Adaptation after graduation; are we self-supporting?

It has been forty-seven years since the inception of the categorization of countries as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and only five countries have graduated so far. Four countries, Bhutan, Sao Tome and Principe, Kiribati and Solomon Islands are recommended for graduation this year while Nepal’s graduation recommendation is terminated upon its request. According to the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), the subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) who recommends a country for graduation, Nepal as well as Timor-Leste was not recommended for graduation this time even if they met the required criteria because of economic and political challenges. These will be reviewed and considered for graduation again in the next triennial review i.e. in 2021 AD if they still meet the criteria. And for Nepal, the criteria are likely to be met again provided the government’s announcements.

Access to climate funds

The LDCs, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the African States are the countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and Nepal is also one of them. That is why these countries are getting special focus on climate change adaptation measures. The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDC Fund) was established in 2001 AD under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is being managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with an aim to help the LDCs to prepare and implement their National Adaptation Program of Actions (NAPA) to climate change. The officials of Nepal working in the area of climate change never forget to mention this LDC fund when talked about the issues regarding climate change. So the graduation proposal should obviously have shocked, at least once, those officials from the then Ministry of Population and Environment (MOPE) and Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MOFSC) (now Ministry of Forests and Environment) as these are the concerned ministries mostly dealing with climate change issues in Nepal. So, when Nepal graduates from the category of the LDC in the next review, i.e. in 2021 AD, will it be able to cope with the climatic changes without access to the LDC fund after that?

Will Nepal be able to fulfil its Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement when the financial supports it is getting now are also cut?

Some months ago, after the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Agreement, chief of the Climate Change Management Division of Nepal and Nepal’s focal person for the UNFCCC (Dr. Ram Prasad Lamsal) was saying that the USA’s withdrawal was not a problem for Nepal. One of his logic behind this was that Nepal would get money from the LDC fund and it was not only the USA that would provide money to this fund. This also shows that government officials were quite relaxed because of the money that Nepal is likely to receive from the LDC fund.

It is not only the LDC fund Nepal will lose access to after the graduation. The Green Climate Fund (GCF), a part of financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, also pays particular attention to the needs of the LDCs, SIDS and the African States. The fifty per cent of the ‘adaptation budget’, which in turn is fifty per cent of the total 100$ billion annual disbursement post 2020 AD, is targeted towards these countries, which Nepal will not receive after graduation from the LDC status.

Are we ready?

Change in climate is an ongoing process and so is adaptation. Only graduating a country from the list of the LDCs does not significantly reduce the vulnerability to climate change unless sufficient mitigation measures are also carried out. The thing now is – will we be able to adapt to the changes in the future climate without access to those funds which are meant for adaptation programs in the LDCs? We should have already been able for that now because Nepal is already liable for graduation but is postponed only upon our special request.

Normally, we will have three years grace period for the LDC graduation to come into effect. So, within coming six to seven years, will we be able to fully adapt to the climatic changes without major help from the adaptation mechanisms that are particularly aimed at countries like Nepal? Because Nepal will not get special attention after that, as it is getting now as a member of the LDCs. We must be able on our own, at least for that time period until another mechanism is formulated to facilitate ‘graduated yet vulnerable to climate change’ countries. And we should start raising this issue in the climate negotiations now if such mechanism is necessary for us.

Also, Nepal states in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) paper to the Paris Agreement that it needs bilateral and multilateral support in eleven priority areas to meet the targets it has mentioned, the first being formulation and implementation of National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and implementation of already formulated NAPA. Will it be able to fulfil its NDC when the financial supports it is getting now are also cut?

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REDD signals!

Aditya Acharya and Mahesh Poudel

Published in The Kathmandu Post. This link – http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2018-03-27/redd-signals.html

Mar 27, 2018
It was discovered that deforestation and forest land degradation contribute to 17 percent of the worldwide carbon emissions which is a major factor of the current global warming phenomenon. So, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation was seen as one of the major issues to address this phenomenon. Conceived initially as RED (reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries), the current state of REDD+ was formalized during the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia in 2007. The concept is to allow the developed countries (Annex 1 countries of the UNFCCC) to offset their emissions by providing financial incentives for the projects in developing countries (non-Annex 1 countries of the UNFCCC) that reduce emissions by preventing deforestation and degradation.

The formal term now is REDD+ which is an extension of REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest land degradation); an addition of three other components, forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in the later. REDD is the mechanism to curb emissions and UN-REDD is the program of the United Nations (UN) that assists the participating countries for the REDD readiness. And the UN_REDD program has 64 partner countries; 28 in Africa, 19 in Asia Pacific and 17 in Latin America and the Carribean.

Corruption in the partners

The Transparency International (TI) last month (February) published the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) Report for 2017 which shows the perceived level of public sector corruptions in 180 countries around the world. Of the 64 partner countries of the UN REDD program, 57 (89%) of them have the CPI score of less than 50 out of 100, zero score being the most corrupt and 100 the cleanest. Fifty five out of those 64 (86%) have the CPI score of less than the global average score of 43.07. Only 5 (7.8%) of them have the CPI score of more than 43.07 and 4 of them are not scored. Bhutan and Chile are the least corrupt countries among those 64 countries with an equal score of 67 and Costa Rica is the second one with a score of 59. Can we really be optimistic about the success of the mechanism that works among the most corrupt countries of the world? Is carbon finance fair and effective? The TI writes – “Sadly, many of the world’s most densely forested countries have a poor track record for corruption. In the current global economy, trees are worth a lot more cut down than they are in the ground, and politicians have been known to accept bribes – sometimes huge – to grant companies access to forest zones that should be protected.

Safeguards

There are seven safeguards which were adopted at COP 16 in 2010 in Cancun, Mexico (hence called Cancun safeguards) keeping in mind the potential risks that might arise during the REDD implementation, which also includes ‘Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty’. Just to remind, these countries are corrupt not because they don’t have good laws and policies but because the corrupt bureaucracy, the politicians as well as people there easily outsmart them. If the safeguards would really work, those countries should never be so corrupt. Yes, if the countries fail to meet the safeguards, they will not be paid. That is fine. But what about the billions of dollars already invested in REDD readiness then? Will that all be ‘water poured in the sand’?

There are so many complex, technical aspects included that even a well-educated person cannot completely understand. And the indigenous people of those countries, where the literacy percentage is also very low, are expected to fully trust the corrupt bureaucracy in their countries to deliver them the benefits of keeping the forests safe!

What should be done?

It is not that no works should be done in those countries fearing corruption but alternative ways of reducing the emissions should be sought. One confusing thing is – how the REDD benefits the environment when the developed countries can emit the same amount of GHGs as sequestered by the developing countries under REDD mechanism, just by paying them money!? This is not to mean that the developing countries should be allowed to deforest or degrade the forest land but that the developed countries should not be allowed to emit as much carbon as they want just by paying money. Is it the money or the reduction in GHG emissions that actually matters for developing countries? Why can’t the developing countries pressurize the developed ones to reduce as much carbon emissions as they sequester rather than asking for the payments? That way, the changing climate will have double benefits.

Either money that is going to the developing countries should be invested in the developed countries itself reducing emissions to an amount that developing ones are likely to sequester or corruption in the developing countries should be highly reduced. Otherwise, there are no green signals for REDD.

 The Kathmandu Post - REDD Signals

Epaper link – http://epaper.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2018-03-27/6

Towards The 2030 Agenda with Community Forestry

Also in this link: http://www.voicesofyouth.org/en/posts/towards-the-2030-agenda-with-community-forestry

After the termination of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 AD, the world is now heading towards The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Prepared by the United Nations (UN), the agenda constitutes 17 goals with 169 targets envisioning a more peaceful, just, sustainable and inclusive world by 2030 AD. The goals, termed as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), address the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

According to the UN, Nepal has already prepared the preliminary national report on the implementation of the SDGs but the comprehensive plan on how to act upon these goals is yet to be prepared. That is to say, Nepal now has to put forward its plan on how the national priorities will be set, how institutional and financial arrangements will be made, how the indicators will be developed for the timely assessment of the achievement of the goals and so on. The goals are quite ambitious and there will be a lot of things to do for the achievement. This article discusses how Nepal’s community forestry sector can contribute to the achievement of these goals.

The program that began after the handling of a patch of forest to the local villagers of Thokarpa Village, Sindhupalchowk district for the management and utilisation in 1973 AD, by the then forest officer, has now become the world renowned “Community Forest” model. Community Forest (CF), as stated by the Forest Act 1993 AD, is that part of national forest which is handed over to the local people, forming a group known as Community Forest User Group (CFUG), for the management and utilization of the forest and its resources provided that they are able and willing to manage it. And now, there are about 20,000 CFs in the country with an equal number of CFUGs.

Poverty and hunger reduction had been the very first goal in the MDGs too. The first and the second goals of the SDGs also aim to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere and end hunger and achieve food security by 2030 AD. The Community Forest Development Program Guideline 2071 BS, clearly states that 35 per cent of the total income of the CFUG should be invested on pro-poor targeted programs within the group. The annual income of Nepal’s CFs is over $10 million and the figure is yet increasing as the number of CFs being handed to the user groups is increasing. That way, community forestry sector contributes roughly $4 million annually (35 per cent of over $10 million) in the pro-poor targeted programs. Though there are accusations that the community forestry is under elite domination, it is not that poor are not getting any benefits. What is true is community forestry has the potential; the problem is of effective governance and law enforcement only.

The guideline also stipulates that among the two tiers of the organizational structure of CFUG, i.e. General Assembly (GA) and Executive Committee (EC), either chairperson or the secretary of the later one must be a woman. For maintaining a bank account of the group, there must be the joint signature one of which must be of woman. These provisions help in the empowerment of women and girls in decision making in public life and provide equal opportunities for leadership which are envisioned in the fifth goal of the SDGs. Similarly, there must be 50 per cent women participation in the EC with proportionate representation of Dalits, Jananatis, indigenous and marginalised people. This helps in reducing inequalities within the country, achieving inclusive and just societies and also in ensuring inclusive participation in public decision making. There are so many women-only run CFUGs that are reported to be even better than the generic ones. The provisions of annual public hearing and internal and public auditing help develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions ; CFUGs in this case.

The 25 per cent of the income from the CF, which is mandatory to be spent in forest management, development and protection activities helps minimise adverse effects of climate change, combat desertification, halt and reverse desertification and halt biodiversity loss.

The CFUGs have been doing other various activities like providing scholarships for the deserving students from their groups, constructing gobar-gas plants, constructing and/or maintaining physical infrastructures like roads, schools, hospital buildings and toilets to name a few. These all activities help accomplish the targets in one way or the other. The scholarships help in ensuring quality education, constructing toilets and hospitals helps in ensuring sanitation and healthy lives, constructing gobar-gas ensures access to affordable and sustainable energy and so on.

But it is neither the provisions nor the goals themselves that make difference. We have to act upon them to make the desired differences. The UN itself states that the SDGs are not stand-alone goals as were the MDGs. So it is not that wise to assert this sector/activity helps achieve this goal and that sector/activity helps achieve that goal. Achievement (or underachievement) of one goal has the impact on the achievement of other goals too. For example, eradicating poverty, ensuring sustainable consumption and production helps in reducing hunger, managing forests sustainably and scientifically helps in mitigating negative impacts of climate change, ensuring inclusive and quality education helps in creating peaceful, just and inclusive societies and so on. Evidence also show that families with educated mothers are healthier. So, either directly or indirectly, the forestry sector, particularly the community forestry has great impacts on the achievement of the global goals. Hence more budget needs to be allocated to the forestry sector and more work needs to be done for augmented benefits and its greater contribution towards the sustainable agenda.

And thankfully, it is not the politicians who run the Community Forest User Groups but the local people themselves who work for their own benefits. Hence the guidelines are also less likely to be infringed.