Australia: Forest carbon rights in REDD+ countries: a snapshot of Africa

Summary

The world's forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Not only does this endanger biodiversity and the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, it is a major contributing factor to global climate change. It is a challenge that needs to be addressed – urgently.

The international community has responded by developing a policy initiative to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, otherwise known as REDD+. The ongoing negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have seen substantial progress in the development of a potential REDD+ mechanism. In the interim, numerous countries have begun their preparations to become "ready for REDD+", with the assistance of both donor nations and the multilateral development banks. As this work progresses, it is becoming clear that there is a need to develop a consistent approach to the concept of "carbon rights" in national REDD+ regimes.

This report draws from public material and our experience in acting for a range of government and private participants in the area of REDD+ to ask how forest carbon rights are being approached in practice. In light of our experience and the excitement about the potential contribution of REDD+ in Africa, we have focused our attention on five African nations: Kenya, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Some key questions we have considered include:

  • What are some of the elements of a workable forest carbon regime that are emerging from policy discussions?
  • What aspects of existing tenure, forest and environment regimes are relevant to these elements, particularly as the basis for establishing beneficial proxy models to govern early-stage demonstration activities?
  • What do the above questions tell us about how forest carbon regimes should develop further in order to move forward?

Although definitive conclusions are not possible without further consideration beyond a legal analysis, some preliminary conclusions reached include:

  • Most countries have useful laws relating to forest and environmental management that could be developed further to address REDD+, although this will be a question of implementation capacity
  • Existing issues with complex or insecure tenure arrangements will also potentially delay or frustrate the development of a consistent approach to forest carbon in a country
  • Centralised approaches that are consistent with existing laws may offer a good starting point, particularly when structured as central guidance that allows for regional implementation
  • Many countries are utilising pilot projects that could involve testing the role of the private sector in REDD+ activities
  • Some countries are looking at interesting ideas that could enhance their ability to attract REDD+ finance, both public and private

Andrew Hedges
Partner, European Head of Climate Change, London
Norton Rose LLP

Read the full report Forest carbon rights in REDD+ countries: a snapshot of Africa (pdf 994 KB)

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