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Introduction to the Forum - by Graham Stuart MP

2GIFF-Graham-Stuart-MP

Ministers, Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen

I would like to welcome you all to the 2nd GLOBE International Forest Forum on behalf of the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE). We are honoured to have you all here, marking over 2 years of the activity of the GLOBE Forest Legislation Initiative.

For GLOBE International, which works more broadly on climate change and sustainable development, the need for a structured policy programme on forests has become clear over the past few years. We have seen forests taking on a prominent role in the international climate change negotiations.

Increasingly, it has been realised that it will be impossible to limit global warming to two degrees - the target agreed upon by governments under the UN climate negotiations - without an international mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 20 % of global CO2 emissions.

The international tool to reduce emissions from deforestation - REDD - has emerged as a major issue in the international climate change negotiations. As you know, the idea behind REDD is that developed economies with emission reduction obligations pay developing countries, where most of the world's major intact forests are found, for the service they provide in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it up. In the first years, REDD was seen as a cheap, fast and easy way to reduce emissions. It is now accepted that it is expensive, that it will take a long time and that it is certainly not easy. It has become one of several stumbling blocks of the climate change negotiations. Yet we cannot tackle climate change without it.

One of the reasons that REDD is difficult is the lack of finance to make it happen. Another claim is that many countries do not have the capacity to make it work. Yet I believe that one of the solutions to the problem is in fact present in this room. Some of the most important actors to make REDD work are not the negotiators crammed in meeting rooms 2 km from us, but you - fellow legislators - who will be providing the political will, devise the legal frameworks, oversee and scrutinise the implementation of a REDD mechanism to make it work.

REDD is currently not much more than the first few lines of an architectural drawing, scribbled by technical experts on a piece of paper. You, as elected representatives of your people, and national lawmakers, are providing the building blocks and willpower to transform it into something real.

I would like to quickly outline 4 ways in which parliaments and legislators can make REDD work:

1) As legislators, you develop the legal frameworks that are necessary to create conditions that are necessary for REDD to work. The GLOBE Forest Legislation Study, which we are launching here today, outlines a number of legislative reforms that countries need to pursue over the coming few years. No REDD donor or private investor would ever throw their money into a legal void or 'black hole'. Even if we get a very ambitious REDD finance agreement, none of the money will flow unless clear standards for monitoring, reporting & verification (MRV) of emission reductions are in place. Legislation is also crucial for deciding who will reap the benefits of REDD, land tenure reform and environmental & social safeguards.

2) Creating a strong legal framework is only the first step, as we all know: good legislation on the books is worth nothing without good implementation. That is why national legislators must also use their oversight power to ensure that laws are being properly enforced and that funds are properly managed. If REDD is to generate the billions of dollars that have been promised in international negotiations so far, strict financial management and anti-corruption safeguards will be required. Parliaments throught their oversight can provide transparency, accountability & scrutiny of the management of such funds and increase investor and donor confidence.

3) Alongside their legislative and oversight roles, parliamentarians can also support REDD+ goals in national budget debates. In countries where the parliament is actively engaged in determining the national budget, legislators can request that sufficient climate-related forest expenditure is allocated to support the implementation of the REDD+ strategy. Often the institutions responsible for managing countries' forest reserves have inadequate resources to effectively enforce the laws and address illegal activity; so parliamentary pressure to call for greater implementation capacity would support REDD+ goals.

4) Finally, and probably most importantly, legislators have the responsibility of representing the rights of their constituents. This is of particular importance for REDD+ as it is critical that the views and concerns of forest communities are heard in national policy debates about addressing deforestation. Therefore, legislators who represent tropical forested constituencies must play an active role in both listening to the people who live in and around the forests, and championing their cause in order to ensure the REDD+ delivers pro-poor development solutions.

Considering this and based on my conversations with legislators in many countries over the last two years, I have been concerned by the lack of awareness and understanding of the potential benefits of REDD+ within the parliaments of many forested developing countries. What is even more concerning is the limited to almost none existent effort that has been made by international organisations to engage with legislators to develop their support for REDD+. Without securing the support of legislators to create the national legal frameworks REDD+ will not work.

This was the rationale for launching the GLOBE Forest Legislation Initiative in May 2011. This innovative programme works directly with legislators in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Mexico - and has recently expanded to cover Colombia and Peru since last June. The initiative aims at strengthening the role of legislators in achieving the goals of REDD+. Thoughout our conference today, colleagues will tell you more about the results of this work and our goals for its next phase. 

Yet I see very few of the large international REDD initiatives driven by multilateral organizations and governments engaging with legislators. Given the paramount importance of legislators for creating political acceptance and legitimacy of REDD, I find this quite astounding. Even if negotiators manage to design a flawless REDD mechanism on their drawing board, ahead of COP21 in Paris in 2015, this mechanism will not succeed unless it is done in parallel with support to national legislation which will make REDD work. Engagement with parliaments will help countries move from the drawing board to delivering real results: reduction of emissions from deforestation, sustainable forest management & respect of the rights of people who depend on forests for their livelihoods. 

Engagements with parliaments is absolutely crucial for the negotiations going on next door to succeed – and for a future REDD agreement to transform from COP decision texts into reality.

Thank you very much