World Rainforest Movement

Warsaw COP19: So much distraction, so little real action


Although no progress was made toward a new global climate treaty at the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November in Warsaw, decisions were made concerning reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

Negotiators reached agreements on technical issues such as monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions from deforestation and how to report on safeguards. Although there was no agreement to finance REDD+, the REDD decision refers to the Green Climate Fund as a possible source of funding. The Fund’s accounts are presently empty.

The UK, Norway and the USA, have pledged to recycle existing climate aid money to establish the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, managed by the World Bank.1 The fund will target commodity supply chains and is seeking private sector involvement to open the door to trading forest carbon offsets.

Payments for REDD+ are to be performance based: money would be transacted only once tropical forested countries could prove the number of tonnes of CO2 saved per year. This is problematic due to the difficulty and expense of measuring carbon in forests, and the REDD decision made no progress toward defining additional indicators to assess whether countries are on a sustainable path to reduce deforestation.

Although REDD+, as defined in COP19, does not permit developed countries to use REDD+ carbon credits as offsets, negotiators stopped short of banning REDD+ offsets. This means there is a risk that developed countries will use REDD+ to weaken their reduction targets, thus exacerbating climate change. Without an agreement to address climate change, most forests stand little chance of surviving.2 If the UNFCCC wishes to save forests, more attention must be focused on reducing fossil fuel emissions in the first place.3

For further discussion about COP19 decisions, see