Ruth Metzel of The Forests Dialogue offers insights on seven needs for translating REDD+ benefit sharing practice into policy and how to fulfill them.
In 2010, when the international community decided to add the “+” to REDD in the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 16) Cancun Agreements, they expanded the focus of the REDD+ initiative to include not only reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, but also conservation and enhancement of forest stocks and sustainable forest management. As the REDD+ mechanism matures, field practitioners increasingly recognize that basic governance functions and livelihood opportunities related to REDD+ projects are essential preconditions to avoid deforestation, enhance carbon stocks and guarantee project permanence.
Yet, few of the practical field experiences in implementing REDD+ benefit-sharing mechanisms “trickle up” to inform REDD+ policy at the international level. The COP-16 Cancun Agreements delineated full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous and local communities, as a key safeguard for REDD+ initiatives. At the most recent UNFCCC COP 20 in Lima this past December 2014, however, efforts to strengthen governance of forest resources were still recognized as urgent needs in REDD+ post-2015 implementation. Enter The Forests Dialogue (TFD)'s REDD+ Benefit-Sharing Initiative. In March 2013, a Scoping Dialogue, organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and TFD in collaboration with the Program on Forests (PROFOR), identified seven needs in the design of REDD+ Benefit-Sharing Mechanisms. TFD's initiative engaged over 250 REDD practitioners and leaders from 25 countries in four field dialogues in Ghana, Mexico, Peru, and Viet Nam. This process developed an understanding of how to address these benefit-sharing needs in order to strengthen international policies on stakeholder participation, governance of REDD+ initiatives and their corresponding benefit-sharing mechanisms. Below is a list of seven needs and the key findings that have emerged from the Initiative to guide the development of REDD+ benefit sharing mechanisms: 1. Define and use the multiple benefits of REDD+ to incentivize stakeholder engagement Multiple benefits mean different things to different stakeholders (cash vs. non-cash, indirect vs. direct, carbon vs. non-carbon), but all stakeholders value a multiplicity of benefits above and beyond emissions reductions and their corresponding cash payments. In Ghana, Portal Limited is an agroforestry business that is incorporating potential carbon income to diversify the income streams that make the project a sustainable source of economic revenue for the surrounding community. To incentivize stakeholder engagement, REDD+ projects and their communities should identify the bundle of benefits that can be used to incentivize stakeholders and leverage these multiple benefits. Ways of leveraging multiple benefits include combining and linking short-term and long-term benefits, and identifying and mapping multiple benefits within different land uses. 2. Identify and reduce REDD+ costs High implementation costs can be a major inhibiting factor in sharing benefits from REDD+, so to understand the net benefits that accrue to each stakeholder group, REDD+ projects first must understand the costs (non-monetary and monetary) borne by each. It is tempting to use an existing implementation mechanism to reduce the costs of REDD+ implementation, as Viet Nam has done by incorporating REDD+ into its existing Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme and Mexico has done by incorporating REDD+ into its existing rural development programs. However, using pre-existing frameworks may influence how stakeholders view REDD+ and its benefits. TFD's Review on Country Options for REDD+ Benefit Sharing (8MB PDF) explores these case studies in greater depth. 3. Communicate REDD+ benefit-sharing perspectives among stakeholder groups TFD's dialogues revealed the importance of multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms in REDD+ communication. Ghana's national forest forums, established in 2001, have served as critical consultation spaces on community resource management and policy issues like the nation's REDD Readiness Proposal. Similarly, Peru's indigenous and regional roundtables are platforms that facilitate communication of indigenous and local perspectives at the national level. 4. Optimize benefit-sharing according to efficiency, effectiveness and equity Discussions in the field dialogues focused on suggestions for processes that can be put in place to achieve procedural equity in the local context. These suggestions included local grievance mechanisms to mitigate conflict and facilitate collaboration, strategies for transparency, road map development on gender equity issues (see an example road map for Mexico below), livelihood-enhancing interventions that create diverse and sustainable benefit streams, and investing in locally controlled forestry.graphic-ga A Road Map for Addressing Gender Equity in Mexico, c. TFD Review on Country Options for REDD+ Benefit Sharing, 2014. 5. Identify beneficiaries when rights are unclear and the basis upon which to share benefits Depending on the underlying legal system, benefit-sharing systems may not always have a clear legal framework of rights and responsibilities on which they can rely to identify beneficiaries and a basis for benefit sharing. In cases where these legal frameworks will take some time to develop, immediate-term arrangements like contracts can “bridge the gap between the present need for engagement and a future circumstance in which rights are codified in law”1. For example, Conservation International has used incentive-based contract agreements in their work within the Alto Mayo Protected Forest (BPAM) in Peru, the world's first REDD+ project in an existing protected area, and a project that generated a total 2.5 million tonnes of emissions reductions from 2008-2012. Different phases of REDD+ projects may call for different bases for benefit sharing, with input-based approaches more common at earlier stages and performance-based approaches more relevant later in project development. Traditional or customary laws can be very helpful in designing benefit-sharing mechanisms tailored to the local level. 6. Obtain the active engagement of the private sector in generating and sharing benefits TFD's series of dialogues revealed many examples of private sector actors engaging with REDD+ projects: smallholders, entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises and cooperatives, impact investors, commodity producers and other land users. Each private sector actor has a different entry point for engaging with REDD+. For some, like Chicza, a Mexican social enterprise, engagement may come from determining where REDD+ interventions would add value to their existing product or ecosystem-service supply chains. Public-private partnerships, like that of the Disney Corporation with Conservation International in Peru, are another way for the private sector to engage in benefit sharing. Private sector entrepreneurs and companies, like Portal Limited in Ghana, may also see REDD+ as an opportunity to diversify income streams while engaging local communities. 7. Design national programs to accommodate different local contexts National governments can accommodate local contexts by creating decentralized decision-making processes that: recognize the differences and linkages between project-level and national-level approaches; design a national framework that will guide the participatory design of benefit-sharing mechanisms in differing sub-national contexts; and ensure transparency and free access to information. TFD's REDD+ Benefit Sharing Initiative culminated with a presentation of these seven needs at COP 20 events in Peru this past December. The identified needs will go on to inform work by IUCN to implement the TFD Initiative's findings in their own REDD+ Benefit Sharing work around the world. However, in order for REDD+ Benefit Sharing strategies to be transformed into international policy priorities, international policy makers must listen carefully to the needs expressed through dialogue with leaders in the community of practice working in the field on REDD+ Benefit Sharing mechanisms and their associated challenges. For more in-depth case studies or more information about TFD's REDD+ Benefit-Sharing Initiative and its findings, please see the REDD+ Benefit-Sharing Handbook, TFD Review and Country Report (Peru).  TFD Review: Country Options for REDD+ Benefit Sharing.  What are REDD+ Safeguards?  Looking Forward: REDD+ post 2015. This blog originally appeared on the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Forest Policy and Practice web page.