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  • Enhancing transparency in the land sector under the Paris Agreement: Non-state actors and corporate pledges, from rhetoric to reality

Enhancing transparency in the land sector under the Paris Agreement: Non-state actors and corporate pledges, from rhetoric to reality

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Authors: Gnych, S.; Leonard, S.; Pacheco, P.; Lawry, S.; Martius, C.

Key messages

  • Article 13 of the Paris Agreement calls for enhanced transparency in climate actions. At the same time, non-state actors (NSAs) are increasingly referred to within the text of decisions and initiatives by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, the continued use of such a broad and undefined term to represent a complex set of stakeholders – ranging from academia to private sector, civil society to indigenous peoples groups – is unhelpful. There cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to NSAs
  • The private sector is a complex and diverse sub-set of NSAs, with significant variations in capacity, motivations and priorities across companies and value chains. Their response to climate change will be key to setting and achieving the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) made by Parties to the UNFCCC.
  • A large number of international corporations have made voluntary commitments to reduce their negative environmental and social impacts in the agriculture and forestry sectors, within their own operations as well as those of third-party suppliers. Many of these pledges have now been registered on the UNFCCC non-state actor platform (NAZCA). As yet, however, there is no systematic way to track and verify these pledges and their impacts.
  • One major risk is that stringent and rapidly implemented corporate commitments related to sustainable and ‘deforestation free’ supply chains will exclude already marginalized smallholders, who often operate within broader informal economies, resulting in indirect detrimental social and environmental impacts. Aside from the Cancun safeguards, such risks remain unrecognized by the UNFCCC.
  • Public funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), could be used to financially support smallholders and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and upgrade their production systems through the adoption of improved practices and by facilitating their access to sustainable supply chains.
  • Governments, indigenous peoples groups and civil society organizations, as well as corporations themselves, are monitoring the progress and impact of NSA pledges at different spatial scales. But significant challenges remain regarding the alignment of methods, metrics and data sets, disclosure of information, and the verification and monitoring of indirect impacts.
  • There is currently no systematic way to track delivery of voluntary commitments through transparent processes that are open to wider society. Additional efforts, including national and international political architectures are needed.
  • There is justification for the UNFCCC to develop guidance around NSA engagement in climate mitigation and adaptation actions. This can help to distinguish between different groups of NSAs and track the activities undertaken by diverse private sector actors, to better understand how they contribute to achieving NDCs.

Series: CIFOR Infobrief no. 157

Pages: 8p.

Publisher: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia

Publication Year: 2016

DOI: 10.17528/cifor/006257

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  • Climate change: Time to combine mitigation and adaptation

Climate change: Time to combine mitigation and adaptation

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It is important to combine climate change mitigation (here ICRAF's SAMPLES program for smallholders) and adaptation. Photo: ICRAF
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It is important to combine climate change mitigation (here ICRAF's SAMPLES program for smallholders) and adaptation. Photo: ICRAF
It is important to combine climate change mitigation (here ICRAF’s SAMPLES program for smallholders) and adaptation measures. Photo: ICRAF

Yoly Gutierrez interviewed scientist Bruno Locatelli on improving the design of climate change projects, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

To combat climate change, one can avoid it via mitigation, or cope with it via adaptation. Even though these objectives are two sides of the same coin, their synergies and conflicts tend to be overlooked.

“Because of the way international negotiations and national policies have separated adaptation from mitigation, two different communities of practices have emerged and they don’t talk to each other,” says Bruno Locatelli, a scientist working for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and CIRAD, a French research institute specializing in international agricultural and development issues.

“This separation also occurs on the ground, as projects developed to fight climate change tend to match donor or policy requirements, which generally focus on either adaptation or mitigation.”

This conclusion was drawn after Locatelli and his colleagues analyzed 201 project documents from across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Researchers were surprised to find that 42 percent of the mitigation project documents mentioned a contribution to adaptation while 30 percent of the adaptation project documents mentioned a contribution to mitigation. What’s more, they found, most or all of these projects contained opportunities to contribute to the other objective.

Locatelli spoke with Forests News on the importance of marrying the two to achieve better results when it comes to climate change.

Why is it important for mitigation and adaptation strategies to be combined in climate policy?

In climate change discussions and negotiations, we tend to address the cause of climate change (via mitigation) and its consequences for people and ecosystems (via adaptation) separately. This makes sense analytically because mitigation and adaptation have effects at different timeframes (long vs. short term, respectively) and spatial scales (global vs. local). It makes also sense for some sectors; for example, energy tends to be concerned mostly by mitigation because of its large emissions, whereas health is mostly concerned by adaptation because of its sensitivity to climate variations, such as heat waves.

Photo: CIFOR

But when it comes to on-the-ground activities in land-use sectors such as forestry and agriculture, it does not make sense to separate adaptation and mitigation objectives because land-use management affects both the volume of emissions and the vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate variations.

Forests and trees produce multiple ecosystem services that are relevant to fight climate change: they store carbon (mitigation) and they protect local communities from climate impacts (adaptation) by regulating water, reducing soil losses, protecting coasts from storms, and diversifying livelihoods.

When a mitigation project in forestry (such as a REDD+ project) aims at livelihood diversification, this may be a first step toward thinking how diversification can reduce people’s vulnerability to climate variations and toward increasing adaptive capacity.

You cannot say that you will plant one tree for its adaptation benefits and another one for its mitigation benefits. Focusing on solely one objective and forgetting the other can be dangerous because of the potential trade-offs and adverse effects.

What are some examples of these trades-offs?

An example is related to reforestation. If I want to maximize carbon sequestration in one area facing the problem of water scarcity and I start a forest plantation with intensive management and fast-growing tree species that consume a lot of water, it wouldn’t add up. Sure, I would achieve my goal of addressing global climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere, but I would exacerbate the local water problems. People living downstream may suffer water shortages and become more vulnerable to climate change.

Another example is related to adaptation in agriculture. For example, I can reduce the vulnerability of agriculture to drought by using energy-intensive irrigation, or by increasing fertilization, both of which would emit more greenhouse gas. My crops would be less sensitive to climate change but I would contribute to an increase in global climate change.

It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But this is what happens when we think too narrowly about either adaptation or mitigation.

Photo: CIFOR
When I am sick, my doctor tries to fight the cause and the consequences of the disease at the same time. If an infection (the cause) results in high fever (the consequence) and a doctor gives me medicine that treats the infection but increases the fever, we are in the same situation as with mitigation initiatives having adverse effects on adaptation.

If this doctor gives me medicine that lowers the fever but increases the infection, we are in the same situation as with adaptation initiatives having adverse effects on mitigation. In both cases, the narrow analysis of the doctor can lead to severe problems. This is exactly what could happen with climate change initiatives that fail to see the big picture.

So should all projects and policies address adaptation and mitigation jointly?

We should not force the integration of adaptation and mitigation in all projects and policies. Project developers and policymakers must have a good reason to do it. But first, they must be aware that this is possible.

Many opportunities for integrating adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture and forestry sectors can be captured without forcing a marriage between adaptation and mitigation through the provision of adequate information, tools and guidance to project developers or policy makers, as well as by providing incentives.

How can international funds and standards help projects to harness synergies?

The institutional settings of most international climate funds do not create incentives for projects to search for synergies between adaptation and mitigation. International funds could provide more information and technical assistance, or prioritize projects that integrate both goals or assess the costs and benefits of considering the other goal. For example, mitigation projects that assess climate risks and decide on integrating adaptation.

There is hope that the development of the Green Climate Fund can lead to better consideration of synergies between adaptation and mitigation. This organization could ensure that projects capture opportunities to provide multiple adaptation and mitigation benefits without excessively increasing project cycle complexity and costs.

The Green Climate Fund could test innovative approaches to the integration of adaptation and mitigation and stimulate changes at the national level in recipient countries and at the local scale in projects, contributing to the mainstreaming of climate change in development.

International standards can also play a role in improving the integration of adaptation and mitigation. For example, we saw in our analysis that mitigation project documents developed in the framework of the Climate Community Biodiversity standards more often described adaptation measures and outcomes, as these standards provide guidance on adaptation and require adaptation to be addressed to achieve a Gold Level certification.

Verification on the ground of implemented projects could help us understand whether such standards make a real difference in practice, or whether they simply provide lip service by adding adaptation elements in project documents.

For more information on this topic, please contact Bruno Locatelli at
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Reflections on COP22 and gender

Reflections on COP22 and gender

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Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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By Markus Ihalainen, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

Thanks to lobbying efforts by gender equality advocacy groups, the recent climate talks in Marrakesh yielded a significant decision that extended the mandate of the Lima Work Program on Gender (LWPG) over the next three years.

The two-year work program – first adopted at COP20 in Lima – contains a two-fold objective of: 1) Enhancing the gender-balance in the negotiations and 2) Providing guidance to Parties on gender-responsive climate policy.

Actions under the program included trainings for delegates on gender-responsive climate policy, capacity building for women delegates, and developing guidelines for implementing gender considerations in climate change activities.

While the extent to which the LWPG has achieved its objectives is debatable, it has opened up a space for more specific discussions and recommendations with respect to enhancing the gender-responsiveness of various policies and mechanisms under the UNFCCC. The decision to extend the mandate of the work program was thus received with much appreciation by gender equality advocates at COP22.

Here’s a look at some key dimensions of this decision in the context of the broader debates around gender and climate change.

Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


One of the criticisms of the previous iteration of the LWPG is that despite its mandate, it “failed to articulate work on gender-responsive climate policy in relation to broader international obligations to human rights and gender equality”. This, in turn, allowed for a fair amount of confusion with respect to what ‘gender-responsive climate policy’ actually means.

It is thus positive that the preamble to the new decision maintains the ‘importance of coherence between gender-responsive climate policies … and the provisions of international instruments and outcomes’, including the Beijing Declaration, the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What this text actually means for policy design, implementation and monitoring remains unclear. It is, however, essential that the above provision guide the work under the new iteration of the LWPG, as it opens up a crucial space for conceptualizing the role of gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate policy and action in a much broader sense.

Instead of viewing empowerment or equality as a vehicle for achieving other policy objectives, this framing allows us to flip things around and look at how various policies can impact equality or empowerment across a much wider set of political, economic, social and cultural indicators.

As such, this ‘rights-based’ framing departs from popular ‘business case’ arguments, which assert that women’s empowerment will lead to better economic, environmental or social outcomes. A rights-based argument does not ignore women’s contributions to promoting development and conservation; however, it does not make the granting of rights contingent on how effectively women contribute to the latter.

A strong rights-based framework is especially important now that policies and programs are increasingly aligning themselves to the SDG framework. Anchoring ‘women’s empowerment’ in broader international conventions could help mitigate the unfortunate tendency to water down empowerment to tokenistic participation in meetings simply to allow policies and programs to ‘hit as many SDGs as possible’.

Instead of simply assuming win-wins between social, economic and environmental objectives, a rights-based approach also allows us to have a much clearer and more honest conversation about leveraging synergies – as well as reconciling potential tensions – between the different SDGs.

Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


In addition to a continued mandate, the new decision also requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) to ‘develop a gender action plan in order to support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates under the UNFCCC process’.

While the development of a gender action plan under the UNFCCC was not a given, it follows the trajectory of the other Rio conventions, which already have such plans in place. The priority areas for the action plan still needs to be defined, but this decision invites Parties, observers and other stakeholders to provide inputs to the formulation of the action plan.

A collaboratively developed, comprehensive Gender Action Plan (GAP) could prove useful for coordinating the efforts of various bodies and stakeholders, channeling funding towards specific actions outlined under the GAP, and for developing salient indicators for evaluating the gender-responsiveness of various climate policies.

However, it is important to note that the content of the GAP is to be defined over the coming year. So given the urgency of beginning the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the immediate priority in terms of gender equality in climate policy is still to ensure that all Parties to the Agreement take substantial actions on the national level towards safeguarding women’s rights and enhancing the gender-responsiveness of the climate policies and actions as outlined in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

This is particularly important given the fact that out of 188 INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat prior to COP21, only 63 submissions included specific references to women or gender. A closer look shows that these references are often very general and superficial, mostly just outlining women as ‘vulnerable populations’.

It is also noteworthy that all of the 63 INDCs mentioning ‘women’ or ‘gender’ came from developing countries. Despite high-flying rhetoric, there seems to be a tendency among donor countries to view gender-responsive climate policy mostly as a priority for developing countries.

Concerns are being raised over whether donor commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment actually translate into concrete funding. A recent OECD DAC report estimated that investments in women’s economic empowerment remained unchanged in the period from 2007-2012, and represented only two percent of total bilateral aid. This is a significant concern, especially as many commitments in developing countries’ INDCs remain conditional on the availability of funding.

During a discussion forum on gender held at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum, panelist Lorena Aguilar, Senior Advisor of the Gender Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), stated that 21 countries have developed specific climate change and gender action plans (ccGAP). Yet, she warned, a lack of funds is hindering many governments from implementing these plans.

To enhance the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies, it is thus crucial that the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism – including the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility – are held accountable vis-à-vis the gender policies that both entities now have in place.

It is reassuring that the COP22 decision requests financial entities to provide information on the ‘integration of gender consideration in all aspects of their work’. However, it contains no references to the allocation for financial resources towards the implementation of gender-responsive climate action. Issues around financial responsibilities, targets and accountabilities thus remain largely unresolved.

At the same GLF forum, Eleanor Blomstrom, Co-Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), stressed the need to improve gender-responsive tracking and monitoring of finance for enhancing – and enforcing – the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies at the national level.

Ugwono Pauline plants Gnetum (okok) in the village of Minwoho, Lekié, Center Region, Cameroon.   Photo by Ollivier Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


While it is important to monitor what policies are in place and to track their implementation, it is arguably even more important to understand the impact of these policies on the lives of local women and men. Policy processes removed from local realities are less likely to yield transformative results on the ground.

CIFOR’s research shows that climate change vulnerability tends to be highly contextual and depends on various socioeconomic, cultural and environmental variables. Despite this, gender is still primarily tackled as a men-versus-women dichotomy in climate change studies, according to a recent CIFOR paper.

One of the key hopes of CIFOR gender experts at COP22 was thus to contribute to a more nuanced picture of gender and climate change. Understanding that the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities of women and men are structured by various societal power relations – and not just by virtue of their sex – can help enhance the responsiveness of climate policies. In order to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, it is vital that such ‘intersectional’ thinking is translated into implementation processes and impact assessment tools and instruments.

This requires that the voices of local people be accounted for in policy processes, particularly when it comes to adaptation, says Houria Djoudi, a scientist at CIFOR who was a panelist at the GLF event. Women in impacted communities are not sitting around waiting for international agreements to come in place – they use various strategies to adapt to climate change every day. However, rural women often lack a voice in national policy processes. As a result, many locally grounded, potentially up-scalable adaptation and mitigation initiatives risk going unnoticed, or replaced by top-down, inflexible programmatic responses with little local ownership.

It is therefore good to see the new decision taken in Morocco encourage Parties to recognize the value of grassroots women’s participation in gender-responsive climate action at all levels.

However, much remains to be done to move beyond lip-service towards meaningfully integrating local-level action in national climate policy and action, and to ensure that adequate capacities and resources are in place at the national and sub-national levels to support and scale up successful initiatives.

For more information on this topic, please contact Markus Ihalainen at
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Climate policy integration in the land use sector: Mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development linkages

Climate policy integration in the land use sector: Mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development linkages

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Authors: Di Gregorio, M.; Nurrochmat, D.R.; Paavola, J.; Sari, I.M.; Fatorelli, L.; Pramova, E.;Locatelli, B.; Brockhaus, M.; Kusumadewi, S.D.

This article re-conceptualizes Climate Policy Integration (CPI) in the land use sector to highlight the need to assess the level of integration of mitigation and adaptation objectives and policies to minimize trade-offs and to exploit synergies. It suggests that effective CPI in the land use sector requires i) internal climate policy coherence between mitigation and adaptation objectives and policies; ii) external climate policy coherence between climate change and development objectives; iii) vertical policy integration to mainstream climate change into sectoral policies and; iv) horizontal policy integration by overarching governance structures for cross-sectoral coordination. This framework is used to examine CPI in the land use sector of Indonesia. The findings indicate that adaptation actors and policies are the main advocates of internal policy coherence. External policy coherence between mitigation and development planning is called for, but remains to be operationalized. Bureaucratic politics has in turn undermined vertical and horizontal policy integration. Under these circumstances it is unlikely that the Indonesian bureaucracy can deliver strong coordinated action addressing climate change in the land use sector, unless sectoral ministries internalize a strong mandate on internal and external climate policy coherence and find ways to coordinate policy action effectively.

Pages: 9p.

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 1462-9011

Source: Environmental Science and Policy

DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.11.004

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