among negotiators. Direct drivers of deforestation include conversion to agriculture, infrastructure expansion and mining, among others. Direct drivers of forest degradation include i.a. long-term over-harvesting of forest products (including unsustainable fuel wood harvest), poor harvesting practices and overgrazing. Underlying drivers include range of political, cultural and socio-economic factors, including unsound policies, weak governance and lack of law enforcement, landlessness and unclear allocation of rights, rural poverty, lack of investment and financial resources, population growth and migration, and civil conflict. The objectives for REDD+ monitoring are to meet international reporting needs and national monitoring objectives. National monitoring objectives include tracking progress, stimulating strategies, and supporting the creation and sharing of benefits. Monitoring of REDD+ landscapes must be easy to understand, measurable indicators that could apply to any scale or location.


Countries have developed strategies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by the 2020 commitment period. Many countries committed to reduce emissions by as much as 40 percent by 2020. Brazil’s National Strategy is to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by 2020, with a general goal of achieving zero net deforestation. Net deforestation means the difference between the amount of deforestation, and the amount of afforestation. Where afforestation is the human-induced establishment of trees on an area of non-forest land to such an extent that the area becomes forest land. An example from Nepal is the Community Forestry Program. 18,000 community groups making up thirty-five percent of Nepal’s population, and a quarter of Nepal’s forest area was included in the Community Forestry Program. In the mid-hills of Nepal, community forestry programs have played an important role in improving forest condition by adopting better forest protection and management measures. Through forest management, users are generating incomes that are used in community development activities.The results of the program included regeneration of once barren hills, despite many gloomy predictions. Many substantial livelihoods benefits, community infrastructure, and social services were also realized.

The sessions of the Global Landscapes Forum were recoded and may be viewed at:

Ready For Warsaw

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

-John F. Kennedy

My study of environmental economies led me to pursue a JD at Vermont Law School. Because of my passion to learn more in the field of environmental law I am very excited and privileged to hit the ground running at Warsaw.



The Non Governmental Organization I am working with at the COP 19 is the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The topic I’m following for the EDF include the United Nations’ REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), and REDD+. REDD offers developing countries financial incentives to keep forest intact, with the goal of reducing deforestation and forest degradation. REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that many initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, are currently developing and supporting. Other multilateral REDD+ initiatives include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), hosted by The World Bank.



Rainforest preservation is designed to protect wildlife and water supplies, reduce the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and preserve and benefit communities in the surrounding areas. In past years REDD has been criticized as a mechanism which would result in monoculture plantations of carbon-absorbing trees where no bird or monkey is seen.

REDD+ was developed as an answer to the issues REDD raised. REDD+ aims to enhance biodiversity, protect the rights of forest communities, and increase the storage of carbon through forest, which act as carbon sinks. Current estimates suggest that deforestation and forest degradation accounts for about 15% of GHG emissions resulting form human activity.


The Congo Basin, which is the second largest rainforest in the world, has fallen victim to deforestation due to an increased focus on mining and oil in the area. Currently the Congo Basin is losing 2,000 square km – an area 34 times the size of Manhattan – every year. This is totally unsustainable, and it’s set to get worse.Alexandra Pardal


I am very excited to follow REDD+ issues such as verification and finance during my time at the COP 19.