Climate 411

We need to go big to solve the climate crisis

Johnny Lye. iStock

The environmental integrity of emissions reductions depends on scale and systemic changes, not on sector of origin of the emissions

We urgently need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions far beyond current climate pledges, even if these were fully attained. But there’s a completely doable way to make major progress, near to hand.

Natural climate solutions can provide 20% of all the emissions reductions we need by 2050 to keep average global warming under 2 C. Stopping tropical deforestation, allowing tropical forests to regenerate and restoring degraded lands are the most important methods, particularly in the next decade. Letting countries or companies that exceed ambitious targets trade their surplus emissions reductions to those who fall short would permit much greater global emissions reductions than not trading. Countries could reach their targets more quickly, and trading would create more incentive to protect and restore land.

Some researchers and policy makers have held that nature-based solutions, such as stopping deforestation, are too risky. A forest you protect today could burn down tomorrow. But in fact, this problem exists with all emissions reductions, not only those based in terrestrial carbon. And nature-based solutions are worth considering as many of the highest quality and highest value emissions reductions that are feasible in the coming years.

A new article in Environmental Research Letters by scientists and economists from the Environmental Defense Fund and Princeton University shows that the best way to execute emissions reductions – whether they are from protecting forests or cutting down on fossil fuel –is to go big.

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Also posted in Brazil, Carbon Markets, Forest protection, REDD+ / Leave a comment

The EU has the power to bring transformational change to global shipping

Container cargo freight ship with working crane loading bridge in shipyard at dusk.

This post was written by Panos Spiliotis, Global Climate Shipping Manager for EDF, and also appears on EDF Europe.

The European Commission’s “Fit for 55” policy package opens a powerful new opportunity to decarbonise shipping—a sector with a growing share of global emissions (roughly 3%) that is not covered by any EU climate target.

Released last week, the ‘Fit for 55’ package is the most robust policy proposal package set out by any of the world’s economies to date and signals to the international community that the EU is focused on its new target to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030. The Commission’s proposal to include international maritime transport in the EU Emissions Trading System can carry shipping a long way to a zero-carbon future; however, the policy suite fails in other ways to steer shipping entirely away from fossil fuels. Instead of kicking the can down the road, Brussels should chart a course that steers the sector away from liquefied natural gas (LNG) and toward cleaner options.

EU must stop favouring LNG
One key feature of the package, “Refuel EU,” mandates a progressive decrease in the carbon content of marine fuels. Unfortunately, the European Commission has put forward targets that will boost the use of LNG and biofuels in shipping—a pointless half-measure that will not lead to real transformative action. It is a sorely missed opportunity. If appropriately designed, the Refuel EU fuel standard could incentivize zero-carbon fuels.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Shipping, United Nations / Read 2 Responses

A bold new commitment to the Paris Agreement is achievable – and essential for U.S. leadership

This blog post was co-authored with Nat Keohane, Senior Vice President for Climate at EDF.
The White House

Now that the United States is officially back in the Paris Agreement, after four years of climate inaction and denial, all eyes are on the Biden administration to see whether it will meet the moment by putting forward a new emissions reduction commitment that is both ambitious and credible. In order to hit both marks, the administration should commit to cut total net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 – a target that is consistent with the science and President Biden’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050, commensurate with commitments of other advanced economies, and one that many state leaders, businesses, advocates and others are already calling for.

This year’s UN climate talks, known as COP26 and set to take place in November, will be a proving ground for the Paris Agreement framework. Countries must come to the table with more ambitious climate targets known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. Collectively, these NDCs must put the world on a path consistent with the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The United States has the chance to regain a position as a global leader on climate – and to galvanize climate action around the world – by setting an ambitious target that meets the scale of the climate crisis. The new U.S. NDC must also be credible – meaning that one or more technically and economically viable policy pathways can be identified to achieve it. Using a range of analyses, a new EDF report demonstrates how a bold new commitment of reducing total net GHG emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 is achievable through multiple policy pathways – and that charting an ambitious path on climate is essential for growing a stronger and more equitable, clean U.S. economy.

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Also posted in Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, Paris Agreement, Policy, United Nations / Comments are closed

New program pays landowners to protect forests on their farms in Brazil

Join us during London Climate Action Week for the webinar Demonstrating on-the-ground incentives to protect forests in Mato Grosso, Brazil on November 16th, 11:30 am EST where we’ll be discussing this issue and more. Watch the recording here.

By Breno Pietracci, Ph.D., economist at Environmental Defense Fund

Many Brazilian farmers have large tracts of Amazon rainforest and Cerrado tropical savanna on their properties. According to the 2012 Brazilian Forest Code, landowners in the Amazon must maintain at least 80% of their farms as standing forests while those in the Cerrado must keep no less than 35%. Farmers have the right to clear all vegetation above these legal thresholds.

But what if over-compliant farmers were financially rewarded to keep those forests they can legally deforest alive? That’s the aim of CONSERV, a novel and groundbreaking forest protection program recently launched in Brazil, with international debut scheduled for the London Climate Action Week. CONSERV is a systemic, scalable initiative that constitutes part of a set of strategies that can reduce deforestation at a jurisdictional (national or state-level) scale.

Brazil has successfully reduced deforestation by deploying an arsenal of command-and-control forest conservation policies over the last decades. From 2004 to 2012, deforestation in the Legal Amazon fell by more than 80% with a combination of increased law enforcement, expansion of protected areas – indigenous territories and conservation units, rural credit reforms and supply chain initiatives. Such remarkable achievement has mainly relied upon using “sticks” (penalties) and only limited “carrots” (incentives).

Over those years, some multilateral programs have attempted to use incentive-based payments for performance in reducing deforestation at large scales, namely the Amazon Fund and the REDD+ Early Movers program in the states of Acre and Mato Grosso. However, these have not yet been deployed at a scale to significantly change the behavior of rural producers.

As few positive incentives have materialized in the effort to reduce Amazon deforestation in Brazil, since 2013 the gains in preventing deforestation have stalled and are now under threat with weakened command-and-control and law enforcement. CONSERV is a first step in providing the missing positive incentive piece of the equation.

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Also posted in Brazil, Forest protection, REDD+ / Comments are closed

COVID-19, protecciones ambientales debilitadas y violaciones a los derechos amenazan los territorios indígenas y las áreas protegidas de la Amazonía

Esta publicación fue corredactada por Bärbel Henneberger.

English version.

Hombre Kichwa cruzando el Río Arajuno, Amazonia Ecuatoriana. Bärbel Henneberger

Los Pueblos Indígenas que habitan en la Amazonía son conocidos como “guardianes de los bosques” debido a su eficacia para mantenerlos intactos. Los territorios indígenas y las áreas protegidas conjuntamente cubren el 52% de la Amazonía y almacenan el 58% del carbono, superando así a las tierras circundantes en términos de almacenamiento de carbono y limitando las emisiones netas de carbono, según un estudio publicado en la revista Proceedings of the National Academy of Science a principios de año.

Aun así, los territorios indígenas y las áreas protegidas se enfrentan a nuevas amenazas. Los líderes indígenas de la Amazonía informan del incremento de casos de violación de sus derechos. Las invasiones por parte de los mineros, ganaderos y madereros ilegales que invaden las tierras indígenas protegidas quedan en la impunidad y, al parecer, todos ellos se sienten alentados por las declaraciones de los líderes políticos y los esfuerzos legislativos para permitir en los territorios indígenas nuevas concesiones mineras.

Las concesiones para la extracción de petróleo y minería otorgados por los gobiernos se superponen a cerca de una cuarta parte de los territorios indígenas reconocidos, lo que aumenta sustancialmente su vulnerabilidad a los impactos adversos.

Al momento el COVID-19 agrava estas amenazas en un escenario en que las autoridades nacionales no han podido patrullar las reservas naturales y territorios indígenas con la frecuencia requerida; situación que las organizaciones criminales y madereros ilegales han estado usando a su favor.

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Also posted in Forest protection, Indigenous People / Comments are closed

As Amazon deforestation rises, so does the need for urgent action

Deforestation in the Amazon. iStock.

The year 2020 was expected to be a “super year” for global action on climate change. Instead, it’s become an “extraordinary year” for a global community trying to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst this backdrop, deforestation throughout the Amazon has been rising steadily, jumping 55% in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. This is no coincidence. Loggers, miners, land-grabbers and individuals clearing land for soy and livestock are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to illegally clear the forest.

Enforcement of forest protection was already severely weakened across the Amazon, due in part to anti-environmental leadership and rhetoric, such as that of President Bolsonaro in Brazil. The virus has forced many of the field agents responsible for keeping forest invaders out to retreat, making it virtually impossible to enforce environmental laws and leaving these areas open to destruction. As we enter fire season, deforestation could get much worse due to warmer than average sea surface temperatures which could exacerbate the spread of fires. It all makes for a “perfect storm” that is threatening the Amazon forest and is already having disastrous impacts on the Indigenous communities who depend on forests.

Increased deforestation will jeopardize the rainforest’s rich biodiversity and extensive carbon stocks. It’s pushing the Amazon closer to the tipping point where deforestation will be irreversible. And it’s hindering global climate change mitigation efforts.

If the global community is going to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity, the New York Declaration on Forests and other frameworks, then countries and companies need to prioritize forest protection.

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Also posted in Brazil, Forest protection, Indigenous People, Jobs, REDD+ / Comments are closed