Implementation of climate finance / REDD+ / Transparency

German support for REDD+ and forest conservation: lots of money, little information and even less critical monitoring

Photo: J.Böthling, Brot für die Welt

Overall, the German government is one of the most important REDD+ donors worldwide, with an investment to date of half a billion euros,” writes the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on its website. In addition to the REDD+ measures, the German government has provided “€1.524 billion in funding for projects whose main objective is the protection and sustainable management of forests” since 2010. At the 9th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008, the German chancellor pledged a further €500 million a year for forest and biodiversity protection starting in 2013.

In other words, a lot of money is tied up in this issue.

The “German Climate Finance” initiative wanted to know more about the extent to which information about the content, objectives and effectiveness of supported measures is available to the interested public. In the course of a literature review, the initiative evaluated information on a selection of 32 REDD+ and forest conservation projects (of 345 projects for the sector in the database). The objective was not an assessment of the quality of the measures, but rather the availability of information going beyond titles, financing volumes and periods, supporters of the measures and brief descriptions of the programs. This basic information is available for measures carried out by the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ), but only partly for REDD+ and forest conservation measures of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau development bank (KfW).The ICI database also contains information on the implementation status and results of some projects.

The review showed that hardly any information on the financed measures is publicly available beyond such general project descriptions. Detailed evaluations by the BMUB, BMZ, GIZ or KfW on experiences made in the implementation, on potentially conflicting objectives or on the effectiveness of the financed measures were available only for very few of the projects studied.

For ex-post project evaluations, a similar picture emerged: The GIZ last reviewed projects in the forest sector in 2006 (focusing on management of natural resources; in 2013, a project in the Brazilian Amazon was reviewed). For the period from 2007 to 2014, the KfW development bank performed ex-post evaluations of 42 projects related to forests (of these, 18 reforestation and four forest conservation projects are also contained in the German Climate Finance database but ex-post evaluation summaries are not available for all of them). The extent to which the results of the reviews were obtained in cooperation with local target groups – or whether such target groups agree with the findings of the reviews – could not be determined on the basis of the evaluation summaries. In its 2011-2012 biennial report for project evaluation, the KfW cites a study on conservation and development of local communities commissioned by the BMZ: “The result is sobering. None of the investigated examples indicate that conservation funding goes hand-in-hand smoothly with better living conditions for the local population. Conflicting aims are more likely and must be taken into consideration during program planning.” The study is not public, however, and the KfW report only contains a one-page summary. Whether and to what extent forest conservation or REDD + measures were included in the study thus remains unclear.

An expansion of the project descriptions on the ICI, GIZ and KfW websites to include references to such studies commissioned by the ministries, as well as evaluations or reports from external sources on forest conservation and REDD+ measures would be desirable and appears to be possible on the relevant websites.

It is not apparent from the publications and web presence of the BMZ whether the ministry has a systematic (scientific or external) monitoring of REDD+ financing in place that would permit conclusions to be drawn with regard to the effectiveness and possible risks of the new forest conservation approach. This is all the more surprising given that REDD+ is seen as a potential paradigm shift in development cooperation, with payments only being effected once a successful mitigation of emissions has been documented. The BMUB, by contrast, commissioned an external evaluation of the ICI via the Federal Environment Office (UBA) as early as 2010, a summary of which can be found on the ICI website. The results of the study suggest that continuous monitoring and critical discussion would be important: “It should be noted that the otherwise well-established methods of project cycle management, including monitoring, of the bilateral or international implementing organizations exclusively active in this cluster [biodiversity and carbon sinks] were often not applied in the ICI projects.On average, the projects in this cluster have significant deficits in terms of the involvement of project partners. The partners were often not sufficiently involved in the project implementation in both substantive and administrative terms, which did not allow enough ‘ownership’ to develop in some cases.”

The fact that such continuous monitoring is apparently missing in measures including, but not limited to, those financed by the BMZ is particularly worrying for two reasons. Firstly, numerous reports indicate the high potential of REDD+ for conflicts and negative consequences for forest dwellers and smallholders (see, for example, the ‘REDD: conflicts, contradictions and lies’ post dated March 26, 2015 on the German Climate Finance blog). A thorough evaluation in this context could also investigate whether such conflicts are caused by implementation errors in individual projects or are due to structural issues. Furthermore, the German development cooperation community also sees REDD+ as an expression of a paradigm shift, as the following quote demonstrates: “German cooperation has supported sustainable forest use and development for 30 years, and its success has been limited. Now there is a hope that there is a shifting paradigm with REDD+ because of its performance-based payments.” The basis on which this evaluation was made, the extent to which it is shared by local actors in the forest countries or supporter groups in Germany, and whether such a paradigm shift is compatible with other development cooperation goals related to human rights and the fight against poverty or the source of conflicting aims, are central issues that have been hardly been touched upon in the public debate surrounding German financing of REDD+ and forest conservation measures to date. This was also underscored by the literature review of the German Climate Finance initiative: in Germany, the financing of REDD+ and forest conservation measures currently means “lots of money, little information and even less critical monitoring”.

Jutta Kill