Panama completes the REDD+ readiness phase to begin reducing emissions from deforestation

Tuesday, November 19, 2019. The Ministry of Environment of Panama convened on Tuesday a round table discussion to present the results achieved in the development of a national strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD +. This high-level discussion had the support of UNDP and the participation of leaders of indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities, women's groups and other key actors, who have contributed to the REDD + process as users and direct beneficiaries of Panamanian forests.

As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Panama is developing actions to achieve the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement, whose long-term objective is to keep the global average temperature rise well below 2 ° C above preindustrial levels.

In this context, Panama has been preparing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Protecting forests is one way to reduce emissions into the atmosphere, since forest cover captures or “sequesters” carbon, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere. It is estimated that forests, a key nature-based solution, can provide up to 30% of the climate solution.

Tuesday’s roundtable aimed to take stock of REDD+ preparation efforts put in place as a means of mitigation, and to address the new phase of implementation of actions defined in Panama’s National REDD+ strategy.

The event marks Panama’s completion of the four pillars of the preparation phase for REDD+, also known as the Warsaw Framework established under the UNFCCC. As a result of this process, the country currently has a National REDD + Strategy, a National Forest Monitoring System, a Forest Emission Reference Levels as a baseline, and an Environmental and Social Safeguards Information System with which to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples and of all users of forests.

With these tools in place, the country concludes a preparatory phase that began in 2013 and is positioned to begin a new phase of implementation of local projects, at the level of the territories, and access to financing, which contemplates the payment for results (emissions reductions) through multilateral and bilateral funds.

The actions achieved in the preparatory phase have been the result of extensive consultation with civil society. The Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP, Aleida Ferreyra, highlighted that citizen consultation and participation spaces were strengthened throughout the process, with channels of direct and open dialogue between all parties. "This was possible thanks to the leadership of the Ministry of Environment, and the participation and involvement of civil society through indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities, and women’s groups" he said.

In 2018, Panama became the first country in the world to include all five REDD + activities in its forest reference level, which provides a reference point to measure emissions and a baseline to against which calculate emissions reductions that includes not only deforestation and forest degradation, but also the conservation and sustainable management of forests. The five REDD+ activities have also been included in Panama’s Law on Incentives for Forest Conservation.

Another noteworthy aspect is the link between the REDD + process and Panama’s National Determined Contribution, which reflects Panama's commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative stressed that the National REDD + Strategy should be coordinated with important national policies such as the Sustainable Forest Strategy 2050, and the National Biodiversity Strategy, as well as integrated into the country's own development model. In this regard, he pointed out that “Panama must move towards a low carbon economy, as established by the General Environment Law, in its new chapter on climate change”.

The REDD + process in Panama is the result of joint efforts by the Ministry of Environment, the National Committee on Climate Change, the River Basin Committees, civil society and NGOs. In the future, the process will continue consolidating alliances to add other key stakeholders such as the private sector, youth, and municipalities.

The roundtable closed with a reflection on the challenges, lessons learned and next steps that must be taken from the perspective of indigenous peoples and local communities, where Antonio Nuñez, from the indigenous Guna people of the Madugandí and Wargandí regions; Sara Omi, the first Emberá Young Woman President of the Emberá General Congress of Alto Bayano; and Mr. Timoteo Macre, Afro-descendant of Darién province, participated. The exchange was moderated by Jessica Young, UNDP Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Manager.

It was concluded that the “active listening” communication channels, exchange spaces and structures for effective participation from communities and local actors should be maintained. Another aspect underlined was the need to translate concepts and materials from technical language to the language of indigenous peoples, and also to a language that is understandable to the general population. Emphasis was placed on the fact that the REDD+ processes belong to the country as a whole, and have a long-term vision, so that they will have continuity even if governments change every 5 years.

This article was originally published in Spanish here by the UNDP Panama Office.