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 Paris Agreement, 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, Paris Agreement, 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, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Read 1 Response

Tropical forest regions can greatly reduce commodity-driven deforestation: here’s how

Brazilian Amazon. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Brazilian Amazon. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Commitments to reduce deforestation in key commodity supply chains are on the rise, as are initiatives to implement them. EDF and colleagues at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies set out to map where such initiatives are underway. Specifically, they looked at areas where Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programs, jurisdictional approaches, and private sector actions are working to reduce deforestation driven by cattle, soy, palm oil, cocoa, and pulp and timber production.

In the peer-reviewed article Trifecta of Success for Reducing Commodity-Driven Deforestation, the authors determined which areas have the most potential for reducing commodity-driven deforestation at the scale and level needed to make a lasting impact. The findings can help companies and policymakers determine where to focus their implementation efforts.

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Also posted in Agriculture, Brazil, Forest protection, REDD+ / Read 1 Response

CDM design flaws can taint CORSIA, but supply from small developing countries could provide real emissions reductions

Aruba’s Vader Piet Wind Park

Aruba’s Vader Piet Wind Park. Credit: Miles Grant

By Kristin Qui, Environmental Defense Fund Tom Graff Fellow, International Carbon Markets

Last month, the 36 countries that make up the Council of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted the set of rules that will guide the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Known as the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), these rules constitute a significant step to get CORSIA up and running, and contribute to ICAO’s goal of capping net emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels.

However, much work remains to be done at ICAO between now and the end of 2018. The Council has not yet adopted some key elements, including details on CORSIA eligible emissions units, sustainable aviation fuels and criteria for both. Furthermore, the Council has yet to establish the Technical Advisory Body (TAB) that will make recommendations to the Council on which emissions units airlines can use. A transparent TAB, with broad stakeholder participation, is necessary to provide recommendations on high-quality units that represent real emissions reductions in CORSIA.

One mechanism under consideration to satisfy CORSIA demand for emissions units is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) established by the Kyoto Protocol 20 years ago. The purpose of the CDM, as specified by Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, is to assist rich countries in complying with their Kyoto emission reduction commitments by using emissions reductions credits from projects in developing countries, and to help the latter achieve sustainable development and contribute to the ultimate objective of the Convention, i.e., averting dangerous interference with the climate system. However, the CDM has run into a number of obstacles. In fact, several studies, including a new EDF analysis, finds that in many cases, the CDM’s methodologies and design don’t address additionality, don’t provide real and credible baselines and don’t avoid double counting. Below are some of the biggest issues with the CDM:

  1. Lack of additionality: Some CDM projects have been found to be non-additional, meaning that those projects would have happened in the absence of the CDM and its finance from the sale of CERs. Thus, under the CDM’s current design, countries can earn credits from projects for which they did not require CDM financing. This is quite alarming in a landscape where many smaller developing countries have trouble accessing the necessary climate finance to cope with the harsh impacts of climate change.
  2. Crowding out small countries: The majority of CDM projects originate in large developing countries, e.g. 85% of issued Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) occurs in China, India and Brazil, effectively crowding out smaller countries in need of finance for low carbon development. Even further, EDF’s analysis shows that one large developing country has a potential supply of about 10 times the demand of CORSIA, when projecting the maximum potential CDM supply out to 2030.
  3. Accounting issues: Other projects like HFC-23 destruction projects have been flagged for baseline inflation, meaning that project proponents overstated the number of reductions resulting from a given project. The atmosphere therefore sees less emissions reductions than the CDM project promises, setting back mitigation progress. Using such credits to offset an increase in emissions under CORSIA means that airlines would not be meeting their goals of carbon neutral growth from 2020.
  4. Lack of Transparency: Lack of transparency in the CDM Executive Board decision-making, communication and publishing of CDM data makes it challenging to understand the CDM project cycle. Shockingly, there is no way to tell when CERs have been used by an entity to offset an emissions increase.
  5. Lack of legal basis for using CERs in CORSIA: The future of the CDM is legally uncertain. The Kyoto Protocol establishes the CDM only for the twin purposes of helping non-Annex I Parties (developing countries) with sustainable development and Annex I Parties (developed countries) to meet their Kyoto emissions reduction commitments. The Protocol does not establish the use of CDM CERs for CORSIA or the Paris Agreement. Thus, the CDM Executive board has no legal authority to issue CERs after 2020, and may not have authority to issue CERs now. To use CERs in CORSIA, ICAO and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol must take the necessary legal decisions.
  6. Fraud: Recent analyses have demonstrated that a significant number of CERs may be fraudulent. In particular, large dams in Brazil were registered as CDM projects based on assertions that the projects depended on carbon finance for their future construction and operation. However, investors have successfully prosecuted lawsuits demonstrating that their funds disappeared in the Lava Jato corruption scandal, and the dams were built anyway. Airlines face big reputational risks if the units they use to meet CORSIA requirements are fraudulent in any way.

Some CDM projects could deliver environmental benefits

A recent analysis by EDF shows that CDM activities in small island developing states (SIDS), least developed countries (LDCs) and other African countries are more vulnerable to discontinuation without support from market mechanisms, meaning that such activities are more likely to be additional. Because of these reasons, and to improve access to market mechanisms for smaller developing countries that were effectively denied access by larger countries, rules for post-2020 use of CERs should focus on a particular subset of CDM activities. EDF’s analysis concludes that the highest likelihood of delivering environmental benefits from CDM activities, would arise from limiting use of CERs to those originating from activities in SIDS and LDCs, provided that they satisfy quality and accounting standards, including the need to avoid double counting.

Also posted in Aviation, Carbon Markets, Policy / Comments are closed

Sowing the seeds of a roadmap for agriculture

Photo credit Dr Huynh Quang Tin

Low carbon rice production in Vietnam. Dr Huynh Quang Tin

At last November’s COP23 in Germany, Parties involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations on agriculture celebrated a notable victory after agreeing to create the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). The KJWA marks a shift in focus from agricultural adaptation activities only, to a broader discussion of mitigation related activities. While COP23 Parties did not decide on the details of the KJWA, such as the “how” and the “when,” the outcome generated much needed momentum for the agriculture agenda of the UNFCCC.

In the lead up to the Bonn climate change negotiations that concluded last week, Parties and observers submitted their views on the “what”, “how”, and “when” of the KJWA. The Parties kept a very constructive – and even friendly – discourse in negotiation sessions, building off of last year’s positive COP23 outcome and increasing focus on implementation. The developing country group known as the G&77 + China, building off a New Zealand-led proposal, was very active in coordinating the creation of a roadmap for the KJWA. By the end of the first week, Parties agreed to draft conclusions outlining the roadmap.

Now with the UN secretariat for adoption, this roadmap provides an agenda of activities that includes workshops, topic submissions, and workshop reports every six months between now and the end of 2020. The series of workshops will cover the following topics:

  • How to implement the outcomes from the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency held before last year’s COP decision;
  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, and resilience;
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health, and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems;
  • Improved livestock management systems, including agropastoral production systems and others; and
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agriculture sector.

Submissions on topics for each workshop will be solicited prior to each session, followed by the preparation of a report after each workshop.

The first activity on the roadmap—submissions on implementing the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency—is due on October 22, 2018. Considering that Parties in Bonn solicited external inputs for current and future discussions, organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund have the opportunity to help advance the KJWA roadmap. By providing technical assistance, content, and process inputs, EDF and other organizations will support the work of Parties under the KJWA and maintain momentum. It is imperative to use this time to determine what issues to focus on during this series of workshops and how to operationalize the outcomes.

As reflected by the nature of the KJWA itself, shifting focus to implementation and tangible actions to help actors in the agriculture sector respond to climate change is essential if we are to meet the climate goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

Also posted in Agriculture, United Nations / Comments are closed