Climate 411

The big news on forests you may have missed during the Global Climate Action Summit

Last week marked another significant achievement in California’s climate leadership, as the state hosted side-by-side global gatherings of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), and the tenth annual meeting of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, a multi-lateral organization of subnational jurisdictions, which California helped launch in 2008.

But California doesn’t just add to the notches in its environmental leadership by hosting meetings, drawing celebrities, and showcasing pledges.

It’s the work that underlies it all – years, even decades in the making – that gives California the heft to pull off these feats.

One of California’s real accomplishments that was overshadowed – undeservedly – by the summit was the release of the California Tropical Forest Standard, which would lay the groundwork to help protect tropical forests around the world by leveraging the state’s climate program and its global vision.

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Also posted in California / Read 1 Response

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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Also posted in Agriculture, 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.

Also posted in REDD+ / Comments are closed

Why and how Brazil should do more to stop deforestation and climate change

Forest fire in Brazil

This post was co-authored by Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and Steve Schwartzman of EDF. See the first part of this reaction to Brazil’s climate target: Brazil's climate pledge is significant, but falls short on curbing deforestation.

Brazil’s climate pledges in advance of the Paris negotiations were significant because it is one of the world’s most important emerging economies, and it’s taking on an absolute, economy-wide emissions reduction target. But, its related goal of achieving zero illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by 2030 is widely regarded in Brazil as lacking in ambition.

Stopping deforestation, which formerly accounted for about 70% of Brazil’s emissions, would be good for Brazil, good for Brazilian agriculture, and supported by a large majority of Brazilians. It is also doable. Here are three reasons why, and a look at how Brazil could make such policies work.

1) More forest, less poverty: Brazil’s economy can grow without deforestation

Brazil succeeded in reducing Amazon deforestation by more than 80% since 2005 while maintaining robust growth in beef and soy production. There are at least about 56,000 km² of degraded cattle pasture in the Amazon that can be reclaimed for agriculture, as well as ample scope for intensifying cattle raising and improving yields, freeing up even more land.

Agriculture and land-use scientist Bernardo Strassburg argues that by increasing average productivity of pasture in Brazil from the current 30% of its potential to about 50%, Brazil could meet all new demand for commodities until 2040 with no new deforestation. The benefits to smallholders would be also important, considering the already deforested area (12.7 million hectares) available for agriculture expansion in rural settlements. With appropriate technical assistance and credit smallholders could produce more food (smallholders account for 80% of food production in the Amazon) with less deforestation.

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Also posted in Brazil, International / Comments are closed

NY Times forests oped is out on a limb: protecting trees still key to solving climate change

In an oped in Saturday's New York Times (To Save the Planet, Don't Plant Trees), Nadine Unger argues that reducing deforestation and planting trees won't help fix climate change but will rather make it worse. One might ask how the 2,000-plus scientists and experts on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) got this one wrong – they found tropical deforestation a major source that must be reduced to control climate change – but in fact it's Unger who's way out on a limb here.

Steve Schwartzman, Director of Tropical Forest Policy

Steve Schwartzman, Director of Tropical Forest Policy

When trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere and store it as carbon in their trunks, branches, leaves and roots. When people cut the trees down and burn them to clear forest for cattle pasture or crops, as they have at a rate of 13 million hectares of forest per year in the tropics over the last decade, this releases CO₂ back into the atmosphere.

Unger argues that forests absorb more sunlight than crops or grassland, which reflect more sunlight back into space and cool the earth. But that's not true in the tropics. In tropical forests like the Amazon, where deforestation is happening and thus where the Climate Summit's attention is focused, trees take up water from rainfall and evaporate it through their leaves, and create cloud cover. These clouds reflect even more sunlight than grasslands or bare earth, thus cooling the earth more. This is why large-scale deforestation disrupts rainfall regimes – and why deforestation in the Amazon, if unchecked, may reduce rainfall in California.

Emissions from tropical deforestation are, from the perspective of the atmosphere, just the same as emissions from burning fossil fuels – carbon that was wood, coal, oil or gas is turned into CO₂ and released to the atmosphere. In a living forest, trees do die and, over time release CO₂ to the atmosphere. But then new trees grow, and absorb that CO₂ again – not the case when forests that have stored carbon for centuries are replaced by grass to feed cattle or oil palm plantations.

Contrary to Unger’s claims, the "high risk" is to ignore the 200 billion tons of at-risk carbon stocks in the world’s tropical forests. In fact, as the IPCC has concluded, stopping tropical deforestation is a critical priority for controlling climate change.

Posted in Forest protection / Comments are closed