Backdrop to REDD+ development in Cambodia
Cambodia has both a high forest cover and a high deforestation rate, making REDD+ highly relevant as it offers significant opportunities for reducing emissions and delivering financial and environmental benefits to the country. The government recognises these and other advantages of REDD+, such as the support it could provide to meet the 60% national forest cover target, and objectives on biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable forest management. Since COP 13 in Bali, Cambodia has been working on REDD+ readiness, with support from the World Bank’s FCPF and the UN-REDD Programme.
The government has sought to introduce policies to achieve effective and sustainable forest management, but these have struggled to compete with the economic and other underlying drivers of forest loss. Small-scale illegal logging to provide timber for domestic markets has emerged as a major driver of forest loss. Industrial agricultural plantations for cash crops such as oil palm and rubber are also driving forest conversion. Weak governance and institutions, reflected in weak law enforcement and weak sectoral coordination, also underlie the struggles Cambodia is having in achieving its forest policy objectives.
Key support for REDD+ readiness has been provided by the UN-REDD Programme, the FCPF, and JICA. Cambodia’s international partners are collaborating to ensure their support is in line with Cambodia’s REDD+ Roadmap. At sub-national levels, several REDD+ demonstration activities, including pilot projects and feasibility studies, are underway. These are largely led by international NGOs and are mostly in forests under FA jurisdiction. Two pilot projects (the Oddar Meanchey REDD+ Project and the Seima Protection Forest REDD Project) have shown significant progress, though are not free of challenges. Being implemented under different legal frameworks, the two projects propose different forest management measures, though both focus on community participation in delivering REDD+ actions.
The organisational framework for REDD+ management has gradually evolved and now engages various ministries. A REDD+ Taskforce and Taskforce Secretariat were established. To address technical issues associated with REDD+, several Technical Teams are under development. Among the government agencies, the FA is playing the leading role, working closely with the UN-REDD+ Programme, other donors and NGOs. Other ministries are involved in decision-making at higher levels through the REDD+ Taskforce and consultation processes. However, the coordination arrangement for REDD+ is still under development, and the REDD+ Taskforce is yet to function effectively as the main government body for REDD+.
The development of the Cambodia REDD+ Roadmap was led by the interim REDD+ Taskforce, with support from the UN-REDD Programme and strong engagement of NGOs. The REDD+ Roadmap was developed using the R-PP template, and is recognised as the national plan for how the government wants to move ahead with REDD+ readiness. The government places the development of the REDD+ strategy within the existing forest policy framework and strategies, which include the National Forest Programme 2010-2029, the planned National Protected Area Strategic Management Plan, and the Strategic Planning Framework for Fisheries. The government views REDD+ as providing a source of sustainable finance to support the implementation of these three key management plans, rather than as developing a host of new strategies. The government’s REDD+ strategy aims at (1) effective management of Cambodia’s forest in accordance with existing policies and strategies, and (2) addressing drivers from outside the forestry sector. In the REDD+ Roadmap, the government proposes further study to integrate REDD+ into the land-use plans at national and provincial levels.
Cambodia is still at an early stage in developing its MRV system and forest reference levels. There is a clear need to strengthen technical and institutional capacity, especially on forest inventory and carbon measurement. In addition, when designing the national MRV system, a way must be found to accommodate the different roles and responsibilities of the various government agencies that have jurisdictional authority over forest resources and land use.
Cambodia is also at an early stage in developing its REDD+ safeguards system in accordance with UNFCCC COP decisions. Given existing land conflicts and the weak position of indigenous groups and local communities in staking their claims to land and resources, the development of the REDD+ safeguard system is a high priority for Cambodia. FPIC processes provide a means to protect their rights and increase local participation in REDD+ decision-making. Creating opportunities for forest-dependent groups to participate meaningfully in REDD+ and recognising their claims to land and forest tenure will increase social acceptance of the REDD+ concept and its potential to protect and enhance forest carbon stocks.