Monthly Archives: February 2019

The Indonesia-Norway REDD+ Partnership

“Thank God for the Norwegians”, a Jakarta-based environmental aid official said to me in March 2011, in awe of the game-changing impact that Norway’s billion-dollar International Climate and Forest Initiative was having on the Indonesian forest conservation scene. Ten months earlier, the Indonesia-Norway REDD+ Partnership had been signed into being through a Letter of Intent (LoI) between the two governments. Suddenly, it seemed, a new ending had been written for the story of Indonesia’s forests, after decades of frustration, inaction, corruption, deforestation and carbon emissions, otherwise known as ‘business as usual’. President Yudhoyono was fully engaged, keen young and forceful older Indonesians were assigned to reform the old system, while the provinces were falling over each other to cooperate. It was a good time to lead the first review of the Indonesia-Norway REDD+ Partnership [1].

Indonesian forests and peatlands have long been degraded by demand for forest products and plantation land, with the pressures made worse by a changing climate and the fire-proneness of damaged and desiccated ecosystems. It was always going to be a challenge to reduce emissions from land use here, or to increase security of biodiversity, natural ecosystems and traditional ways of life, all of them vital to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD)+. But in 2009, the country’s leadership realised the scale of Indonesia’s contribution to climate change, and its vulnerability to the consequences. With Norway keen to support tropical REDD+, it wasn’t long before they began to talk, and the result was the LoI in which Indonesia agreed to attempt forestry reforms and Norway promised up to a billion dollars to enable and reward success. The LoI envisioned three phases: (1) for establishing institutions and capacity, (2) for transforming forest management and governance, and (3) for delivering verified emission reductions. None was expected to be simple or quick.

By the time I went back to lead the second review of the Partnership in 2013 [2], things were looking good. There had been rapid progress on a moratorium on new forest concessions for logging and plantations in primary forests, on national and sub-national REDD+ strategies, on a publicly-accessible database (‘One Map’) with 85 data layers, including all forests, peatlands and concessions (unprecedented in the secretive forest sector), and on establishing a ministerial-level REDD+ Agency. The latter was set up in August 2013, and became a real powerhouse of Indonesian conservation talent, thought and energy. In my career I have been privileged to visit several institutions in the full flush of their youth and enthusiasm: the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity in the Philippines, the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development in Guyana, the National Biodiversity Institute in Costa Rica; well, Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency was like that.

It led the LoI process until early 2015, but it couldn’t last. It was becoming very effective, but it was outside the Indonesian bureaucracy and not remotely sustainable. It could have done with another year or two to consolidate some things, but the newly-elected President Widodo ordered the ministries of environment and forestry to become one Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), which would absorb the REDD+ Agency and disperse its responsibilities throughout the new institution. The challenges of merging these two very different ministries caused a severe loss of Phase 2 momentum during 2015-16. The third review of the LoI process was also delayed, and only in 2018 did I have the opportunity to understand the previous five years, and to describe the current position [3]. It turned out that although staff of the former REDD+ Agency had largely scattered, ecological events had put many of the things that they had been working on back on the national agenda. Thus, forest and peatland fires in late 2015 caused immense damage in Indonesia and led to a strong response in the forms of new and enhanced regulations, a new Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG), and increased policy priority for fire prevention, One Map, law enforcement, social forestry, and land reform. Meanwhile, the LoI had been automatically renewed at the end of 2016, while Norway continued to support its various Indonesian partners, by such means as funding the new BRG and delivering capacity-building support to KLHK and others. So the Partnership remained very much alive.

Moreover, essential parts of an agreed system for accounting, earning, receiving and managing payments for verified emission reductions could only be put in place by government, and these were now nearing completion. Better, after all the investment in mapping and monitoring, there was good evidence that the loss of Indonesian forest cover in 2017 was less than in 2016. We suggested having a look at the numbers again in early 2020, to confirm a real trend in reducing forest loss and hopefully justifying a huge party on the tenth anniversary of the LoI on 26 May 2020. But the data were good enough already, and on 16 February 2019 ministers for the two Partners announced that reduced deforestation in Indonesia had triggered the first payment for results – nearly five million tonnes of reduced emissions! [4]. This good news validates the long-term strategy of both Partners, which is based on the truth that solving complex environmental problems requires sustained effort and flexible investment, involves many stakeholders and relationships, and makes it necessary to accept that there may only be slow directional change over a long period, with fewer dramatic breakthroughs than one might like.

[1]www.ccmin.aippnet.org/pdfs/Indonesia-Norway%20REDD+%20Partnership-%20first%20evaluation%20of%20deliverables%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf

[2]www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/78ef00f5b01148e2973dca203463caee/indonesia-norway-reddsecond-verification-final-report.pdf

[3]https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/56473ac483ff4f8fa537bd5dfda9d57b/idn-nor-third-review–final-report.pdf

[4]www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/indonesia-reports-reduced-deforestation-triggering-first-carbon-payment-from-norway/id2629504/

© Julian Caldecott

On Citizens’ Assemblies

The Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a growing movement among those willing to take or support non-violent direct action to reform ‘business as usual’ (BAU) in order to fix global heating, ecological collapse and mass extinction. It’s allied with like-minded movements and blessed by the gurus, priests and shamans of numerous faiths and philosophies. I joined XR because after so many years pushing for ecological system change around the world, here at last was a global mass movement that might be able to create political momentum for serious reform. It has three demands which I summarise and interpret as follows.

  • First, the governing elite must tell the truth about the state of the biosphere, the ways of the BAU that threaten its integrity, and their implications for humanity and nature.
  • Second, the governing elite must act effectively and with extreme urgency to address and resolve all threats to the integrity of the biosphere.
  • And third, a new system of leadership and governance must be installed, to guide and supervise reform of the current BAU, so as to ensure effective change and maintain the spirit of inclusiveness and democratic accountability.

Meeting the first demand means building public understanding and support for decisive action, while accepting that depression and fear are natural responses to truth about the world that we have made. Meeting the second demand means making deep and far-reaching changes to the BAU system, going far beyond anything so far agreed but consistent with the true situation that has resulted from past inaction. The third demand is the one that strikes most directly at the ability of the governing elite and BAU system to resist, delay and undermine reform efforts.

It is based on the reasonable beliefs that the ecological problems confronting humanity are too complex and urgent to be handled effectively by current decision-making arrangements, that the BAU system cannot be trusted to reform itself, and that the existing party-based political arrangements are too influenced by those who control BAU to be able to take the necessary hard decisions. This is not to say that individual legislators and businessmen are incompetent or untrustworthy, but it does recognise that established systems of interest and privilege tend to paralyse or misdirect change, at a time when urgent, directional reform is essential.

How decisions are made is important, as it sets the tone for future relationships among people and between people and nature. So any new decision-making forum should be inclusive in its construction, while also being informed and free of undue influence in its deliberations, and able to reach clear, quick, wise and useful decisions. Taking these factors into account, XR proposes to put in place a new Citizens’ Assembly to make strategic decisions. Members would be chosen through ‘sortition’ – that is random selection, like in jury service. The several hundred members would then be given access to expert advice (including a crash-course in ecology and planetary systems science) before deciding how we should proceed.

I speculate that such strategic decisions might focus on how to ensure that ecological reality always takes precedence over human laws (e.g. a Peace with Nature Constitution), or on how to protect the interests of vulnerable and future people and non-human species in all decisions (e.g. the appointment of Tribunes with veto powers). But they would certainly include priorities for combating climate change and mass extinction that are binding on all institutions and sectors. In short, for the specific purpose of making hard decisions to solve the problems of climate change, ecological collapse and mass extinction, a Citizens’ Assembly offers a way to combine the democratic strengths of informed public opinion with the serious responsibilities of jury service. This seems to me well worth demanding. See you on the streets!

© Julian Caldecott

Leadership

Leadership is the skill with which a group’s needs and desires are detected, shaped, and steered. This is worth thinking about, because we are surrounded and blathered at by people claiming to be ‘leaders’ – of political parties and countries especially – but few of them are any good at it. As a result, we are in a real pickle – doomed to being driven mad (e.g. by Brexit) and then extinct (e.g. by climate change). In short, we need good leadership, and urgently. But how to recognise it?

The idea of leadership. The  verb ‘to lead’ comes from the Old English lǣdan (‘lead’) and lād (‘journey’, ‘way’, ‘course’), and it’s linked to ‘load’ (things you carry on a journey) and ‘lode’ (as in lodestar and lodestone, things that guide you on a journey). People have been migrating for scores of millennia (from Africa to Australia and the Americas), and even settled peoples can never afford to forget how to do it as there is always the risk of drought, sea-level rise and invasion. So the idea of a person responsible for starting and steering a journey must be utterly primal. But a group must be ready to travel before a leader can shape a vague motivation to move into enthusiasm for a journey in a particular direction, with all its dangers and labours. And physical travel is only where the idea of leadership came from originally; it now covers other kinds of journey, ones that involve change and progress in relationships between people, and between people and their environments. All require similar skills in managing conflict by dispensing justice, managing relations with other groups, understanding and articulating the needs and desires of groups, and choosing directions and destinations. Leadership is the artistry in doing all these things – and ‘good leadership’ means doing them well.

Why is leadership so hard? Because it brings together every other mental capacity. It requires all signs in the environment to be seen and understood, including the moods of people, nature, and the spirit world, the behaviour of animals, the crying of babies, the texture of grass and soil, and the frequency, intensity and content of social disputes. Many of the clues are subtle – the bad temper of white-tipped reef sharks just before an earthquake, for example – while others (such as the dust of an approaching army) are anything but. In any case, there is a long list, from which particular indicators are chosen (as influenced by culture, itself shaped by experience in that particular environment), and their significance marshalled into a story that can help the group’s ideas and desires take form. These will have been influenced by the same signals that the leader has detected, but perhaps not organised so well or in the same way.

Why do leaders have to be brave? Many important environmental and social signals cannot be appreciated without knowledge and attention to detail, so they may only be recognised by a few people. This applies often in large, complex or fragmented societies in which there are many distractions, and especially involve environmental threats (such as slowly-deteriorating ecological conditions) and social threats (such as slowly-growing inequality, corruption, and political polarisation). Here, if the threats are severe and solutions are needed urgently, but there is little public appreciation of the need for action, an essential quality of leadership is a willingness to act decisively to safeguard the group but in advance of public opinion.

Leaders must make sense of complexity. Modern societies comprise millions of people in political systems and billions in economic ones, and have complex distributions of power among class, caste, gender, ethnic, ideological, and other groups. Distilling useful messages from so many people now requires very selective listening (to focal groups, poll samples, and factional leaders), and very crude messaging about the intentions of the leadership. One-size-fits all price signals, slogans and binary choices tend to replace the subtleties of social discourse, and minorities that cannot build alliances to form large voting blocks tend to be ignored. Only through universal, high-quality education can good minority ideas (such as equity and sustainability) spread widely, and only through local empowerment and decentralisation can accountable governance be maintained in ultra-large political systems. But both education and localism are needed, since otherwise leadership in large societies produces non-inclusive and polarised outcomes. And when these outcomes are challenged by dire events in the social sphere (e.g. through insurrection by the dispossessed), the economic sphere (e.g. through technological or market changes), or the environmental sphere (e.g. through the consequences of climate change), then polarised outcomes can quickly turn into despotic ones. Then we end up with warlords rather than good leaders running the world.

So what are we looking for? Good leadership must include the competence to identify key challenges, the attention given to diverse signals about them and how they are likely to affect the group, the intelligence needed to seek, discriminate and absorb sound advice about what to do about them, the articulacy to explain and build support for a collective course of action that will minimise harm and maximise benefit for most people in the long run, and the flexibility to maintain alliances while adapting to events. So a good leader must be competent, attentive, intelligent, articulate, and flexible, and in the modern world all this must be combined with a surety of touch in communicating with very diverse audiences. How many of those who claim to be leaders come close? Have a look at the UK parliament right now, and see what you think.

© Julian Caldecott

Towards a Peace with Nature Constitution

People ask why I carry a ‘Peace with Nature’ flag at Extinction Rebellion demonstrations. I say it’s because humanity has got into the habit of waging war on nature, but this is a war that we simply cannot win. So we need to give up, surrender, relax, and submit to ecological reality instead. But the habit of war against nature is so strong – how do we break it? My answer is that we need a process of steady, educational change in a consistent direction, as our forces are demobilised and our societies reorganised for peace and sustainability. Then I explain about the daring and imaginative ways that Costa Rica has used to build Peace with Nature over decades. And I say that it’s time to pay attention and learn how to do peace.

Costa Rica is a country in Central America, between Panamá and Nicaragua. In 1948, it abolished its armed forces and redirected its military budget to healthcare, education and environmental protection. During the 1970s and 1980s, despite this early wisdom, rapid deforestation convinced local conservationists that virtually all private lands were likely to be cleared of natural ecosystems. Their lobbying led in 1989 to a National Biodiversity Planning Commission, which started with the premises that biodiversity was economically valuable so should be preserved and used for public benefit, and that forest protection could not succeed unless the people living around each protected area were willing to help protect it. The Commission proposed new laws to consolidate a National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), with all the units being managed locally and for local benefit. To help pay for this, the Commission recommended a national biodiversity inventory, to find out exactly what made up Costa Rica’s biological richness and what it might be used for, and also the creation of a National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) to manage the inventory. All of this was done, and it led in the early 1990s to the high-profile birth of bioprospecting as a strategy for tropical developing countries to use and conserve their own living resources for their own long-term benefit.

By the mid 1990s, the logic of using ecosystems creatively to pay for their own conservation and contribute to national well-being had resulted in a ‘payments for ecosystem services’ (PES) programme in Costa Rica. This is a national system to manage payments for carbon storage, hydrological services, and the protection of biodiversity and landscapes. It is mostly financed by a 3.5% sales tax on fossil fuels, but the aim is that all beneficiaries of environmental services eventually pay for those they receive. In 1997-2004, some US$200 million was invested in PES to protect over 460,000 hectares of forests, to establish forestry plantations and to provide additional income to more than 8,000 forest owners. It had the effect of turning deforestation in Costa Rica into net reforestation by the early 2000s.

These environmentally-based economic programmes, together with debt-for-nature swaps and the rapid growth of genuine ecotourism (i.e. nature-based tourism that pays for conservation and promotes environmental education), helped to transform the country’s self-image and future, and by 2007 Costa Rica was ready for the next logical step, which was to declare Peace with Nature. This involved a number of specific commitments by the government, to abolish all forces that destroy nature by 2021: by banning net GHG emissions and single-use plastics, and promoting environmental action planning by all state institutions, investment in the protected area system and biodiversity, arrangements for users of ecosystem services to pay for their conservation, and environmental education in all schools.

Costa Rica’s 30-year process of change is built on consistent ecological reasoning, appropriate technologies and the sharing of costs and benefits to involve multiple aspects of society and the economy. The factors that made such an approach feasible in Costa Rica (with historical starting positions, luck, and leadership among them) need to be understood, but there are lessons to be learned here that are applicable in all other countries. Three factors are particularly relevant:

  • First, that the social and ethical development of a country or group of states needed for a Peace with Nature Declaration can now be achieved far more quickly than it was in Costa Rica, since we’ve all been wrestling with and learning from similar issues.
  • Second, that ‘Peace with Nature’ need not stop at a declaration and a set of government programmes, even over-arching and mainstreaming ones. Rather it could also be the basis for constitutional reform, applicable equally to a country like the UK that currently lacks a written constitution, and to countries where an existing constitution lacks adequate attention to environmental sustainability.
  • Third, that with ‘experimentalist governance’ as a proven idea (i.e. networked, exploratory peer learning, as applied in the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, the EU Water Framework Directive, the Chinese and Canadian development processes, and in air-traffic and nuclear safety systems), Peace with Nature can provide a goal to which all countries aspire and which they compete and cooperate to achieve.

I reckon that every country needs a Peace with Nature Declaration (to include commitments to Climate Emergency and Carbon Neutrality, but going far beyond them), and a cross-sectoral implementation programme through which to give it meaning, and a Peace with Nature Constitution to embed the key principles at the heart of its legal system, so that laws passed by its parliament can be challenged and judged against the standard of compliance with ecological reality, and struck down as unconstitutional if they fail the test. This would allow a country’s laws to be guided steadily, quickly and irreversibly towards ecological compliance, which is the key essential part of any survival strategy for our species and biosphere. And that’s why I carry a ‘Peace with Nature’ flag at Extinction Rebellion demonstrations! Do join in.

© Julian Caldecott