Climate 411

Connecting indigenous growers with buyers helps save forests and lift up communities

Hugo and Jose, cacao, Mexico, Original Beans

Indigenous farmers Hugo and Jose of Agrofloresta examine cacao saplings to be planted in Mexico. Photo credit: Anders Prien Saxbol of Original Beans

Economic development while also conserving forests is not easy. Building infrastructure and increasing production often entails forest degradation or destruction. But at Environmental Defense Fund, our mantra “Finding the ways that work” challenges us to solve even the most intractable problems. And so over the last five years, one way we made economic development and forest conservation “work” is by partnering with indigenous organizations that sustainably grow coffee and cacao in some of the most remote parts of the world, and bringing to them buyers from the United States and Europe.

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Posted in Agriculture, Forest protection, Indigenous People / Comments are closed

The state of REDD+ (mid-2018 edition)

Deforestation is still a significant problem around the world, but governments are increasingly making the institutional changes necessary to limit deforestation. Credit: Flickr/Dams999

As the biennial REDD Exchange (REDDx) conference in Oslo approaches, it is a good time to review the progress Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) has made over the last year.

Deforestation still continues to be a significant problem in many parts of the world (tropical and non-tropical), so there is definitely more work to do. However, more and more of the institutional changes necessary to turn the corner on deforestation in the coming years are occurring at all levels of government. Below are some notable areas of progress we’ve seen recently on REDD+.

National programs complete Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements

Three countries (Brazil, Ecuador, and Malaysia) have now submitted all Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements to the Lima Info Hub, and 36 countries have submitted Forest Reference Emission Levels  – an increase of 11 submissions since COP 23 in November 2017.

Innovation in Brazil

Notable progress has been made in Brazil, where the country’s national REDD+ committee (CONAREDD+) modified its Amazon Fund incentive system to use a “stock-flow” approach to directly benefit its nine Amazon Basin states. The approach recognizes efforts by the Amazon Basin states to not only reduce deforestation (the “flow” part), but also conserve their current forest carbon stocks (the “stock” part). A recent report funded by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) explains the new system and how it should better incentivize Amazon Basin states to conserve carbon stocks and reduce deforestation.

Most important to curbing deforestation and enhancing REDD+ is for the amount and scope of results payments to national governments to increase. Until then, it will be challenging to accelerate the necessary government-led actions and policy changes.

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility countries advance

Progress is also being made in the FCPF’s Carbon Fund. The Carbon Fund board has approved or provisionally approved the Emission Reduction Programs of 11 countries. Four of those countries (Costa Rica, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mexico) are in or starting negotiations to finalize the results-based payment terms, which should be concluded before the year’s end. It is possible that a payment for results will also occur before the end of the year.

Colombia – a step backward and a step forward

Colombia offers a mixed bag of progress and challenges. Deforestation did increase since the signing of the peace agreement, but the government is taking various actions to combat this rise in deforestation. The Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the government must protect the Amazon forest. To support the government’s efforts, the Norwegian government agreed to finance these actions through results based payments that must also include benefits to Colombia’s indigenous peoples. This complements the Colombian government’s expansion of indigenous territories in mid-2017.

REDD+ projects’ evolution in national systems

Colombia was also in the spotlight when it announced that companies would be able to meet their carbon tax responsibility through purchasing emissions reductions from REDD+ projects.  Only a month ago, news came from Peru that the federal government will “nest” some REDD+ projects into its nationally determined contribution (NDC) commitments. For both countries, it is still unclear how exactly the “nesting” of the projects, benefit sharing, and accounting against NDCs will work, but these are important first steps.

Private sector deforestation reduction strategies

Collaboration with the private sector will be important for the success of REDD+ – especially in countries where agriculture commodities such as beef and soy are the main drivers of deforestation. Previous strategies were focused on using third-party verified certification schemes, but their limitations have been recognized and now a more holistic and complete solution is being pursued: the jurisdictional approach.

Multinational companies such as Unilever, Mars, Olam, and Walmart all announced their support of this strategy last year at COP 23’s Forest Day while on a panel with leaders from the Mato Grosso, Brazil and Sabah, Malaysia jurisdictions. Mato Grosso’s Produce, Conserve, and Include strategy (PCI) is probably one of the most advanced jurisdictional approaches and has recently been buoyed by both a REDD+ Early Movers (REM) MoU worth 17 million euros  and a commitment of support from Carrefour.

Looking forward

While notable progress on the REDD+ front has been made over the last 6-12 months, the Global Forest Watch team at the REDDx conference will probably announce that deforestation for 2017 was still near record highs. More action is needed at all levels; perhaps more substantial actions will be highlighted at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit to be held in September.

Most important to curbing deforestation and enhancing REDD+, however, is for the amount and scope of results payments to national governments to increase. These payments could come from the Green Climate Fund’s REDD+ results based payment Request For Proposals or transactions from the FCPF’s Carbon Fund.

Until these payments start to flow in an efficient and methodologically consistent manner, it will be challenging to accelerate the necessary government-led actions and policy changes. REDDx in Oslo could provide an opportunity to hear how we can make this happen.

Posted in Forest protection, REDD+ / Comments are closed

Agriculture negotiations reach agreement at COP23

Photo by UNClimateChange

In what could be the iconic decision of COP 23, negotiators in Bonn agreed to new future negotiation processes to “jointly address” a number of new agriculture topics, overcoming longstanding hurdles that had blocked progress on the topic in recent years.

Why is this important?

Emissions from agriculture are expected to continue growing as the world’s population continues to expand and diets change with rising incomes.

However, a recent journal article by Griscom et al. published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found activities under the agriculture and grasslands rubric, such as management of fertilizer use, could achieve roughly 6% of needed emission reductions to stay below a 2 degree temperature change. To realize that potential though, farmers need new tools and incentives.

Additionally, farmers are expecting to find their jobs of growing our food harder as climate change makes weather patterns more unpredictable, and makes climatic events such as droughts and flooding more frequent and intense. Farmers will also need new methods and technologies to make their farms more resilient and adapt to the new conditions.

Agriculture has been discussed for years, but progress had been stymied by disagreement related to potential trade implications on key commodity exports, whether to prioritize adaptation or mitigation in the agenda, and UNFCCC process-oriented concerns on what could and couldn’t be negotiated based on the last agriculture decision.

What’s in the decision?

The negotiators agreed to have the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) review issues associated with agriculture by using workshops and technical expert meetings.

Using both the SBI and SBSTA to review a topic “jointly” is not a frequent negotiation strategy pursued by negotiators. That’s because the complexity of the negotiation rises exponentially when a topic is jointly negotiated rather than negotiated in a single process. But this process was used for the set of policy approaches for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), which ended up being the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement.

Regarding topics in agriculture that the processes might first consider, they include:

  • How to assess adaptation, adaptation co-benefits (code for mitigation), and resilience
  • How to improve soil health, soil carbon in grasslands and croplands, and related water management
  • How to improve nutrient management – e.g. more efficient fertilizer use
  • How to improve livestock management systems
  • Studying the socioeconomic and food security issues associated with climate change in the agriculture sector
  • Any of the previous topics discussed in a set of workshops in recent years

Importantly, the negotiators also left other agenda items to be added as needed, which let countries see flexibility in the future to add a topic of more relevance to them.

 What is the timeline for the process?

The decision asks for reports back in three years at COP 26 in 2020. If the process is successful, countries should then have more knowledge and methodologies at their disposal to take action in their respective agriculture sectors in the post-2020 climate regime. At the moment, there is no clear guidance for them on how they might take such action, nor are there incentives for them to do so.

With this momentous decision on agriculture at COP 23, we now have a great opportunity for making our food supply and farmers’ livelihoods more resilient while also contributing to mitigating climate change.

Posted in Agriculture, International, REDD+, United Nations / Comments are closed