Focus on legal frameworks: FLEGT VPAs focus on the enforcement of existing or revised legal frameworks that regulate forest and land-use decisions. They support the development of effective, accountable and transparent processes and institutions. Legal frameworks in forest countries are often already well-developed and contain some principles of sustainability. A focus on legality and law enforcement therefore brings major gains in terms of climate change mitigation. The importance of legality and law enforcement as a step towards low-carbon sustainable development is often overlooked in INDCs. This is despite the fact that a number of INDCs mention the revision of legal frameworks as a priority for action.
The clarification of national legal frameworks through VPA processes has led to the inclusion of greater oversight and accountability measures. This has been a challenging process. It has involved the clarification of government roles and responsibilities, development of capacity to verify, enforce and comply with legislation, and the introduction of independent audit mechanisms. This combination of institutional clarity together with stronger control mechanisms helps to build credibility and confidence in the system. It would also, therefore, be valuable for NDC implementation. Understanding the problems, hurdles and political challenges that countries have confronted is important.
Trade and markets: Global commodity trade has a major impact on tropical forests. Both FLEGT VPA and REDD+ link demand-side and supply-side measures related to legal timber and zero-deforestation commodities. These efforts demonstrate that by influencing the demand side of the commodity chain, incentives are created that change purchasing decisions. In turn, this influences producer and exporter country behaviour. Trade has helped to engage the necessary political support to implement institutional reforms in producer countries. The power and influence of commodity trade and its impact on climate action was not sufficiently recognised in the INDCs. FLEGT VPA and REDD+ offer interesting learning opportunities.
Monitoring progress: Systems to track the implementation of policies and measures outlined in the INDCs can benefit from the experiences of FLEGT VPAs and REDD+. VPA monitoring mechanisms include supply chain tracking, national verification approaches, annual reporting, independent audits, impact monitoring and independent forest observation by non-state actors. VPAs require that many of these efforts are regularly checked, and reported on publicly. They have also learned that these mechanisms need to be structured so that they can adapt and respond to emerging lessons. There is extensive, relevant MRV experience from REDD+ processes, both in relation to carbon and safeguard monitoring. Monitoring systems from VPA and REDD+ processes could be merged or cross-referenced. These include timber legality assurance systems, national forest monitoring systems, and information management systems. ‘One Map’ approaches could provide opportunities to strengthen monitoring capacities in the forest and land-use sector. Together these approaches could provide opportunities to advance implementation and evaluation of NDCs.
To achieve these monitoring commitments, many VPA countries have had to strengthen their oversight capacity. This has often taken the form of new national procedures, institutional re-organisation, and enhanced information management. NDC implementation may help strengthen these areas further.
Good processes take time: While reducing deforestation and climate change are urgent challenges, unrealistic time frames do not allow for (and could actually compromise) the development of effective policies. FLEGT VPA and REDD+ processes are time consuming because they touch upon the deep-rooted causes of illegal logging and deforestation. For NDCs to be properly designed and implemented, and to act upon the underlying governance challenges, a long-term perspective is required, together with significant political willingness, stakeholder ownership, capacity and an appropriate mix of incentives.
Recommendations for action
FLEGT VPA, REDD+ and NDC initiatives offer opportunities for the forest and land-use sectors to advance national objectives. By encouraging awareness and understanding between the initiatives, a country may be able to capitalise on well-informed stakeholders, lessons and experiences gained in advancing forest governance, and new mechanisms to create awareness and dialogue. Countries, donors and stakeholders should promote such exchange so that the knowledge, lessons and mechanisms achieved through FLEGT and REDD+ are not re-invented within a NDC context.