The provision of finance to build ‘readiness’ has been central to programs to reduce emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+). Its purpose is to prepare countries so that they can deliver emission reductions from forests in return for payments. Not only does readiness finance raise awareness of the complexities and opportunities of REDD+, but it also allows countries to develop REDD+ strategies for implementation. And, by putting in place systems to measure, report and verify of emission reductions, it also provides the international community with assurance that deforestation will in fact be reduced. A public panel discussion held by ODI exploring the effectiveness of readiness finance showed that while countries have made progress towards readiness, there is still a long way to go. If forestry is to contribute significantly to climate change mitigation, readiness finance is necessary but throwing money at the problem is not sufficient.
We need a more strategic focus on governance
We’ve learned a lot from the money spent so far for REDD+ readiness. Coordinating multiple sources of REDD+ finance is proving difficult. Speedy disbursement of finance is conflicting with lengthy due diligence processes. And, financial resources should be deployed on activities that have the potential to deliver impact at scale. Improving the governance of forest resources is one such activity that is essential if we are to overcome the fundamental barriers to the sustainable use of forests. Neil Scotland, a Senior Forest Advisor at the UK Department for International Development, noted that tackling these deep structural changes makes building REDD+ readiness a complex endeavour that takes time. This is a sentiment echoed in an ODI- Heinrich Boll Foundation policy brief on the early experiences in REDD+ finance delivery. If we don’t act on these lessons, we face increasing costs of delivering REDD+ and delays in realising emission reductions. The resulting risk is a possible loss of momentum and political will to engage in REDD+.
More evidence of results
To date, readiness finance has largely come from international public sources. Donor country governments are under pressure to show that their public resources are being spent well. REDD+ moves away from ‘aid-as-usual’ for forest conservation by promising more results-based outcomes. But, as a report released by Global Witness illustrates, existing financial flows for REDD+ are not sufficiently transparent to ensure the necessary accountability of finance, nor to allow for the evaluation of the effectiveness of the REDD+ finance spend. Davyth Stewart from Global Witness noted that greater controls to ensure traceability, accountability and transparency of financial REDD+ flows are necessary. We also need to show progress is being made in overcoming pervasive challenges that have hindered past efforts to conserve forests. Generating evidence that scarce public money is being used well will be crucial if it is to continue to flow.
A lack of clarity on the future finance for REDD+ could also threaten the incentives for forested nations to continue to build readiness. Agus Sari, the Chairman of the Working Group on Funding Instruments of the Presidential REDD+ Taskforce of Indonesia, told me that REDD+ finance has provided the opportunity to make significant changes in Indonesia’s forest governance. Progress has been made and Indonesia is now in a position to share their experiences with other forested nations, so called ‘south-south’ learning. Thais Linhares-Juvenal, Senior Officer of the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat, reported that many countries have made a lot of progress towards readiness under the UN-REDD programme. Some countries are even ready to negotiate for finance based on delivery of emission reductions. If it is not clear where the money is coming from in the future, willingness to embark on complex national REDD+ strategies may not be sustained.
Money alone is not enough
Climate change mitigation and reducing deforestation and forest degradation is urgent. The REDD+ community should take a proactive steps to maintain the momentum and investment in REDD+. Greater scrutiny of, and accountability for, REDD+ finance to be mobilised and spent effectively is needed. Evidence that we are making a dent in the long-standing problems of governance of forests would be a good start.