Climate 411

The Getting to Zero Coalition: a step further towards decarbonization

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This post was authored by Aoife O’Leary, Natacha Crete and Marie Hubatova from Environmental Defense Fund Europe

Today at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, the youth movement with Greta Thunberg at its helm, called out the world leaders in attendance for a lack of action in the climate emergency. Greta’s impassioned plea again makes clear that the time for action is now. Action from all sectors. In the absence of real transformative action, we have no hope of meeting the temperature goals established by science and enshrined in the Paris agreement.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres convened the climate action summit asking that countries and sectors come forward with scalable action. The summit is supposed to clarify the “how” in our path to avoiding catastrophic climate change. These provide the necessary catalyst for countries to take more ambitious commitments at the international climate negotiations in Glasgow in 2020. While much of what was announced today at the summit was pretty underwhelming, major players in the shipping sector have made significant effort to answer Guterres’ call.

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Also posted in International, United Nations / Comments are closed

Carbon markets: Can countries fill in the missing chapter of the Paris rulebook in Bonn?

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Bonn Climate Change Conference opening plenary. UNclimatechange

Negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany this week and next on the back of the successful negotiations in Katowice, Poland where the Paris climate agreement “rulebook” was mostly agreed, on time. A feat nearly unprecedented in the often glacial UN climate talks provides hope that countries can continue to work together in light of the urgency to address climate change.

The one exception to the success in Katowice was international cooperation through carbon markets. Despite taking the session into overtime, negotiators could not agree on a key chapter of that rulebook – the text meant to catalyze international cooperation on carbon markets under Article 6.

Among other things, Article 6 guidance will spell out how countries can “count” the results of international emissions reduction trading toward their Paris greenhouse gas reduction pledges (known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs). Article 6 has three main components framing international cooperation under the Paris Agreement. Article 6.2 provides for the accounting framework, Article 6.4 establishes a new UNFCCC mechanism and Article 6.8 provides a framework for non-market approaches.

As one of the last items that need to be addressed after COP24, carbon markets will be a central focus of the negotiations in 2019 and Article 6 will benefit from additional political focus on the road to agreement at COP25 in Santiago de Chile in December.

Here we answer key questions about carbon markets and the UN climate talks.  Read More »

Also posted in Carbon Markets, International, United Nations / Comments are closed

What ProPublica’s forest carbon credits story still gets wrong – and right (with update)

By Steve Schwartzman, Senior Director, Tropical Forest Policy, and Christina McCain, Director, Latin America

Amazon Canopy. Warwick Lister-Kaye / istockphoto.com.

***Please read on for our response to ProPublica’s follow-up article***

ProPublica’s recent piece An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth is a deeply reported story on very real problems – and even bigger potential problems – with offset projects in existing and emerging carbon markets. But the evidence the article lays out does not support its conclusion about forest carbon crediting. And readers might come away without understanding that protecting forests, including through forest carbon credits, is one of the most important solutions to climate change out there, and the planet can’t afford to dismiss this opportunity to solve the climate crisis.

Missing: The critical distinction between individual “projects” and large-scale, state-level programs to reduce deforestation

It’s not news that bad carbon credits won’t solve climate change. Lots of studies have shown that there are all kinds of bad offset projects, and definitely not just forest projects. But today’s jurisdictional forest credits aren’t your parents’ forest project offsets: they’re real emissions reductions. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the ProPublica story.

The ProPublica piece fails to distinguish large-scale national or provincial programs to reduce emissions from deforestation – known as “jurisdictional” programs – from one-off, small “projects” to reduce deforestation. ProPublica’s implication that old projects had failings and therefore now so must contemporary jurisdictional programs, is like saying flip phones had all sorts of problems, so all cell phones must be unreliable and we should shun smartphones.  Read More »

Also posted in Brazil, California, Carbon Markets, Forest protection, Indigenous People, REDD+, United Nations / Read 5 Responses

There’s progress on climate standards for international aviation, but more needed

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Airplane flying above tropical sea at sunset. Adam Clark, Flickr

If you fly, aviation emissions are likely the largest part of your personal carbon footprint. Absent policy change, aviation’s emissions are slated to triple in the coming decades, making it one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution worldwide.

To achieve the Paris Agreement goals of holding warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to address emissions from all sectors. This includes international aviation and international shipping, which most countries do not include in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Back in 1997 when the Parties to the Climate Treaty couldn’t agree on how to allocate these international emissions, they asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN body that sets standards for international flights, and the International Maritime Organization, for ships, to address these emissions. How are their strategies stacking up?

In a forthcoming post, we’ll look at what’s happened lately in IMO. Here’s an update on ICAO. In 2018, ICAO adopted a set of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to implement the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA. As an annex to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the SARPs bring into effect an agreement reached in ICAO in 2016 to cap the net carbon dioxide emissions from international flights at 2020 levels through 2035. If implemented with integrity, CORSIA could prevent up to 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s 10 times what U.S. households emit each year. It could do even more if CORSIA’s targets are extended and tightened.

To comply with CORSIA, all international airlines must monitor, report and verify their CO2 emissions. Effective January 1, 2021, airlines flying between participating countries will need to limit the emissions of those flights to the average of their 2019-2020 levels. To meet these emissions limits, airlines can reduce their direct emissions, or purchase and cancel carbon offset credits. Airlines can reduce the amount of offset credits they need by using sustainable, CORSIA-eligible alternative fuels that emit significantly less CO2 than conventional fuels when evaluated on a lifecycle basis.

In March 2019, ICAO took another step forward, agreeing on broad criteria that carbon offset programs will have to meet in order to be eligible to sell emissions units for use in CORSIA. The adoption of these criteria has sparked a sharp uptick in interest in carbon markets.  Read More »

Also posted in Aviation, Carbon Markets, United Nations / Comments are closed

Will governments disappoint again on carbon accounting at upcoming aviation meetings?

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Silhouette of Airplane during Sunset. Pexels.com

Some major companies, including airlines, took the lead last December in Katowice, Poland in rejecting the use of dubious carbon credits toward their climate efforts. Despite this drumbeat against bad rules for cooperative approaches under Article 6 of the Paris agreement, experienced government negotiators fell short and did not finalize these guidelines in Katowice. This month in Montreal, governments could decide the fate of carbon credits for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction System for International Aviation (CORSIA), but will they ignore business demand for good credits by allowing aviation emissions reductions to be double counted?

Let’s look behind the negotiating curtain and unpack how companies got involved, why governments should pay attention to companies’ push for environmental integrity and what governments can do in Montreal to maintain the integrity of CORSIA.

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Also posted in Aviation, Carbon Markets, International, United Nations / Read 1 Response

Could aviation loopholes swallow climate progress?

Letting CDM credits into the aviation climate agreement could cut CORSIA’s effective participation from about three quarters down to less than 20 percent, negating its climate impact.

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Airplane taking off from San Francisco. Flickr/ dsleeter_2000

As bleary-eyed negotiators at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) in Katowice, Poland, struggle through late nights of haggling over rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, one challenge they face is how to energize a global competitive market for cutting climate pollution, while ensuring the integrity of that market.

Technical talks in the far recesses of the giant conference center are focused on two key issues: carbon credit quality, and accurate book-keeping.

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Also posted in Aviation, Carbon Markets, News, United Nations / Read 2 Responses