Saturday, October 19, 2019

Editorial / DT 11 2013

Sitting on aid billions

The jury is still out on the ambitious rainforest initiative launched by Norway’s out-going Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in December 2007. But it is taking an awfully long time to see results.

Back then there was huge optimism about reduced emissions from deforestation and forestry degradation (REDD). It was to be a relatively cheap and easy approach to combating climate change by paying tropical forest countries that could slow their rates deforestation. As Stoltenberg said on so many occasions: “Everyone knows how not to cut down a tree”.

REDD, it turns out, is not especially cheap. And not cutting down trees is about as easy to bring about as not extracting oil from the North Sea. In the words of a World Bank evaluation, making REDD happen has been “more expensive, complex, and protracted” than initially anticipated.

Indeed, almost a billion Norwegian crowns in REDD money sit in a World Bank carbon fund waiting to be disbursed to countries that can demonstrate that they have reduced their deforestation rate. Out of a total of NOK 8 billion allocated by Norway over the last six years for its forest climate initiative, more than NOK 4 billion remain unspent. This amount will almost certainly climb well past NOK 5 billion by the end of this year when the Brazilian allocation for 2013 is made.

It remains to be seen whether a new Conservative-led Norwegian government will have the patience to continue testing the REDD model - and for how long.

Norway might be able to hold out for a few more years, but it is hard to imagine that there is any other country out there that can afford to sit on so much unspent aid money for so long.

If that is the case, is it realistic - or even desireable - for Norway to carry such a large part of this burden alone?