Shoddy CIFOR publication on indigenous peoples’ rights abuses gets the facts wrong

Indigenous People Day at COP23 | Photo by UNClimateChange

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) held a press conference during COP 23 in Bonn to launch a new publication, “Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation.”

But the research underlying this sensationalistic headline is fundamentally flawed. Not only is their publication factually wrong in many places, but the peer-review process failed to identify numerous weaknesses in the analysis. A rights-based approach for REDD+ was already enshrined in the UNFCCC COP 19’s decision on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ in 2013. One could argue that it actually goes even further back to the Cancun Safeguard decision at COP 16 in 2010.

Below are the five primary issues in the report. (Note: The rest of this piece assumes readers are generally familiar with the points made in the CIFOR publication and very familiar with REDD+ within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.)

  1. The mafia, not REDD+ supporters, are killing indigenous and community leaders

The biggest problem with CIFOR’s publication is they fail to identify who is murdering indigenous and community leaders trying to protect their rights and forests, which gives the impression that it’s people connected to REDD+.

But the researchers say in footnote 2 they did not attempt to investigate the veracity of the allegations:

“As this review refers only to published sources, it does not include more recent allegations or attempts to evaluate the veracity or present status of each case (including whether corrective measures have since been taken), …”

If they would have done more research, they would have found that the majority did not have anything to do with a REDD+ process or rise to an actual “rights abuse” definition. Global Witness documented 200 killings in 2016, and 97 so far in 2017, and identified the biggest violators as mafias involved in illegal logging, mining, and agribusiness – not REDD+ proponents murdering indigenous and community activists.

  1. CIFOR’s publication relies on unreliable sources

Some of CIFOR’s sourcing for its publication is untrustworthy. For example, REDD-Monitor.com has a clear anti-REDD+ agenda and its funders include a who’s who list of groups with strong anti-REDD+ positions. Its About page calls REDD+ a “hairbrained scheme to allow continued greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels by offsetting these emissions against ‘avoided deforestation’ in the Global South.”

  1. CIFOR’s article’s peer-review is weak

While many of the reviewers are knowledgeable about rights and the REDD+ field, they are not the people who are most well-acquainted with UNFCCC REDD+ decisions.

  1. UNFCCC REDD+ uses a rights-based approach

REDD+ negotiators, indigenous peoples representatives, and civil society organizations spent eight years creating comprehensive guidance for REDD+, called the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.

The Warsaw Framework includes the “Cancun Safeguards” and also mandates reporting on how the safeguards are addressed and respected. The Cancun Safeguards were agreed to in 2010 and were one of the first REDD+ decisions that guided all subsequent decisions.

The Cancun Safeguards was one of the first decisions to reference the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (also known as “UNDRIP”) in an international agreement. Nearly all of the world’s countries approved the decision and the insertion of a reference to UNDRIP forced many countries who had not previously acknowledged the Declaration to do as much.

  1. The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ does not include project-based REDD+

A significant part of the “allegations” and “potential” negative examples explored in the article are linked to REDD+ projects, which again, are not covered by the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. But do a simple word search for “projects” in all of the UNFCCC REDD+ decisions and you’ll see the word does not appear once. That’s because implicitly, UNFCCC REDD+ is meant for jurisdictional REDD+ programs – not one-off REDD+ projects.

Suggestions for moving forward

CIFOR and the REDD+ community should consider a few steps to make amends for their inaccurate publication.

  • CIFOR should consider writing its own research paper on the dozens, if not hundreds, of indigenous leaders and forest activists that are murdered every year defending their rights and the forests.
  • CIFOR should not treat REDD Monitor as a legitimate resource for academic research.
  • CIFOR should improve its “peer-review” process and ensure information is, per its tagline, “accurate.”

Vigilance will always be needed to ensure that no abuses of indigenous rights occur in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation. One such violation is one too many.

However, such risks have long been identified and are already being addressed, not least because indigenous groups have effectively used national and international REDD+ processes to advance recognition of their rights.

Sensationalized publications based on unsubstantiated allegations do nobody any good, and divert attention from documented rights violations and murders committed by actors seeking to destroy forests – not by REDD+ proponents who are eager to work with indigenous leaders to protect them.

Posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples| Leave a comment

The New Normal: California-Quebec Auction Clears Above the Floor Price

Photo: Pxhere

By Erica Morehouse and Katelyn Roedner Sutter

California and Quebec released results today for the November 2017 auction which showed steady prices well above the floor for the second auction in a row. The November auction was also the second in a row to sell out of allowances. Both outcomes are a reflection of the secure market that is now set to run through 2030, and demonstrate that the design features of cap and trade are working as expected to maintain a strong and stable program.

November Auction At-a-Glance

  • Approximately $862,407,989 raised for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to invest in a number of programs including clean transportation, urban greening, and improving local air quality.
  • All current vintage allowances were sold of the 79,548,286 offered for sale, including 15,909,657 allowances that were previously unsold in 2016. This is the first auction including held allowances.
  • Current vintage allowances sold at $15.06, $1.49 above the $13.57 floor price. This is 31 cents higher than the August clearing price.
  • All future vintage allowances sold of the 9,723,500 offered for sale. These allowances will not be available for compliance use until 2020. For the second auction in a row, future vintage allowances sold out above the floor price, showing strong confidence in the cap-and-trade program after 2020.

The Nuts and Bolts of Cap and Trade, Important and Working

This auction demonstrated how some of the “behind the scenes” elements of cap and trade are working – and succeeding – to keep the market strong and stable.

Importance of Banking

These auction results show that businesses’ ability to “bank” allowances for use in later years when prices will be higher and the cap tighter are critical for market stability, and most importantly, emissions performance. In 2016 and early 2017, before California legislatively extended its cap-and-trade program from 2020 to 2030, demand for allowances was falling off in part because emissions were already below the cap and the uncertainty of the future program discouraged any banking. With the cap extended to 2030, however, demand and prices are more stable and there is once again a strong incentive for polluters to save their allowances for future years and make cost-effective emission reductions sooner than required for compliance. Early reductions can be cost effective for companies, and are great for the environment.

First Auction to Offer Unsold Allowances

The November auction is the first to offer previously unsold allowances, in this case allowances held over from the 2016 auctions. Last year, when demand for allowances was lower, these unsold allowances were held to be re-offered at later auctions. This adjusted supply downward when needed and adds extra supply when allowances prices start to rise (as they are doing now), creating price stability in the market. These 15 million extra allowances now mean there was enough supply to meet demand.

California Emissions Continue to Decline

Further good news from November, as EDF reported yesterday, is that the California Air Resources Board released their 2016 emissions report and found that emissions covered by cap and trade have not only continued to decline, but are doing so at a faster pace than in previous years.

  • Emissions are a whopping 58 million metric tons below the cap for 2016, an amount equivalent to taking over 14 coal fired power plants off-line for a year. Even if some of these “saved” pollutants are emitted later, this is a win for the atmosphere since there will be several years where they will not be contributing to atmospheric warming.
  • The bulk of these reductions came from the electricity sector, which reduced emissions by increasing renewable production and hydroelectricity and decreasing imports from coal-generated electricity.
  • Transportation emissions did increase in California as they did in the rest of the world. However, the state has a number of policies that are targeted at reducing those emissions and cap and trade is keeping overall emissions in check so they have time to work.

Today’s auction results show one more data point in the example California and Quebec are setting for the world in how to implement effective climate policies. This example was on display at the recent UN Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week. Governor Brown as well as three other U.S. Governors and many mayors were in attendance making sure the world knew Donald Trump cannot prevent U.S. states and cities from acting to reduce emissions and protect their residents.

Posted in California, Emissions trading & markets| Leave a comment

California Bucks Global Trend with another Year of GHG Reductions

A parabolic trough solar thermal electric power plant located at Kramer Junction in California | Photo: Wikimedia

By Jonathan Camuzeaux and Maureen Lackner

The California Air Resources Board’s November 6 release of 2016 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data from the state’s largest electricity generators and importers, fuel suppliers, and industrial facilities shows that emissions have decreased even more than anticipated. California’s emissions trends are showing what is possible with strong climate policies in place and provide hope even as new analysis projects that global emissions will increase by 2% in 2017 after a three-year plateau.

California’s emissions kept falling in 2016

The 2016 emissions report, an annual requirement under California’s regulation for the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (MRR), shows that emissions covered by the state’s cap-and-trade program are shrinking, and doing so at a faster pace than in prior years. Covered emissions have dropped each year that cap and trade has been in place, amounting to 31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (MMt CO2e) over the whole period, or 8.8% reduction relative to 2012. The drop between 2015 and 2016 accounts for over half of these cumulative reductions (16 MMt CO2e; 4.8% reduction relative to 2015). The electricity sector is responsible for the bulk of this drop: electricity importers reduced emissions about 10 MMt CO2e while in-state electricity generation facilities reduced emissions by about 7 MMt CO2e.

Some sectors’ emissions grew in 2016. Just as with global transportation emissions, California’s transportation emissions have steadily crept up in recent years, and the MRR report suggests this trend is continuing. Transportation fuel suppliers, which account for the largest share of total emissions, reported a 1.8 MMt CO2e increase in emissions covered by cap and trade since 2015. Cement plants and hydrogen plants also experienced small increases in covered emissions. One of the benefits of cap and trade, however, is that if the clean transition is occurring more slowly in one sector, other sectors will be required to reduce further to keep emissions below the cap while the whole economy catches up.

Emissions that are not covered by the cap-and-trade program dropped, from 92 MMt CO2e in 2015 to 87 MMt CO2e in 2016. While small, this represents the largest reduction in non-covered emissions since 2012 and is mostly driven by suppliers of natural gas/NGL/LPG and electricity importers. Net non-covered and covered emissions reductions resulted in a 20.5 MMt CO2e drop in total emissions from these sectors. 

These results are a welcome reminder that the cap-and-trade program is working in concert with other policies to accomplish the primary objective of reducing emissions.

The California climate policies are accomplishing their emissions reductions goals

The 2016 MRR data indicate impactful reductions in GHG emissions and progress toward reaching the state’s target emissions reductions by 2020. The 2016 emissions drop is a consequence of several factors: a CARB analysis of the year’s electricity generation points to increased renewable capacity, decreased imports of electricity from coal-fired power plants, and increased in-state hydroelectric power production. To put it in perspective, the 20.5 MMt CO2e emissions reductions is equivalent to offsetting the energy use of about 2.2 million homes, or 16% of California’s households.

Emissions below the cap are a climate win, not a concern

Total covered emissions in 2016 were about 324 MMt CO2e, well below California’s 2016 cap of roughly 382 MMt. Some observers of the cap-and-trade program worry that an “oversupply” of credits will result in reduced revenue for the state and lesser profits for traders on the secondary market. This concern was especially pronounced when secondary market prices dipped below the price floor in 2016 and 2017.

Importantly, oversupply of allowances is not a bad thing for the climate. As Frank Wolak, an energy economist at Stanford, points out, oversupply may be a sign of an innovative economy in which pollution reductions are easier to achieve than anticipated. Furthermore, having emissions below the cap represents earlier than anticipated reductions which is a win for the atmosphere. Warming is caused by the cumulative emissions that are present in the atmosphere so earlier reductions mean gases are not present in the atmosphere for at least the period over which emissions are delayed.

While market stability is a valid concern, the design of the program has built-in features to prevent market disruptions. Furthermore, the California legislature’s recent two-thirds majority vote to extend the cap-and-trade program through 2030 provides long-term regulatory certainty. Both the May and August auctions were completely sold out suggesting that the extension has succeeded in stabilizing demand.

These results are a welcome reminder that the cap-and-trade program is working in concert with other policies to accomplish the primary objective of reducing emissions, and that we’re doing it cheaply is an added bonus. Early reductions at a low cost can lead to sustained or even improved ambition as California implements its world-leading climate targets.

As California closes its fifth year of cap and trade, it should be with a sense of accomplishment and optimism for the future of the state’s emissions.

Posted in California, Emissions trading & markets| Leave a comment

U.S. subnational leaders enjoy banner event at COP 23

America's Pledge event at COP23 | Photo: UNClimateChange

COP 23 has been a banner event for subnational actors, and especially for California. Between events and breaking news, our EDF California team has enjoyed visiting informally with representatives from around the world.

One theme from these conversations is “we’re so glad you are here!”

The presence of American states and NGOs, and the leadership of states like California, has not gone unnoticed, especially when the absence of U.S. leadership on climate is so obvious.

Some have asked if we have received backlash from the United States about being here (so far so good!), and there’s universal enthusiasm for the US Climate Action Center (or “igloo” – nicknamed both for the big white tents and chilly temperatures).

It is clear from these announcements and conversations that the leadership of California is more critical than ever.

Here’s a quick round-up of key state-level news:

America’s Pledge – California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared the first report of their joint initiative, America’s Pledge. A reaction to the United States’ dismissal of the Paris Agreement, this project demonstrates the power of collective action and aims to spur greater climate ambition. If they were one country, the signatory cities and states would have the third largest GDP in the world, and would be home to one-third of the American people. This is a significant rejection of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric on climate, and a testament to Governor Brown and Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership.

Under2 Coalition Signing – A joint initiative of Governor Jerry Brown and the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the Under 2 Coalition commits ambitious states and regions around the world to making commitments on emission reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement and to keeping global warming below 2°C. Virginia became the latest partner in the Under 2 Coalition, solidifying its climate leadership and the state continues to works toward greater electric vehicle infrastructure and reducing carbon emissions from the power sector.

California’s Progress and Promise – Governor Brown, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriguez, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia and others have each had speaking engagements at COP 23, and across them all two themes emerge. First, California is leading the way on reducing emissions, cleaning up pollution, and striving for equitable climate policy. But the second theme is that there is much more to do. While celebrating these achievements, the state has further to go de-carbonizing the economy and improving local air quality.

California-Acre Luncheon – One of the most exciting things about COP23 is the opportunity to build connections across countries and cultures on issues of mutual importance. The California Legislative Delegation had the opportunity for lunch with the delegation from the state of Acre, Brazil. They discussed deforestation and its impact on the climate and local communities, as well the need for global partnerships to go further and faster stopping climate change.

2018 Global Climate Action Summit – Want your own COP-like experience? Governor Brown invited attendees to join him and sub-national leaders from around the world at the 2018 Climate Summit in San Francisco! Described as the “COP for subnationals,” one key goal is to establish a San Francisco agreement on sub-national climate action. Businesses, cities, states, investors, and civil society will explore how much more we can do together on climate action, learn from each other, and build positive momentum for COP 24 in Poland.

It is clear from these announcements and conversations (not to mention Governor Brown’s rock star status at COP 23) that the leadership of California is more critical than ever. This is especially true now that the United States is the sole country opposing the Paris Agreement, now that Syria and Nicaragua have joined the agreement.

California’s role as climate champion, success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic prosperity, and concerted efforts for greater climate equity are all stories we are proud to be sharing with the rest of the world.

Posted in Bonn, California| Leave a comment

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, Bonn, REDD+| Leave a comment

The evolution of US-China collaboration on environmental protection

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in Beijing with President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan on November 8, 2017 | Photo: State.gov

By Zhang Jianyu, Managing Director for Global Strategy, EDF. See also his interview in China DailyExpert: China, US now equals in pollution fight.

As one of the earliest representatives of an international environmental organization working in China, I have witnessed the progress of environmental protection collaboration between the US and China in the past 20 years and witnessed many specific incidents that have given me a good understanding of the different roles played by each country and how they have changed over time.

In 1999, the Chinese Premier at that time – Premier Zhu Rongji, visited the US and signed the very first environmental protection memorandum of collaboration between the Chinese and US environmental protection agencies. This memorandum spurred 10 collaborative sub-projects and was also the first practical environmental protection collaboration since the signing of the technology collaboration memorandum in 1979. The first sub-project was the SO2 emissions trading program, which EDF participated in creating. At the same time, I had just completed my studies in the US and was heading back to China to participate in this exciting, US- China environmental protection collaboration.

With the changes in China’s societal and economic developments and the political turnover in the US, the collaboration between the countries has entered a new phase that is showing new characteristics.

In the following years, China implemented several policies to promote the country’s environmental protection by referencing similar US policies and experiences such as pollution emissions trading, daily penalty system, green supply chain, and emissions permit system.

I had participated in the implementation of those policies and experienced first-hand how willing US colleagues were to share experiences and in return, how willing the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) was to learn from them. I will never forget when Ms. Cheryl Wasserman from the US EPA’s Compliance and Enforcement Bureau even enlisted her husband – who was working at EPA as well—to help record a remote training course on the top 10 characteristics of US environmental enforcement.

Recent U.S. administrations

Climate change is an important example of a new kind of bilateral relationship between China and the US. President Xi and President Obama had jointly issued three climate change-related agreements and set stage for the creation and success of the Paris Agreement and the developments in the arena of international climate change.

Both sides were working towards a common goal despite the differences in their positions and tension-filled negotiation processes. Fortunately, both nations’ leaders participated in person at the last minute and confirmed the US emissions reduction targets and China’s resolution to launch the largest carbon market in the world.

Today, with the changes in China’s societal and economic developments and the political turnover in the US, the collaboration between the countries has entered a new phase that is showing new characteristics.

Exchanges at the governmental level still continue. For example, in May 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) visited the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Enforcement Investigation Center to conduct a survey in preparation for establishing a Chinese national environmental enforcement support agency.

Environmental issues also remain a critical bilateral focal point, as was the case at the U.S.-China Social and Cultural Dialogue concluded in Washington DC in Sept, 2017. In addition, the collaborations between the US states and Chinese provinces are still thriving.

Chinese companies are becoming more active on the global stage. On May 10, 2017, the CEOs from 30 multinational corporations, with EDF's support, issued a joint statement in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times urging the US government to stay in the Paris Agreement. For the first time in history, a CEO from a Chinese corporation – Mr. Zhang Yue from Broad Group was among them.

In the summer of 2017, California not only renewed  the AB-32 bill that was passed in 2013 to 2030, with the support of EDF, but continued to make efforts to expand its outreach. During California Governor Jerry Brown’s visit in June 2017, he was warmly received by President Xi. Prior to Governor Brown’s visit, he had expressed the interest in discussing with China the possibility of linking California ETS with China’s future national carbon market. EDF has been playing a bridging role in the formation of this initiative, and we hope to continue supporting both sides to fulfill their objectives.

Today

On President Trump’s first visit to China as president, he was accompanied by a trade delegation consisting of 29 U.S. corporate representatives, 11 of which represent energy and environment corporations.

Presidents Trump and Xi signed the US-China collaboration agreement, which includes text regarding energy and environmental protection cooperation – evidence that exchanges and collaboration in the energy and environment sectors are still a primary focus for the two countries’ strategic development.

As a witness and a participant of US-China environmental exchanges, I have personally felt the changes in the interactions between the US and China on environmental protection and from which represents a reflection of the changes in political relations between the two nations. I hope environmental protection will always be a key topic and connection for both sides as we only have one Earth.

Posted in China| Leave a comment
  • Get new posts by email

    We'll deliver new blog posts to your inbox.

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Categories