Measuring, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verifying (MMRV): Negotiating Trust in Transnational Contracts for REDD+

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Efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas build-up through quantifying and controlling the world's forests highlight new directions in international transnational conservation contracts. The emerging regime of Measuring, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verifying (MMRV) in global climate change cooperation, with a particular focus on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), shows how transnational conservation contracts are helping to reconstruct "sovereignty"--a cornerstone of international law--to adapt to 21st-century perils that demand unprecedented cooperation between nations.

While negotiating a Kyoto Protocol successor, Northern nations have pledged US$30 billion in "fast track" mitigation aid to Southern nations between 2010-2012, and pledged US$100 billion yearly by 2020 to support mitigation and adaptation activities in Southern nations. This is to be managed in a global "Green Fund" under the auspices of the World Bank. (1)

Despite opposition, (2) REDD+ will attract a large proportion of these funds, as diverse stakeholders prize the South's dwindling forests. Tropical deforestation accounts for about 15-20% of GHG emissions--a greater contribution than all forms of transport combined, and equal to the annual emissions of China or the United States. (3) Extant forests, now viewed as a repository of greenhouse gases fungible with industrialized emissions, have been brought under an international cross-boundary trading regime. (4) Northern governments, businesses, and citizens are investing billions of dollars in the vast, imperiled forests of the South. (5) Funds come not just from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) architecture, but also from parallel, legally mandated offsetting programs in Norway (spending US$3 billion on REDD+), California, and elsewhere, as well as a voluntary market where concerned citizens and businesses offset their GHG consumption through investing in REDD+ in developing nations. (6)

In a REDD+ project, an entity--a government, community, private developer, or individual landowner--commits to reforest land or to preserve a forest that would otherwise be cut down or degraded. The entity may then sell the carbon, now sequestered in the trees, for a contracted period of time. (7) REDD+ may happen on a project-by-project basis--one developer, one landowner. Or REDD+ may happen on a broader scale, i.e., a nation or state/province pledges to use REDD+ funding to reduce deforestation or foment reforestation resulting in sequestered GHGs above a "business as usual" baseline. (8) If REDD+ lived up to its synergistic potential, it would mitigate greenhouse gas buildup, alleviate rural poverty, and preserve biodiversity. (9) To make this transfer of funds possible--and thus sustain tropical forests and the human and nonhuman communities that depend upon them--the acronym "MMRV" has become key to mutually beneficial transnational contracts. The acronym MRV first arose in the 2007 UNFCCC Conference of Parties: The Bali Action Plan called for MRV as a crucial element of any new international agreement. (10) "MMRV" stands for "Measuring, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verifying." (11) Without a comprehensive, rigorous, reciprocal--and in many cases, intrusive--system of MMRV, it is unlikely that global leaders will invest in the Green Fund or find common will for a multilateral environmental agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. (12) Outside the formal UNFCCC process, investors in REDD+ are developing MMRV protocols to ensure multiple, synergistic returns on their investments. (13)


MMRV is key to forging transnational conservation contracts that use REDD+ to battle climate change, and simultaneously to staunch deforestation and reduce poverty. (14) The precise parameters--who must meet which MMRV obligations, on what subjects, with what intrusive oversight--have been pivotal in negotiations to forge multilateral climate change cooperation. …