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Senate Estimates: Climate Change Authority (International Climate Change Division)

Environment and Communications Legislation Committee

Estimates hearings, 27 May 2013

Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education: International Climate Change Division

·         Dr Justin Lee, Australian Ambassador for Climate Change

Full transcript available here


Dr Lee: The advice we have from AusAID is that the Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership will be funded in 2013-14 through the Indonesia program. That program is administered by AusAID, so I think questions on the further future of it should be directed to them.

Senator RHIANNON: I have some questions about the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, which is in the budget for this financial year. I could not find it in the budget papers—how much has been allocated for the KFCP?

Dr Lee: I have a figure on how much has been allocated. The Australian government has committed $47 million to the KFCP as part of the $100 million broader IAFCP, the Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership. Again, I should say that the administration of that program is also managed by AusAID and questions related to that should be directed to AusAID.

Senator RHIANNON: Would you explain what your involvement is with these projects. What level of engagement do you have?

Dr Lee: We are more involved in the policy settings in the negotiation of REDD+ programs more generally in the UNFCCC negotiations—the broader policy around what international principles should govern REDD+ programs or programs in the forestry sector. But the actual implementation of these programs, which may be guided by a broader REDD+ principles, is done by AusAID.

Senator RHIANNON: Considering that you have identified that you are looking at it in terms of the policy settings, and there has been some controversy with these projects, do you look at the challenging situation that these projects have found themselves in to help inform what the policy settings should be?

Dr Lee: In the discussions on REDD+ more broadly in the UNFCCC negotiations, it would have its own specific agenda to be looking at what issues are appropriate for those international discussions around the REDD+ agenda. I am not aware that specific lessons coming from the IAFCP or the KFCP are part of those broader agenda discussions on REDD+ in the UNFCCC.

Senator RHIANNON: I would like to explore that further. The KFCP was originally aimed to protect 70,000 hectares of peat forests, re-flood 200,000 hectares of dried peat land and plant 100 million trees in central Kalimantan, but the reports coming out suggest that this goal was not achieved; in fact, much less was achieved. If your work is around policy settings and the policy settings in place are not being achieved, at what point do you make a reassessment? I have given that as an example: it seems as though we are running into problems; do you look at practical things to reassess your policy settings?

Dr Lee: I should say that I think there is an appreciation broadly that programs in the forestry sector are complex and that there are a range of complex examples that would be considered in the REDD+ negotiations internationally.

In the negotiations internationally at the moment, a large part of the discussion between countries which have forestry and countries which have large forest areas with emissions is around MRV—monitoring, reporting and verification—and the types of methodologies that might be used in that area. There is certainly a lot of experience between those countries that have forestry sectors that needs to be taken into account. The critical issue, as I understand it at the moment, is getting within the UNFCCC negotiations about common understanding around what are some of the principles that will guide REDD+ projects and getting those common understandings between developing countries with large forestry sectors and other countries.

Senator RHIANNON: Have you received any complaints and, if so, how do you respond to complaints about projects—again in terms of your interactions with REDD?

Dr Lee: We have not received any complaints about REDD more generally, but if you are referring to KFCP then that would be directed to AusAID.

Senator RHIANNON: If AusAID is doing the work, what is your interaction with AusAID? Policy is about driving better outcomes. If you are not getting good outcomes, does a point come where you make a reassessment? I have heard your answer that AusAID does this work but if the project runs into problems is there any point of interacting, of coming back? Can you give us an example where you have reassessed and changed the policy in light of what has been learnt in the field?

Dr Lee: It would perhaps be most useful if I could explain in more detail what the UNFCCC agenda is on REDD+ and some of the issues they have dealt with. A large number of issues have been achieved there, and the types of things which countries are having to address under REDD+ more generally include: discussing the technical details of MRV and safeguard systems for an international REDD+ mechanism—REDD+ developing countries are those with forest areas; developing national plans on how to implement REDD+; learning lessons from early REDD+ initiatives so there would be scope for learning from lessons that have occurred previously and projects that have occurred previously; and paying for the results of REDD+. This is looking at mechanisms where you can potentially reward performance, which is a step towards trying to develop a REDD+ market mechanism. Those are some of the issues that are being dealt with in the REDD+ negotiations, and they would be drawing on lessons from the field as well from those countries that have forestry sectors that would be applicable.

Senator RHIANNON: Your first point was about safeguards. As we have learnt, these projects, KFCP being one of them, ran into problems. Have you then assessed that the safeguards that were in place were not working, and were new safeguards adopted in light of the problems?

Dr Lee: KFCP is a matter for AusAID. I am not aware of any assessment that AusAID may have done and how it might intend to report that if it had done any assessment up to the broader REDD+ discussions.

Senator RHIANNON: Your third point was learning lessons from REDD+ plans. Could you give some examples of what lessons have been learnt?

Dr Lee: I cannot give specific examples from the negotiations themselves. I would have to take that on notice and speak to some of our negotiators who would be particularly involved in any specific examples that might have come forward. Speaking more generally and not in relation to any particular projects, I think one of the issues that occasionally comes up, given the importance of the MRV sector, which we have been highlighting in the negotiations, has been around the difficulty of MRV—monitoring, reporting and verification—in rural areas and in forest areas. Clearly, with REDD+ as well, in forestry projects there are all those issues with local communities. Also, from being aware of the broader discussions, there have been some issues around the cost of particular projects as well. So those would be some of the lessons but, again, that is speaking broadly and not in relation to any particular project.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice to provide the committee with an itemised breakdown of what is ODA-eligible climate financing, and any climate-financing programs which are outside of ODA spending. Thank you.



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