The World Bank ‘Provisionally’ Approves the Democratic Republic of Congo’s REDD Programme

Originally published on Redd Monitor

By Chris Lang


Last week saw the 14th meeting of the Carbon Fund, part of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. At the meeting Costa Rica and the Democratic Republic of Congo presented their REDD programme plans. The Carbon Fund approved both country’s REDD plans (called Emmissions Reduction Program Documents in the World Bank’s jargon).

Here’s the Carbon Fund’s decision on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s REDD plan:

The Carbon Fund Participants … Decide to provisionally include the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ER-PD into the portfolio of both Tranche A and Tranche B of the Carbon Fund, provided that any commercial terms (such as advance payments, price etc.) included in the ER-PD are subject to subsequent negotiations of the Emission Reductions Payment Agreements (ERPAs)

The next step is the negotiation of the Emission Reductions Payment Agreement. These negotiations are private and will take place between the World Bank and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So the World Bank is going ahead with its first attempt at jurisdictional REDD. The Mai Ndombe REDD programme is the largest forest landscape conservation project ever in Africa. The Mai Ndombe REDD programme covers all of Mai Ndombe province, a total of 12.3 million hectares, of which 9.8 million is forest.

DRC’s ER-PD was largely written by Wildlife Works Carbon and WWF – both of which stand to benefit from the REDD programme. WWF has been working on the Mai Ndombe REDD programmesince 2010, with funding from Norway, the USA and Germany. Meanwhile Wildlife Works Carbon run the Mai Ndombe REDD project, a REDD project covering an area of about 300,000 hectares in Mai Ndombe province.

REDD myths

Last week, the World Bank wrote about the decision on its website under the headline, “Taking Climate Action from Paris to the Rainforests“.

The article starts with a couple of REDD myths:

“Tropical forest loss contributes 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions protecting and restoring tropical forests is vital to help mitigate climate change.”

True, in its 2007 report, the IPCC estimated that deforestation accounted for 17% of emissions. But in 2014 the IPCC produced its 5th Assessment, which states that in 2010 emissions from Forestry and Other Land Uses accounted for 11% of emissions. Here’s the graph from the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (page 7):

As well as showing that the World Bank is just making things up when it comes to the amount that deforestation contributes to greenhouse gases globally, the graph clearly shows that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel and industrial processes account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. And the emissions from burning fossil fuels is increasing dramatically.

Climate change is already having a serious impact on forests’ ability to store carbon. A paper published in March 2015 in Nature concludes that the Amazon is losing its capacity to absorb carbon. In the past decade, the carbon absorbed by the Amazon each year has decreased by about one-third.

While protecting people and their forests is crucially important, as a way of addressing climate change it is far less important than leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Mai Ndombe and the Paris Agreement

According to the World Bank, the Mai Ndombe REDD programme signals DRC’s “momentum to deliver on their national climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement (referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions)”.

DRC submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC in August 2015. Although REDD is mentioned in the INDC, there is no mention of the Mai Ndombe REDD programme. Most of the INDC reads like a funding proposal.

Here is a rough translation of the short section from the INDC that explains what DRC intends to do in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:

3.4. Reduction in GHG emissions

The DRC is committed to reducing its emissions by 17% by 2030 compared to emissions scenario of the status quo emissions (430 Mt CO2e), a reduction of just over 70 Mt CO2e avoided (Ministry Environment, 2009).

Indeed, the national context is as follows: (i) forest area in the DRC of about 152 million ha in 2010 (MEDD, 2015), (ii) deforestation rates observed between 1990 and 2010 of order of 0.32% (MEDD, 2015); (iii) deforestation and forest degradation mainly caused by commercial agriculture (~ 40%) and food (~ 20%) and cutting firewood (~ 20%). It is expected the support of projects to plant about 3 million hectares of forest at the latest in 2025 as part of afforestation and reforestation programs, which would sequester approximately 3 million tons of CO2.