Post-Paris – what’s next for the forests? Report from Oslo REDD Exchange June 2016

by Denis Sonwa (ELP 2010) | Scientist, Center for International Forestry Research, CameroonElise Christensen (ELP 2010) | Program Officer, UNDP – UNEP Poverty and Environment Initiative, Norway (in Kenya)

In June 2016 more than 500 people from 47 countries gathered in Oslo for the world’s largest rainforest conference, Oslo REDD Exchange. Broad consensus was confirmed on the urgency of reducing deforestation in order to reach the Paris agreement goals. 

Since 2007, the year when Reduction of Emissions due to Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) became officially part of the agenda of UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Bali (COP13), the global network of forest countries implementing REDD+ policies have grown rapidly. So has the number of partner countries, civil society organizations, research communities and dedicated private sector enterprises working on REDD+ globally, of whom many were present at the world’s largest rainforest conference, Oslo REDD Exchange, that took place in Oslo in June last year. Organized by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and hosted by the government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), the conference aimed to take stock of how REDD+ implementation is happening at the national and sub-national level as well as discussing how the international community can provide support to REDD+ in the Post-Paris context. 

Measures in forests can contribute with up to one-third of the effort that is needed to limit global warming to well below two degrees (Pan et al 2009, Baccini et al 2012, IPCC WGIII). The Paris agreement will underpin efforts to reduce deforestation, in the years to come. Many countries have included forest sector measures in their nationally determined contributions (NDC) under the agreement. The Oslo REDD Exchange confirmed broad consensus on the need to take the post-Paris momentum forward to achieve the goal of emission reductions from forests and land use change through REDD+ and that it will be crucial to review the role of REDD in the context of countries’ national emission reductions obligations post-Paris. 

One of the highlights of the conference was a joint statement signed between the State Secretary of the US, John Kerry, and Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, to pursue deeper and more extensive collaboration on forest and climate change. In the statement, Norway and the US underscore that the global climate goals will not be within reach unless the remaining tropical forest is protected.  According to the statement Norway and the US will support implementation of country’s climate targets related to forest and land use change, in cooperation with ambitious forest countries.  

The joint statement also highlights combating illegal logging and illegal deforestation as an area of priority. According to Interpol, illegal logging accounts for 50-90 percent of all forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as those of the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and 15-30 percent of all wood traded globally.

Illegal logging also occurs in many formally protected forests, especially in tropical countries. The trade in illegally harvested timber is highly lucrative and estimated to be worth between USD 30 and USD 100 billion annually. Experiences from Brazil show that halting illegal logging can give rapid and considerable reduction in deforestation. However, it is a challenge that many countries have low capacity to implement and enforce legislation and forest protection. In the US, the Lacey Act is a key legal instrument, which makes it a crime to import plants that have been collected illegally in the country of origin. 

During the conference, private sector pledges for zero deforestation were also at the center of discussions, as well as other potential sources of financing for REDD+ such as ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).

It was echoed throughout the conference that achieving emission reductions from deforestation needs to happen in the context of a sustainable development and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). There is thus a need for multi-stakeholder and multi-sector approaches in implementing REDD+. This REDD+ implementation will thus need to consider sectors such as agriculture, energy, green growth, finance, etc. However, strong concerns were expressed, as the prospects for international financing of REDD+ are currently less than expected. It was highlighted that the absence of predictable finance for compensating communities could negatively affect REDD+ at the national level and affect local community engagement. Another concern raised was the challenge of successfully integrating gender in the REDD+ implementation and the continuous need to strengthen indigenous peoples’ tenure rights as a vital measure to protect the world’s forests.  At the same time, cases of successful progress made in reducing deforestation and forest degradation were well documented, including Brazil's unprecedented achievement of reducing deforestation in the Amazon by 70%. 

To read the report and the Norway-US Joint statement from the conference:

Among the participants, 2 ELP 2010 were also attending. Elise Christensen who is now Special Envoy for Climate and Forest at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bogota (Colombia) and Denis J. Sonwa, who is now working for both CIFOR and IITA in Yaoundé (Cameroon). In his new position, Denis is working on the linkage between Agriculture and climate change in forests landscapes. 


Figure SPM1 AR5 WGIII, IPCC 2014

Baccini, A. et al. 2012. "Estimated carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation improved by carbon-density maps." Nature Climate Change 2 (3):182–185.

Pan, Y. D. et al. 2009. "A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World's Forests." Science 333 (6045):988–993