Norway’s failed REDD experiment in Tanzania

Norway launched REDD in Tanzania in 2008, with a promise to fund US$83 million over a five year period. But in a recent article in Development Today, Jens Friis Lund, Mathew Bukhi Mabele and Susanne Koch argue that Norway’s involvement in REDD in Tanzania “failed to produce models that work”.

Lund, Mabele and Koch write that,

Norway’s effort has therefore not only wasted time and resources. It also represents a lost opportunity for forests and people in Tanzania. The reason, we believe, is that Norway fell into a common donor trap, disregarding on-going processes and setting up parallel structures that had to start from scratch.

In October 2016, REDD-Monitor wrote about a paper titled “Promising Change, Delivering Continuity: REDD+ as Conservation Fad”, published in World Development. Lund and Mabele were two of the authors of the paper, which argues that,

REDD+ represents a promise of change that is carefully managed to ensure a balance between discursive change and continuity in practice that allow certain actors within the development and conservation industry to tap into financial resources.

Susanne Koch, the third author of the Development Today piece, is the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy of the Technical University of Munich. She has a forthcoming paper in Forest Policy and Economics titled, “International influence on forest governance in Tanzania: Analysing the role of aid experts in the REDD+ process”.

“Forest governance in many African countries is characterised by a blatant gap between policy and implementation,” Koch writes. But rather than explaining away this gap with arguments about not enough aid money or capacity weaknesses, Koch focusses aid as a cause of implementation failure.

Undermining democracy

The paper illustrates how donor experts use their position of power to push the latest “conservation fads” on governments of the Global South. Meanwhile, governments on the receiving end, as well as civil society and academia, use their international “partners” to pursue their own ends.

Although aid agencies have formally abandoned aid conditionality and don’t set priorities there is still “a persistent element of coercion conveyed by ‘advice’ which permits experts to enforce policy decisions without explicitly demanding them”, Koch writes.

This form of neo-colonial external influence undermines the legitimacy of democratic governments.

The research included interviews between 2012 and 2013 with government decision-makers and bureaucrats, representatives and technical staff of international agencies and an academic working in the field. Some of the most interesting parts of the paper are quotations from these interviews.

A Norwegian embassy official explained why Norway was interested in REDD in Tanzania:

Tanzania was already chosen as one of the countries that we wanted to try this out. And why Tanzania was chosen was because we wanted to have African countries and also wanted to have countries with dry forests (…). So very early the embassy here, the ambassador started dialogue with the government in this country to see if there was an interest. And it was.

REDD and carbon trading

While at first glance, the REDD process in Tanzania appeared to be participatory, Koch quotes from a 2014 evaluation, which found that,

the consultations have been of quite a general nature seeking to promote REDD+ rather than having more focused thematic consultations with different affected target groups, where actual critical inputs to the REDD+ Strategy process could have been collected. Moreover, much of the country-wide processes for the Strategy have been heavily focused on local government staff with few NGO participants and with no real representation of forest dependent communities and indigenous peoples organisations.

The main parties involved in REDD discussions were donors, the government, and NGOs.

A discussion about financial flows highlights some of the problems. The government preferred a central government-controlled trust fund. NGOs preferred a nested approach, arguing that linking local foresters with international carbon markets, would “provide a stronger incentive” and “ensure communities are rewarded for their individual efforts to reduce deforestation on lands under their control”.

As Koch points out, it would also allow NGOs to play a greater role in the REDD regime, particularly as brokers of carbon credits.

Norway did not officially take sides in this discussion. But Norway’s experts criticised the emphasis on a Trust Fund in the draft REDD+ Strategy for Tanzania, along with calls for more stakeholder engagement of civil society and the private sector, and social, environmental and governance safeguards.

As a Tanzanian government official pointed out,

Donors are part and parcel of the REDD development process, globally and nationally. And their comments at one particular point of time have to be considered (…). Because finally you don’t need to produce something which will be one-sided. REDD is not a one-sided business. We are talking of selling carbon and where are the markets for carbon? They are not in Tanzania.

REDD is a dangerous distraction

In their article for Development Today, Lund, Mabele and Koch conclude that,

[W]hile the intensive and widely shared enthusiasm about the REDD+ experiment in Tanzania has evaporated, the thorny problem of climate mitigation which REDD+ was supposed to address remains. Norway’s many millions have not done much to address that problem. Rather, as Chris Lang put it more than two years ago in these pages, Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative looks increasingly like a distraction from the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Exactly. And the fact that Norway’s greenhouse gases increased by 1.1% in 2015, and have increased 4.2% since 1990, only reinforces this argument. Norway’s emissions from oil and gas have increased by 83% since 1990.


PHOTO Credit: “Article about corruption in Norwegian funded REDD project in Tanzania”, focali.se.

Decision on REDD in California postponed – for a couple of months

Screenshot 2015-04-15 22.21.54Yesterday, California’s Air Resources Board released a preliminary draft of proposed amendments to its Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) aimed at extending the cap and trade scheme beyond 2020. The big news for REDD watchers is that the ARB’s preliminary draft excludes making a decision on whether to allow REDD credits in California’s cap and trade scheme.

The preliminary draft is available here.

Tucked away on page 22 of the The 443-page preliminary draft is the following:

ARB staff is not proposing any regulatory amendments related to sector-based offset crediting or tropical forests in this rulemaking; rather, ARB staff anticipates that ongoing discussions with stakeholders will resume with additional informal public meetings outside of this rulemaking starting in the fall of 2016.

REDD, then, is being given a decision-making process outside the rulemaking process outlined in ARB’s preliminary draft. The REDD process will “resume” in Autumn 2016.

The rulemaking process

The process for the rulemaking (not including REDD) is as follows. On 19 July 2016, the Air Resources Board will present the preliminary draft to the Office of Administrative Law, which will conduct a review of the draft.

The Air Resources Board may revise the draft based on the Office of Administrative Law’s review. On 2 August 2016, the Air Resources Board will post the revised version of the draft on its website.

A formal public comment period will then run from 5 August to 19 September 2016.

On 22-23 September 2016, the Air Resources Board will hold a hearing to discuss the proposed amendments. A second hearing to vote on the proposed amendments will take place on 23-24 March 2017.

The REDD process

Here are the two paragraphs relevant to the decision about REDD in California:

4. Linkage with External Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Systems and Programs

b. Other Linkages and Linkage-Related Partnerships

Sector-Based Crediting Programs, including Acre, Brazil

As described in Chapter I of this Staff Report, ARB held public workshops on a number of topics that helped inform the amendments contained in this proposal. Four of those workshops addressed the potential of approving the use of sector-based offset credits from the tropical forestry sector within the Cap-and-Trade Program by developing a set of regulatory standards against which potential partner jurisdictions’ tropical forestry programs would be assessed for linkage. More information on these workshops is presented in Chapter IX and Appendix F of this Staff Report. ARB staff identified the jurisdictional program in Acre, Brazil as a program that is ready to be considered for linkage with California. ARB staff received numerous informal comments following the workshops. Some comments suggested specific recommended approaches, some opposed any action, some supported ARB staff’s initial thinking as outlined in an October 19, 2015 staff paper and as described in the four workshops, and some recommended that staff conduct additional stakeholder engagement before proposing any regulatory amendments.

ARB staff has presented information about how linkage with a state-of-the-art, jurisdictional sector-based offset program can provide significant benefits to California’s Cap-and-Trade Program by assuring an adequate supply of high-quality compliance offsets to keep the cost of compliance within reasonable bounds, up to the quantitative usage limit for sector-based offsets. Linkage would also support California’s broad climate goals, as well as global biodiversity and tropical forest communities. (ARB 2015a) After reviewing the workshop results, and in order to ensure coordination with Québec and Ontario, ARB staff is proposing to continue discussing with stakeholders and partner jurisdictions, including Acre and others in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, on the regulatory path to optimize the multiple benefits of including sector-based offsets in California’s program, including through a linkage with Acre, in time to be used to meet compliance obligations incurred in the third compliance period and thereafter. ARB staff is not proposing any regulatory amendments related to sector-based offset crediting or tropical forests in this rulemaking; rather, ARB staff anticipates that ongoing discussions with stakeholders will resume with additional informal public meetings outside of this rulemaking starting in the fall of 2016. These meetings will also solicit and consider additional tools the State of California could employ to mitigate tropical deforestation, including measures to encourage sustainable supply chain efforts by public and private entities.

So discussions on REDD in California will re-start in Autumn 2016, separate from the rulemaking process outlined above.

ARB’s pro-REDD, pro-carbon trading, pro-neoliberal bias

The bias in the second paragraph is blatant. As is the bias in the White Paper on REDD that the Air Resources Board produced in October 2015.

The ARB makes no mention in this second paragraph of the problems associated with REDD, just the “significant benefits” to California’s cap and trade scheme of providing cheap carbon credits.

According to the ARB, REDD would support California’s climate goals. Of course the ARB doesn’t mention the awkward fact that carbon trading does not reduce emissions. For every REDD credit sold from Brazil, an additional tonne of CO2 would be emitted in California.

The ARB argues that REDD will benefit “global biodiversity” and tropical forest communities. Then again, it could undermine peasant farming and lead to increased land conflicts, without protecting biodiversity.

The ARB does not mention the low-income communities and communities of colour in California who are opposed to letting polluting industry continue to poison their air.

Kicking the REDD can down the road

Nevertheless, ARB staff are not proposing making a decision on including REDD in this preliminary draft. Instead ARB proposes discussions with “stakeholders and partner jurisdictions”,

on the regulatory path to optimize the multiple benefits of including sector-based offsets in California’s program, including through a linkage with Acre, in time to be used to meet compliance obligations incurred in the third compliance period and thereafter.

The third compliance period runs from 2018 to 2020.

One possible reason for the ARB’s decision to delay a decision on REDD is to try to avoid additional controversy. The most recent auction sold only 10% of the allowances put up for sale. The cap and trade scheme faces a lawsuit from the Chamber of Commerce that argues that allowance auctions function as a tax – an unconstitutional tax since it was introduced without the two-thirds majority in the Legislature that is required for new taxes.

Brown in talks with big oil

Meanwhile, oil industry leaders are talking to California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration. The purpose of the talks, according to Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, is “to improve the state’s current climate change programs.” WSPA has spent US$12.8 million on lobbying in the 2015-2016 legislative period, making it the top spending lobby group in California.

As Dan Bacher points out,

Underneath California’s reputation as a “green leader” is a dark and oily reality—the state is the third largest petroleum producer in the nation, and the oil industry is California’s largest and most powerful political lobby.

No wonder Brown’s administration is so keen on REDD and carbon trading.