2015 – 2016
Law enforcement and forest governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are weak and present significant risks to the successful implementation of REDD+. To address this challenge, the EU REDD Facility has helped design a compliance standard for monitoring the activities of logging companies and design tailored support to companies willing to engage. Innovative incentives are needed to encourage logging companies to comply with forestry laws and to address illegal logging.
The objective of the project was to elaborate a framework for logging companies to comply with forestry regulations through REDD+ incentives. The project used the 12.3 million hectare Maï-Ndombe ER Program as a test case. The ER Program is the first jurisdictional REDD+ initiative in DRC, located in the western Maï-Ndombe province near the capital, Kinshasa. The ER Program aims to reduce emissions of CO2 by 29 metric tonnes (Mt) by 2020. The 20 logging concessions, held by 11 companies, in the province account for 28% of the ER Program area, although only seven of them were active in 2015.
Illegal activities have been observed in the ER Program area in recent years and pose a significant risk to the success of the program, both in terms of unplanned emissions and in terms of failure to adhere to environmental and social safeguards. To mitigate this risk, the objective of the EU REDD Facility was to foster cooperation between the government and the private sector, and to encourage private-sector participation in REDD+ activities. The initiative is being led by the Secretariat of the Maï-Ndombe ER Program, which is composed of representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, WWF, civil society groups and a private REDD+ project developer.
The ER Program offers a unique opportunity to pilot an integrated approach to tackling illegal logging, one of the main drivers of deforestation in DRC. In 2014, 87% of the country’s timber was deemed illegal, according to Chatham House. As a consequence, international perceptions of the logging industry in DRC are very negative. The proportion of DRC exports to the European Union dropped from 80% in 2007 to 33% in 2014.
Until now, engagement of logging companies in REDD+ in DRC has been negligible. A lack of understanding of REDD+ in the region, coupled with limited trust in government, has marginalised logging companies in REDD+ discussions. Yet private-sector involvement is crucial to the success of the Maï-Ndombe ER Program. Logging companies could become REDD+ project promoters and receive payment for emissions reductions achieved through initiatives such as reduced impact logging or conservation. For these actions to be realized on the ground, the ER Program, or any other REDD+ investment program, must first ensure that logging companies are committed to REDD+ objectives and that they have access to support in order to progressively incorporate better management practices.
A framework is therefore needed to assess the commitment of companies and their performance with regard to the REDD+ objectives. Given weak governance and limited resources available for forest control, the scheme needed to be practical and simple.
Forest degradation in the Mai Ndombe province, DRC
The first step of the project was to define a set of REDD+ compliance indicators to assess the state of play of companies’ logging practices. A REDD+ compliance standard for concessions was developed by the ER Program Technical Secretariat, in cooperation with logging companies and with technical support from the EU REDD Facility and a consultancy. Stakeholders cross-referenced the DRC legal framework with REDD+ objectives and produced a simple and practical framework for collecting information on the extent to which a logging company complies with the laws and regulations that are most relevant to REDD+. These include provisions that have a direct impact on:
The REDD+ compliance standard for concessions is based on three principles.
Compliance with the three principles is assessed by 11 indicators and 23 verifiers. To enable annual monitoring with limited resources, most verification is based on documentary evidence. Monitors use a simple scoring system to assess the overall compliance of a logging concession. Concessions must be in compliance with the three principles to be eligible for participation in REDD+ activities and for support from the ER Program.
The approach utilizes REDD+ as an incentive for improved law enforcement and incorporates the legality approach as a safeguard for REDD+ implementation. In Maï-Ndombe, monitoring the compliance of logging companies with the REDD+ standard aims to ensure that companies operating within the boundaries of the jurisdictional REDD+ program are not jeopardizing, through illegal practices, the credibility and objectives of the ER Program.
Under certain conditions, concessions will be able to benefit from compliance support financed by REDD+ investment programs. Compliance support will address priority gaps and issues identified through the annual compliance assessments.
Proposed support includes:
Results to date include:
Discussion between REDD+ project developer and communities in a conservation concession of the Maï-Ndombe province, DRC