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Safeguarding Carbon Trade

Since the historic Paris agreement that emanated from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), close to 190 countries ratified this climate agreement in 2015 with the aim of reducing global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century through carbon trading. 
Carbon trading is a market based system aimed at reducing greenhouse gases like carbon, methane and nitrogenous oxide. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement clearly outlines the market-based climate measures after 2020 and how they could incentivise countries to pledge on climate reduction.
Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry, Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama stated during his speech on International Day of Forests 2022, the value of forests to yield not only timber products but forests being a carbon sink which means Fiji has the potential to trade. 
“With climate change upon us, we know that we must finally recognise the total economic value of forests. We are embracing this concept firmly in Fiji. In one important example, Fiji is embarking on a five-year Emission Reduction Program (ERP), which is aimed at addressing the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, through the sustainable management of native forests and the establishment and enhancement of forest carbon stocks and monetised through a carbon trade agreement with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.”

Carbon Trade Agreement
The carbon trade agreement, known as the Emission Reduction Payment Agreement (ERPA) is implemented by the Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Economy, which aims to reduce emission-levels by 2.5 million tonnes of carbon over a five-year period, i.e. from July 2019 to 31st December 2024, and contribute to the Government’s national climate action agenda which is to achieve net-zero emission by 2050. 
The Fijian Government is also rehabilitating land that, for years, have been left barren and degraded through the national 30 Million Trees in 15 Years (#30MT15Y) tree-planting programme, which began in 2019 and in the last 3.8years, over 15 million trees and mangroves have been planted through the support and initiative of schools, youth and women groups, rural and forest communities, civil society, corporate organisations, government, foreign visitors, including visiting sporting franchises and patriotic individuals. The tree-planting programme has spread throughout the natural landscape, including the foreshore flats with the planting of mangrove species. These planted trees will have the future potential to add to Fiji’s forest carbon stock.
The carbon trade agreement with the World Bank FCPF-Carbon Fund over the five-year period is basically a readiness phase in which a framework of key elements, systems and processes developed during Fiji’s REDD+ Readiness programme and based on national situations and capabilities, can be rigidly tested, in preparation for trade with the compliance and voluntary carbon markets. 
The key elements include a national monitoring, verification and reporting system that is capable of accurately accounting for the changes in forest cover in a given period , level of carbon stocks  and the resultant net emission level; a benefit sharing plan, which guides the equitably sharing of the carbon payments received from the carbon trade agreement and its distribution to the rightful beneficiaries and participants that support and are addressing the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, including the welfare and livelihood programmes of the forest dwelling communities; and finally a robust information system that capably assesses and reports on the level of compliance with the UNFCCC standards during the implementation of the emission reduction program.

Assessment for Safeguards
In a nutshell, the assessment for safeguards is basically to ensure that through the implementation of the emission reduction program, the rights, interests, knowledge and welfare of the often marginalised segments of the community are protected and respected, which in essence means that there is full and active participation of the marginalised in the planning and decision-making and the laws of the land remain paramount without compromise.
These efforts are guided by the recent 2021 Climate Change Act which sets out the governance and institutional arraignments to establish a carbon market for Fiji.
According to Permanent Secretary for Forestry, Pene Baleinabuli, through the National REDD+ Programme’s readiness phase and the ER Program, the Fijian Government has been preparing the country’s forests and land resource owners to participate in the carbon market trade by consolidating the main REDD+ elements which will include a National REDD+ Strategy, a functional multi-stakeholder engagement and capacity building for REDD+, a National Forestry Management System and a comprehensive framework for Safeguards including the design of a Safeguards Information System (SIS) for Fiji and the Benefit Sharing Plan.  
“The Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) signed by the Fijian Government with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) on January 28, 2021 to trade at US$5 for one tonne of carbon is only until 2024 to reward efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through integrated land use planning, native forest conservation, and sustainable management of Fiji’s forests, including pine and mahogany plantations. 
“Other aspects will focus on community-driven afforestation, climate-smart agroforestry practices and alternative livelihoods initiatives. The Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Forestry play leading roles in this initiative.  After 2024, Fiji will be in a much better position to seize opportunities that both compliance and voluntary markets can offer,” Mr Baleinabuli said. 
In addition, as donors, funds and emerging forest carbon markets paying for results are placing increasing attention on the ways in which countries are addressing and respecting safeguards in the implementation of REDD+ strategies and in the achievement of emissions reduction results, Fiji will need to ensure that there are proper social and environmental mechanisms in place and that the seven (7) Cancun Safeguards principles are being met.

Safeguards and Implementation of Activities
The implementation of activities under the REDD+ mechanism has the potential to deliver social and environmental benefits that go beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but it may also entail potential risks to local communities, indigenous peoples, women and other marginalised groups who depend heavily on the forest resources for their livelihoods and other daily needs. Safeguards are principles or measures that aim to protect or to avoid risks (“do no harm”), while promoting benefits (“do good”). The term multiple benefits is to ensure that all benefits will flow from a successful implementation of REDD+ and emission reductions and will include both the global climate mitigation benefits from REDD+ as well as environmental and social benefits also known as non-carbon benefits or co-benefits. 
The Cancun Safeguards were developed during the 16th Conference of Parties (COP) meeting in Cancun, Mexico in 2010, with the goal of implementing REDD+ and reducing emissions while addressing transparency, stakeholder participation, biodiversity and ecosystem services protection, and respect for indigenous and local communities' rights.
Following the Cancun Agreement there have been a number of initiatives at global level to develop social and environmental safeguards by various multilateral and bilateral agencies helping to implement REDD+.
Since Fiji has been assisted by the World Bank’s FCPF, the World Bank’s safeguards instruments has also been implemented through a series of analytical and studies and assessments which include the Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA), the Environmental and Social Management Framework, the Resettlement Policy Framework, the Feedback and Grievance Mechanism, Gender Action Plan, Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and Gender Frameworks and the Benefiting Sharing Plan. 
Most recently, a plan on Fiji’s approach to Safeguards was developed, followed by the development of a Safeguards Information System (SIS) prototype which lists the 7 Cancun Principles and associated criteria and indicators contextualised to suit Fiji also taking into account previous studies held. This will guide the assessment process throughout the implementation of the REDD+ and Fiji’s ER Program. A Safeguards Summary of Information has also been developed reporting on how Fiji has addressed and respected the Cancun Safeguards. 
The Ministry of Economy has also developed an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) that will allow the Ministry to explain its procedures for identifying, assessing and managing environmental and social risks of projects, define the decision-making process, describe the roles, responsibilities and capacity needs of staff for doing so and state the monitoring and reporting requirements. It also provides guidance on how to screen transactions, categorise transactions based on their environmental and social risk, conduct environmental and social due diligence, and monitor the project’s environmental and social performance.
While Fiji’s main goal is to reduce emissions to combat the adverse effects of climate change and achieve zero emissions by 2050, it is equally important to ensure that Safeguards instruments and mechanisms are operating because they will contribute to enhancing additional environmental and social benefits for Fijian communities such as to prevent diseases, promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services such as water regulation, soil conservation, timber, forest foods and other non-timber forest products. In addition, Safeguards through the REDD+ and emission reductions has the potential to yield social benefits such as jobs, livelihoods, land tenure clarification, carbon payments and forest governance and promote and preserve cultural and traditional knowledge. 
Safeguards will provide a foundation to promote sustainable development and build climate resilient communities in Fiji as well as ensure mechanisms are set up as the country pursues further avenues of carbon trading in future. 

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