Author: Edwin Usang
It’s my pleasure to share my thoughts about the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) organized 11th part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 2-11) taking place in Bonn Germany from 19-23 October, 2015. By the end of today and barring any request for extension, the session will close and will only be reopened in Paris.
I have been following the ADP sessions since December 2012 during the COP 18 in Doha as a civil society observer to the UN climate change meetings. I have been working with or through several civil society platforms to contribute ideas that enable negotiators to arrive at informed decisions. Two of these platforms are 1) Accra Caucus on forest and climate change, and 2) REDD+ Safeguards Working Group.
The Accra Caucus is a diverse group of civil society and indigenous peoples from the north (developed countries) and south (developing countries) formed in August 2008 during a UNFCCC organized climate change conference in Accra, mainly to discuss issues and concerns associated with REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) implementation in developing countries. The Caucus’ main concern was for Parties to ensure that the development and implementation of REDD does not lead to negative social, environmental and other consequences including, violation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ rights to lands, territories and resources, as well as land alienation, forced evictions and the prevention of access to forests and forest resources by Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
On the other hand, the REDD+ Safeguards Working Group (RSWG), formed about five years ago after the Cancun REDD+ Safeguards were approved during COP 16 in Mexico, is equally a North-South coalition of civil society organizations and indigenous groups working to ensure sustainable and equitable outcomes through effective implementation of REDD+ safeguards and realization of non-carbon benefits.
From this ADP 2-11, being the last session before COP 21 in Paris where a new climate change regime is expected to be approved by all the 196 countries, the RSWG had worked very hard to see that our concerns are incorporated into the Draft Agreement and Decision Text to be taken to Paris for approval. What we are concerned with is potential negative consequences resulting from implementation of climate actions. To address that, we want to establish an imperative in the agreement to take into consideration integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems and human rights, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. So providing for these considerations would help to minimize unintended consequences such as maladaptation, and in so doing, increase the sustainability and long term benefits of climate actions. In essence, we want governments, developers and investors to take measures to primarily avoid, then minimize and, as a last resort mitigate negative unintended consequences / perverse incentives. Already we are noticing some real life examples of climate actions with negative unintended consequences, and these include:
- In Kenya, there was a plan for large scale planning for biofuels in the Tana River Delta, a biodiversity hot spot and World Heritage Site.
- In Nigeria, a sub-national government in the Niger Delta Region of the country has just commission the construction of a 260km ‘super highway’ road across the tropical high forest (considered one of the 25 biodiversity hot spot) and very close to the Cross River National Park (Forest Reserve).
- There is a proposal in UK to drain peat bogs in order to site a massive wind farm in Scotland.
One big concern we have had here in Bonn during this session was the decision to bar civil society from actively participating in the negotiations, a departure from previous sessions. The process therefore is not opened and excluding civil society runs counter to the international principles and norms surrounding public participation. We’ve spent the last four days calling for transparency and equity in the process of negotiation but to no avail. So, all what we have been able to do is wait for information, often delivered from second- or third-hand. For now I would say that our main ask: Obligations in the agreement for countries to ensure the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems and to respect human rights when they undertake climate actions are still in the draft agreement.
What I want from the up-coming COP 21 in Paris is to see that our concerns are included in the final draft agreement and decision text and the civil society is given their fair share through a fair process so that we can have a fair agreement.
Executive Director, NGO Coalition for Environment (NGOCE), Calabar, Nigeria
Former Africa CSO Observer UN-REDD Programme Policy Board
Focal Point, Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change
Member, REDD+ Safeguards Working Group