NBS: New Era or False Dawn? – Webinar Q&A

May 24, 2021

How could a local community be helpful in preserving the flora especially of endangered species?

Numerous research demonstrates how indigenous peoples and local communities are the best stewards of tropical forests. Their participation is crucial to preserving biodiversity. See for example:
5 Maps Show How Important Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Are to the Environment - WRI
The role of indigenous peoples in combating climate change - Nature.com
Common Ground: Securing Land Rights and Safeguarding the Earth - Oxfam, ILC, RRI

What safeguard measures are being considered to manage demand-side risks which directly impact local communities and shape the way Nature-based Solutions impact management regimes?

For the moment, there does not seem to be adequate measures in place to address demand side risks. We have already witnessed how REDD+ sparked a wave of carbon cowboys that were selling fraudulent carbon credits in the name of communities. The movement to turn nature-based solutions into a mechanism to generate forest carbon credits could perpetuate a model where illegitimate carbon credits are sold. To add to the inherent risks, there is still no uniformity or cohesion among the different carbon trading platforms and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is still not finalised, which would set a framework for a global carbon market, is still not finalised.

In Presentation 1, Joe Eisen mentioned a study which shows that social and environmental safeguards are unenforceable. Could you please share it?

CIFOR published a study on complaints by Indigenous Peoples arising from REDD+ projects. It found that there is a chronic failure of so-called REDD+ Social and Environmental safeguards (SES) and the denial of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, most notably their right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. You can read the full study here: http://www.cifor.org/publications/pdf_files/infobrief/6630-infobrief.pdf

It’s just not true to say that REDD+ has been ineffective, this is a very damaging message for all the projects and communities that are actually benefiting today!

While there may be some projects that are better than others, the overall metrics on deforestation rates and IPLCs rights paint quite a clear picture. After fourteen years of REDD+, deforestation rates continue to rise and communities have still only received negligible benefits. An independent cost-benefit review of REDD+ is urgently needed to put some of these arguments to rest.

Please refer to the below articles for more information:

How does Nbs / Offsetting 2.0 elevate and prioritise the stewardship of Indigenous-controlled territories, and challenge the current corporate control of monoculture food & resource production globally?

Unless NbS is oriented to channel resources to securing and strengthening the rights of IPLC lands and territories, it will not challenge and may even expand current corporate control over natural resources.

NBS standards (e.g. ART-tree) could be a great technical tool, but without good policies and politics in the Fragile States, it will be hard to scale up NBS projects/programs. What are you doing to influence the political arena and remove barriers to NbS implementation, primarily the social conflicts related to Nature Resources?

Good question to which there is no simple answer. Clarifying the rights of those who live and depend on these areas must be a starting point. Whether the overall aim of a project is to sell carbon credits or scale up sustainable livelihoods of forest communities, projects should operate in a system where the land tenure of communities is recognized and communities are aware of their rights. If these preconditions are not in place, there is a risk communities will be dispossessed of their lands and their carbon rights. Furthermore, the sustainability of a project is contingent on community ownership.
RFUK, RRI, APEM and CARE are all working at different angles to strengthen forest governance and to support the rights of forest communities. Please visit our individual websites to find out more.

You mentioned a need for the IPCC to assess the potential of NbS on behalf of the UNFCCC. What could we do to ensure that this happens prior to CoP26 - given the likelihood that unconstrained NbS will otherwise be central to what is proposed by the UK - host of CoP26?

This position could be advanced at, for example, the 2021 Forum Day of the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance that will focus on NBS. Current studies, most notably the Griscom paper, almost entirely ignore the social, political and logistical challenges of the land use change that would be required to meet the claimed third of climate mitigation potential by 2030.

The same risks that many studies presented about REDD+ results-based incentives seem to be part of NBS investments. To boost NBS projects/programs, we need international policy coherence among UN, UNFCCC, and Multilateral finance institutions. Is it possible to observe a positive trend of change from lousy governance practices to good governance practices? What can you highlight as advances in governance issues in Latin America or other regions?

There are not many good examples to cite. Costa Rica seems to be a positive example in terms of REDD readiness, its recognition of indigenous lands, legislation on benefit-sharing plans and grievance mechanisms etc. (though we are not experts in this region). Colombia was cited as a positive example at last week's seminar but recently there were well documented governance problems, particularly in the country’s treatment of indigenous peoples and local communities. One central problem is that so little has been invested in addressing core governance and rights issues. Far more has been invested in creating complex market based mechanisms.

Do the panellists have specific suggestions on what can be done to improve funding for smallholder agroecology, and how to bring more successful sustainable programs and projects to the attention of decision makers and large well-funded NGOs like CI or Nature Conservancy?

As mentioned in Presentation 4 by Andy White, less than 1% of international development funding is actually used for indigenous land tenure and forest management. While more funding is certainly needed to address climate change and biodiversity loss, funding will still need to be redistributed to flow more directly to national civil society organisations and the international organisations working closely with them to secure the land tenure of forest communities. In our current system, valuable resources are often sequestered by large intermediary institutions and a negligible amount truly arrives to communities on the ground.

Unlike fossil fuel reduction, limiting climate benefits of forests to carbon is problematic and reductive. Why hasn’t the discourse moved beyond carbon at climate change fora in the context of forests to also include other crucial benefits, especially biodiversity? NbS is vague in its present form, do you see a scope of including biodiversity in NbS strategies and targets, especially for forest landscape restoration?

Indeed, reducing the value of forests to solely their carbon benefit overlooks many of the crucial roles they play for biodiversity and for communities. Perhaps the discourse has not yet moved beyond carbon because the prevalent model for protecting forests is still rooted in commodifying nature and selling carbon credits. Worryingly, biodiversity offsets have started to pop up as another commodity. However, it is our opinion that capitalism and market-based solutions are rarely an effective solution to protecting nature. Regulations that prevent deforestation, decentralised land use systems, and strengthening the rights of forest communities are all real solutions for nature and people.

Do you feel geospatial technologies, such as satellite earth observation, have a role to play in monitoring and managing risks involved in this NBS transformation, and what ideally do you think is needed from geospatial innovation in the future to help to deliver these initiatives?

Yes, these kinds of satellite-based approaches certainly have a role to play in monitoring such projects. However, they tend work best when they are integrated with on-the-ground systems such as local community/CSO monitoring initiatives (e.g. https://www.mappingforrights.org/forestlink/) and/or local law enforcement.

Indigenous peoples often find themselves wedged between the logic of protected areas, the exploitation of natural resources, and bad farming practices. In your opinion(s), what needs to happen for the voices and interests of local and indigenous communities to be heard, and shape the future design and financing of NbS crediting/initiatives?

A precondition of NbS projects should be to secure and strengthen the rights of local communities. Particularly their land and carbon rights. Securing their land tenure is essential to prevent their further displacement for the exploitation of their environments. Communities should also be involved in all stages of the project, from its conceptualisation to implementation to ensure their ownership.

What should companies who want to responsibly create climate impact through NBS donate to?

Aside from reducing their own carbon footprint and improving transparency in supply chains, support community mapping and titling initiatives as precondition to investment in NbS.

If 'private philanthropic' funding is proposed to support IP forest and climate governance, how would LEAF ensure genuine free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples regarding collective decisions by these rights holders and customary landowners to opt in or opt out? For example, given the controversies surrounding some large global corporations (labour rights/tax avoidance/over consumption etc?). Ditto regarding LEAF offsetting market and the serious concerns of this market mechanism?

This is still not clear to RFUK but would indeed be crucial that LEAF address if it is to function as a system to protect nature and people.

The LEAF Coalition and ART/TREES are two different things. The LEAF Coalition has selected ART/TREES as the independent certification standard in their Call for Proposals. Also, the statement that ART/TREES does not allow nesting is incorrect. The distinction is that TREES does not prescribe a specific method of nesting. Also, the possibility of the participation of indigenous territories in ART, and the associated area threshold for such participation, were in the draft 2.0 version of TREES for stakeholder consultation, but has not yet been finalized.

While LEAF and ART might be two different structures, it is notable that ART is LEAF’s unique source of offset deals. TREES is also the standard for ART deals. There is therefore no denying that LEAF and ART are extremely integrated and are not fully independent of one another.
It is good to hear however, that there is still scope to change the 2.5-million-hectare minimum requirement for indigenous peoples and local communities. This area threshold for participation could be divisive and problematic as most indigenous communities do not have secure land tenure over 2.5 million hectares.
As we've learned from REDD+, the existence of a safeguards framework does not ensure that it will be respected or monitored. How will the safeguard systems of ART TREES be different to other safeguard systems?

Can you talk about the CDB post 2020 Global Framework? So far, what are they getting right and what needs to be challenged? I really appreciate the issue you raised with respect to a financial mechanism that will reach IPs and LCs. Should the framework address this? How?

We believe that the proposed target of 30% of land and sea to be designated as protected areas by 2030 is unacceptable in the absence of much stronger guarantees of the rights of indigenous people and other local inhabitants. Instead, we believe that an alternative approach should be developed, which foregrounds Indigenous Peoples’ and local community efforts for wildlife protection. We believe that such measures can be developed without the need to divert already inadequate climate funding into ineffective and unproven ‘natural climate solutions’. Please read this letter for a more in depth presentation on our position towards the CBD's post-2020 biodiversity framework.

Has anyone conducted a cost benefit analysis of REDD+ including benefits to indigenous communities and returns to investors?

Certainly not at the scale and detail necessary, but RFUK believes a cost-benefit analysis is urgently needed.

Additional links requested: Webinar 2 Presentations

Presentation 1: Amazon Study
Carbon loss from forest degradation exceeds that from deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
Presentation 3: IP-led forest management
RFUK's work in Peru
CARE Ashaninka
Cocoa project

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