Press Release / Dec. 16, 2010

Forest protection negotiations turn a corner in Cancún

An agreement to combat deforestation and forest degradation reached at climate talks in Cancún has laid important groundwork for meaningful collective action and helped restore confidence in multilateral climate negotiations, said Global Witness. Although the wider climate agreement disappointed by failing to improve reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, tangible progress on deforestation represented a welcome bright spot. The deal will be judged on its implementation, but agreements on social and environmental safeguards in a deal to reduce forest loss by paying developing countries to preserve their forests mark an important breakthrough.

”After three years of hard negotiations we now have a basis for combating deforestation integrated in an agreement on climate, which marks an important step. But our task is not over here,” said Dr. Roz Reeve of Global Witness. ”The challenge now is in the detail, to turn countries' obligations into reality. If we collectively rise to this challenge we stand a chance of saving the world's forests for future generations.”

Forest loss accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transport industry every year, significantly contributing to climate change. The scheme agreed at Cancún, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), seeks to combat this problem by making forests more valuable when they are standing. Rich countries compensate poor countries for preserving their forests, thereby reducing global emissions.

Key areas of progress at Cancún include:

  • Official agreement on an overarching goal to slow, halt and reverse the loss of forest cover and carbon emissions, and commitments to address the ‘drivers’ of deforestation such as population pressure and global demand for timber products;
  • Under REDD+, clear requirements to ensure the implementation of social and environmental safeguards, and development of a system for providing information on how these safeguards are being addressed;
  • The overall Cancún text explicitly mandates full respect of human rights and refers to the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • It also contains provisions for effective monitoring/measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) throughout.

These developments are promising, but the key challenge is to ensure that what has been agreed on paper is delivered and developed in reality. In the year ahead, all countries need to take their stated obligations seriously, particularly with regard to social and environmental safeguards. Global Witness will be closely examining the national strategies and readiness plans currently under development in heavily forested countries, to ensure they deliver in the following areas:

  • Assessment and, when necessary, development and monitoring of governance capacities of recipient countries;
  • Ensuring the transparency of money flows to prevent funds being lost to corruption;
  • Ensuring the full participation of stakeholders, including civil society, in the implementation of REDD+;
  • Prioritising environmental benefits and the protection of natural forests;
  • Avoiding perverse incentives that could reward industrial logging in natural forests.


Contact: Chloe Fussell, +44 (0)7790 464 596, [email protected]

              Oliver Courtney, +44 (0)7815 731889, [email protected]