In U.S.-Brazil statement on climate change, Rousseff misses opportunity for international leadership

Presidents Obama and Rousseff deserve credit for putting climate change at the top of their bilateral agenda today.

Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR

President Obama and President Rousseff announced June 30 that the U.S. and Brazil would increase collaboration on climate change. Above: Obama and Rousseff at a 2011 press conference. Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR via Flickr

Public commitment to a strong Paris outcome from two major emitters that are already taking significant action on climate is more than welcome. Restoring 12 million hectares of degraded forest, as President Rousseff has pledged, is a positive contribution – albeit no more than Brazil’s current law mandates.

It is highly promising that the two major economies are creating a high-level working group to move the climate change agenda forward.  Particularly interesting is the pledge to develop innovative public-private finance mechanisms both for clean energy and the forestry sector.

It is however, disappointing that President Rousseff’s goal on deforestation – to “pursue policies aimed at eliminating illegal deforestation” – goes no further than compliance with existing law.

Brazil has already reduced Amazon deforestation by 70% below the historical average since 2005 while increasing soy and beef production, and has an ambitious but entirely achievable goal of an 80% reduction by 2020.

Amazon states are taking the lead on reducing emissions from deforestation and putting in place the policy frameworks needed to consolidate these gains. Pará state has adopted a goal of zero deforestation by 2020, while Acre governor Tião Viana affirmed to UK government officials and private investors that Acre can, with adequate support, zero out deforestation within three years.

Particularly in light of Pope Francis’s inspiring encyclical on climate change, President Rousseff sells Brazil’s achievements and abilities short in stating that all Brazil will do is follow its own law. President Rousseff has an enormous opportunity for international leadership on climate change, building on Brazil's impressive success to date and leveraging the progress and commitments by Brazilian states. She should seize that opportunity – and adopt a more aggressive and ambitious national target in advance of the Paris conference at year's end.

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation, News, United States| Leave a comment

Ensuring ambition in the land-use sector through the Paris climate agreement

Representatives from countries around the globe met in Bonn, Germany this month to work on what could be the world’s most grueling but important group project: consolidating 90 pages of text into a global climate agreement to be finalized in Paris this December.

Governments and civil society organizations have more work to do before Paris, including ensuring land use is treated in a simple, flexible and ambitious way in the global agreement.

One sector that could play a fundamental role in the agreement is the land-use sector, which includes agriculture, forestry, wetland management, and other land management practices.

The land-use sector contributes about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it also has great potential to reduce emissions, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, improve rural livelihoods, and promote countries’ ability to adapt to a changing climate. The land use sector could also be an important part of countries’ emission reduction targets after 2020, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Interest in the importance of land use has brought together a broad group of civil society organizations – EDF, Conservation International, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, and World Wildlife Fund– to focus on the potential role of the land-use sector in the Paris agreement. With support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the groups have held a series of discussions on this topic alongside the United Nations climate negotiations.

Pipa Elias (right, The Nature Conservancy) introduces a discussion on whether the land-use sector is adequately addressed in the draft Paris text. (Photo credit: Steven Panfil, Conservation International)

During this month’s Bonn talks, we held two workshops in which we invited governments and civil society organizations to step back from their detailed work on the Paris text and reassess their progress toward promoting ambitious climate actions in the land-use sector in national and international policies.

For one workshop, we invited country negotiators to evaluate whether the draft text adequately addresses the land-use sector or whether further elaboration will be needed before or after Paris to drive action in the sector.

Participants generally agreed that the Paris agreement should take into account land-use issues by:

 

Building in incentives: Incentives are often necessary to trigger ambitious actions in the land-use sector, so the delivery of incentives needs to be clear if countries are going to include this sector in their INDCs. Developing countries will need financial incentives and other support, often from external sources, to continuously improve their capacity and to promote activities that yield climate mitigation and adaptation benefits. Developed countries can create incentives that reduce emissions and boost sequestration in their own land sectors, while also supporting external actions in developing countries.

Striking the right balance with flexibility and environmental integrity: The agreement should strike a balance that encourages all countries to participate in land-use sector mitigation, accommodating different capacities and circumstances, while also ensuring integrity in the way emissions reductions are measured. Too much rigidity could limit innovation and ambition, but too much flexibility could make it difficult to compare efforts among countries and ensure the environmental and social integrity of their activities.

Developing a work-plan after Paris: By the December meeting in Paris, countries need to have common expectations and objectives for accounting for land use in order to include the sector their INDCs. However, they may also need a process to continue to clarify and elaborate land-use issues after December. The outcomes of Paris should allow for further work on land-use issues, in order to build on early ambition and lessons learned, with the goal of transitioning to more comprehensive accounting for land use for all countries over time.

“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” covering about 30% of global emissions have been submitted so far. Source: http://cait.wri.org/indc/

Twelve "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” covering about 30% of global emissions have been submitted so far. Source: World Resources Institute via http://cait.wri.org/indc/

In another workshop, we discussed how countries could include the land sector in their INDCs. We invited the World Resources Institute (WRI) to present its recent guidance on INDCs, which it developed with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). We also made our own presentations on how the United Nations decisions on INDCs relate to the land-use sector and the current status of the sector in the draft agreement. Participants discussed the differences between reporting and accounting for emissions from the land-use sector; the importance of social and environmental safeguards; and treatment of natural disturbances in land-use accounting.

We will continue this discussion in a WWF webinar, (“The Land Sector in INDCs and the 2015 Agreement”) from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EDT on Thursday, June 25th, 2015.

Much of the real work will happen after Paris, when countries will begin to implement the agreement in their national land-use and environmental policies. However, governments and civil society organizations have more work to do before Paris, including ensuring land use is treated in a simple, flexible and ambitious way in the global agreement.

(Top photo: Flickr/elkaypics)

Posted in Agriculture, Forestry, UN negotiations| Leave a comment

Why airlines should stop climate change

Carbon pollution from airplanes creates risks to the general public’s health and welfare, according to a preliminary EPA finding released this week. But the aviation sector itself is particularly vulnerable to the rising seas, higher temperatures, and intense weather events brought by an overheated atmosphere.

Experts have been warning for years about risks airports and airlines face from climate change, including:

  • airport runways buckling in the heat or flooding;
  • health issues for airport and airline workers from higher temperatures on the tarmac;
  • smaller capacity for take offs and landings during stormy weather;
  • damage to critical air traffic control equipment from storms and floods; and
  • impaired airplane performancedecreasing how far planes can fly (range) and how much weight they can carry (payload).

Airlines and the traveling public experienced the full force of these impacts in 2012. Hurricane Sandy caused the cancellation of nearly 20,000 flights in the New York area, cost the airline industry nearly $190 million in earnings, and did $29 million in damage to federal air navigation systems. Some navigation systems were offline for weeks, limiting the ability of airlines to land in poor weather even after the storm had ended.

These hefty risks place serious costs on the airlines themselves, the cities that own airports, businesses that rely on efficient cargo transport, and the flying public. This industry needs to protect the climate for its own sake. Airlines should support tough limits on carbon pollution.

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New climate commitments from subnational governments set strong example for Paris

under2mou2_copped

Twelve states and provinces representing 100 million people from seven countries have committed to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hosted the May 19 event in Sacramento commemorating the official signing of the agreement by so-called "subnational" state and provincial governments.

The Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding is part of a growing momentum on climate action in the lead-up to the UN climate talks that will be taking place in Paris at the end of the year.

The founding signatories of the agreement are from three continents and have a combined GDP of $4.5 trillion, which would constitute the fourth largest economic entity in the world; they are:

Acre, Brazil*
Baden-Württemberg, Germany*
Baja California, Mexico*
British Columbia, Canada
California, United States*
Catalonia, Spain*
Jalisco, Mexico*
Ontario, Canada*
Oregon, United States
Vermont, United States
Wales, United Kingdom
Washington, United States

 

 

 

 

(* indicates the jurisdiction attended the May 19 signing ceremony)

The signers committed that by 2050 they would cut total emissions 80-95% percent below 1990 levels or achieve a per capita emissions target of below two metric tons.

The agreement is being referred to as the “Under 2 MOU,” a play both on this per capita target of two metric tons, and the goal of limiting global temperature rise to under 2 degrees, which Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous climate change.

The jurisdictions will take a number of steps to achieve these goals, including: establishing midterm emissions reductions targets for 2030 or earlier; increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy; and coordinating on specific areas such as science, transportation and short-lived climate pollutants.

The governments have also agreed to collaborate on climate change adaptation and resilience measures.

Fred Krupp, president of EDF, said in a news release on the day of the signing:

"This agreement is further proof that states, provinces, and cities are forging ahead with climate solutions, not waiting for others to act. By taking this bold step, California and the other partners will not only secure significant emissions reductions but also demonstrate that climate action and prosperity go hand in hand. As we look ahead to the climate conference in Paris at the end of the year, today’s announcement sets a strong example for countries to follow."

Why action by subnational governments is important

Subnational governments are particularly well suited to address climate change because their decisions can influence 50-80% of greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation initiatives needed to address climate change, according to the UN Development Program.

For example, subnational governments develop and implement policies that have the most impact on climate change, including in the areas of air quality, transportation, and energy. These governments can also serve as the laboratories for policy innovations that are adopted at national and international levels. And these jurisdictions can provide the critical link in the integration of climate policies between national and local governments.

Derek Walker, EDF’s Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and Energy Program said of the agreement:

"These subnational leaders understand first-hand that the future of people and the planet are at stake, and they are committing to concrete measures that will help us turn the corner in the fight against climate change. Today’s agreement demonstrates how dynamic climate leaders can create solutions that can be replicated elsewhere and can pave the way for more ambitious action."

More state, regional and city governments are expected to sign the agreement in the coming months.

(Photo: Governor Brown and international leaders sign Under 2 MOU. Credit:  Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol)

Posted in Brazil, Europe, Mexico, UN negotiations, United States| Leave a comment

Airlines’ biofuel ambitions must not increase emissions

By Rafael A Grillo Avila, Environmental Defense Fund & James Beard, WWF-UK

If international aviation were a country, it would be a global top-ten carbon emitter, with emissions expected to triple or quadruple by 2040. This is why the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has agreed to cap net carbon emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels.

Airlines are planning on filling up with biofuels to meet their climate change goals, but will aviation biofuel policies be based on science or fantasy? (Photo credit: Flickr/Mika Meskanen)

Airlines are planning on filling up with biofuels to meet their climate change goals, but will aviation biofuel policies be based on science or fantasy? Above: A plane is refueled. (Photo credit: Flickr/Mika Meskanen)

ICAO aims to achieve this goal through technical and operational measures; carbon pricing through market-based measures (MBM’s); and biofuels. Many airlines see biofuels as a “silver bullet” for meeting their carbon goals.  Already over 40 airlines have flown over 600,000 biofuel-powered flights.

Biofuels: aviation's silver bullet?

ICAO established the Alternative Fuels Task Force (AFTF) to answer the key question: how much do biofuels actually reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? The AFTF is close to finalizing its answer. EDF, WWF-UK and our colleagues in the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation are working to secure an MBM of high environmental integrity for international flights. Getting biofuel carbon accounting right is vital. If biofuels reduce carbon pollution, then airlines’ obligations under the MBM will decrease. But if biofuels increase carbon pollution, then airlines’ MBM obligations will increase. Read More »

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Putting Indigenous Producers on the Map

Juanita crop

Cacao grown by indigenous and community cooperatives has supported the growth of the organic ultra-premium chocolate industry.  Photo Credit: Flickr/USAID Development Credit Authority

Across the Amazon, indigenous peoples have long harvested well-known commodities like cacao, coffee, Brazil nuts, and hearts of palm. Indigenous communities rely on such “non-timber” forest products—which also include traditional crops and less well-known natural products such as sacha inchi and camu camu—for the communities’ own consumption and for sale.

Responsible trade in these products can make a significant contribution to indigenous communities working to conserve their forests and generate alternative sources of income. Because indigenous management of Amazon forests is critical to controlling and reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere, responsible trade also aligns with the growing body of corporate commitments to deforestation-free sourcing.

Indigenous products and community enterprises, however, face practical, commercial and organizational challenges in getting to market, particularly at scale. Overcoming these obstacles requires a combination of financial expertise, technical assistance and strategic commercial relationships. Read More »

Posted in Agriculture, Brazil, Deforestation, Forestry, Indigenous peoples, Supply chains| Leave a comment
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