EDF Talks Global Climate

EDF’s Climate Talks Blog is Moving

For the past decade, EDF’s Climate Talks blog has shared expert analysis on global climate issues from EDF’s economists, scientists, attorneys and policy specialists, while our sister blog has done the same for U.S. climate issues.

Yet climate change is a challenge that transcends borders, and the line between what constitutes a “U.S.” climate issue versus a “global” one is growing increasingly blurry – particularly in the age of the Paris Agreement, which has catalyzed countries, subnational governments, businesses and other actors around the globe to step up their climate action.

So beginning August 1 our global climate blog will be merging with Climate 411 – EDF’s blog on domestic climate issues (named for the colloquial term for “information”).

Climate 411 will be EDF’s go-to spot for analysis and commentary – as well as climate solutions and reasons for hope – from EDF’s leading climate experts on our wide range of climate work across the globe, such as:

  • Climate science
  • Carbon pricing
  • Actions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Actions in the U.S. Congress
  • Pollution from cars and trucks
  • Public health
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD+)
  • UN climate talks
  • Subnational climate policy, including California’s landmark cap-and-trade program
  • Aviation pollution

Our hope is Climate 411’s expanded scope will make it easier for experts, academics, journalists and others to access all our commentary on the science, law and economics of global climate change and clean air – and maybe even come across something unexpected.

Catch our latest posts by signing up for emails for new posts or subscribing to Climate 411’s RSS feed. As always, you can follow EDF’s broader work via our EDF Voices blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Finally, join us in celebrating this step by looking back at the most-read Climate Talks blog posts since 2008.

  1. California models climate and air pollution action with balanced approach (July 2017)
  2. Why and how Brazil should do more to stop deforestation and climate change (October 2015)
  3. EDF's Schwartzman Remembers Chico Mendes (December 2008)
  4. Picturing low-carbon development: Methane cook stoves in rural India (March 2011)
  5. Mexico's historic climate law: an analysis (July 2012)
  6. NY Times forests oped is out on a limb: protecting trees still key to solving climate change (September 2014)
  7. Agriculture negotiations reach agreement at COP23 (November 2017)
  8. California’s cap-and-trade program doesn't need an overhaul (May 2017)
  9. On International Women’s Day, a look at rural women in India fighting climate change (March 2011)
  10. Mexico organization partners with EDF to address deforestation, climate change and rural development (March 2012)

We love to hear your feedback, so leave us a comment or shoot us an email to let us know how we’re doing.

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Why it matters that California hit its 2020 emissions target four years early

sacramento california cityscape skyline on sunny day, water, wetland

Sacramento, Calif. cityscape. Photo credit: digidreamgrafix

This post was authored by Jonathan Camuzeaux and Maureen Lackner

California hit its 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target four years ahead of schedule, according to 2016 emissions data released yesterday by the state. At this rate, the state is well-positioned to formally meet its 2020 target assuming it keeps up the good work.

While the world’s emissions are once again on the rise and the Trump Administration is pulling the U.S. backward on climate progress at the federal level, states and regions continue pushing ahead, and California is at the front of the pack. California’s monumental achievement is worth celebrating – and it’s worth investigating how the state got here, and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Latest emissions data

Here are some highlights from the annual California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory published yesterday:

  • California’s 2016 emissions fell to 429 MMt CO2e, beating the 2020 target of 431 MMt CO2e, the statewide greenhouse gas emissions level in 1990.
  • This was the fourth year in a row of emissions reductions in California, where emissions dropped by 3% (12 MMt CO2e) between 2015 and 2016. Emissions fell 13% (64 MMt CO2e in 2016) compared against 2004, when emissions in the state peaked.
  • Business is booming as emissions are falling. In the last year, California’s GDP grew 3% while the carbon intensity of the economy dropped 6%. From January 2013 to December 2016, California added over 1.3 million jobs, an 8% increase, outpacing U.S-wide job growth of 6% in the same period.

The report is an annual update of statewide GHG emissions based on state, regional, and federal data sources, as well as facility-specific information from California’s Mandatory GHG Reporting Program (MRR). The GHG Inventory includes both emissions covered by cap and trade and the remaining 20% of emissions outside the program. Although the GHG Inventory report does not distinguish between emissions within and outside cap and trade, the latest MRR report shows that both categories of emissions fell in 2016, suggesting that California’s multi-pronged approach to emissions reductions is working.

The earlier, the better

Global warming is caused by the cumulative emissions that are present in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for more than a century, so earlier emissions reductions mean there are fewer years for those tons of carbon to have a warming impact on our climate. So beating the 2020 target is important for the atmosphere, but also gets us off to a good start to meet the even more ambitious 2030 target.

Where California’s reductions are coming from

The electric power sector is responsible for about 16% of the state’s 2016 emissions, and accounts for over 85% of gross reductions. Relative to 2015, total sector emissions fell 18%, while emissions from in-state power generation fell 15% and imported electric power emissions dropped 22%. CARB analysis attributes these reductions to growth in utility-scale renewables, as well as rooftop solar generation.

Hydropower also generated larger amounts of electricity than usual due to heavy rainfall in 2016. Small reductions came from industry (a 2% sector-wide drop) and agriculture (1% sector-wide).
Although not enough to fully counteract power sector decreases, some sectors’ emissions increased in 2016. California’s 2016 transportation emissions—the largest source of GHGs in the state—increased by about 2%, continuing the sector’s trend of slowly rising emissions since 2014. Emissions from commercial and residential activities grew by 4%, but account for less than a tenth of total state emissions.

Looking ahead

Given current emissions reductions, the state can start to look forward to its more ambitious 2030 target of getting emissions 40% below 1990 levels. The state’s 2017 “Scoping Plan,” which EDF supported, lays out a comprehensive plan for how to approach this target. All the signs are positive right now and if additional measures are needed to meet state requirements for 2030, there is still plenty of time to pursue those.

California is clearly demonstrating that smart, market-based policy helps us meet targets faster and more cheaply than originally envisioned. California is growing its GDP and adding jobs faster than the national average, and cutting carbon even faster than we expected. This creates a strong foundation for the even more dramatic transition California needs to reach its next goal in 2030.
In the coming decades, the world must get on track for deep emissions reductions and a dramatic transformation to a cleaner economy. California is helping to blaze the trail to that future by demonstrating once again that meeting ambitious climate targets is possible while maintaining a thriving economy.

Posted in California, United States / Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Aviation, Paris / Leave a comment

The state of REDD+ (mid-2018 edition)

Deforestation is still a significant problem around the world, but governments are increasingly making the institutional changes necessary to limit deforestation. Credit: Flickr/Dams999

As the biennial REDD Exchange (REDDx) conference in Oslo approaches, it is a good time to review the progress Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) has made over the last year.

Deforestation still continues to be a significant problem in many parts of the world (tropical and non-tropical), so there is definitely more work to do. However, more and more of the institutional changes necessary to turn the corner on deforestation in the coming years are occurring at all levels of government. Below are some notable areas of progress we’ve seen recently on REDD+.

National programs complete Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements

Three countries (Brazil, Ecuador, and Malaysia) have now submitted all Warsaw Framework for REDD+ requirements to the Lima Info Hub, and 36 countries have submitted Forest Reference Emission Levels  – an increase of 11 submissions since COP 23 in November 2017.

Innovation in Brazil

Notable progress has been made in Brazil, where the country’s national REDD+ committee (CONAREDD+) modified its Amazon Fund incentive system to use a “stock-flow” approach to directly benefit its nine Amazon Basin states. The approach recognizes efforts by the Amazon Basin states to not only reduce deforestation (the “flow” part), but also conserve their current forest carbon stocks (the “stock” part). A recent report funded by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) explains the new system and how it should better incentivize Amazon Basin states to conserve carbon stocks and reduce deforestation.

Most important to curbing deforestation and enhancing REDD+ is for the amount and scope of results payments to national governments to increase. Until then, it will be challenging to accelerate the necessary government-led actions and policy changes.

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility countries advance

Progress is also being made in the FCPF’s Carbon Fund. The Carbon Fund board has approved or provisionally approved the Emission Reduction Programs of 11 countries. Four of those countries (Costa Rica, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mexico) are in or starting negotiations to finalize the results-based payment terms, which should be concluded before the year’s end. It is possible that a payment for results will also occur before the end of the year.

Colombia – a step backward and a step forward

Colombia offers a mixed bag of progress and challenges. Deforestation did increase since the signing of the peace agreement, but the government is taking various actions to combat this rise in deforestation. The Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the government must protect the Amazon forest. To support the government’s efforts, the Norwegian government agreed to finance these actions through results based payments that must also include benefits to Colombia’s indigenous peoples. This complements the Colombian government’s expansion of indigenous territories in mid-2017.

REDD+ projects’ evolution in national systems

Colombia was also in the spotlight when it announced that companies would be able to meet their carbon tax responsibility through purchasing emissions reductions from REDD+ projects.  Only a month ago, news came from Peru that the federal government will “nest” some REDD+ projects into its nationally determined contribution (NDC) commitments. For both countries, it is still unclear how exactly the “nesting” of the projects, benefit sharing, and accounting against NDCs will work, but these are important first steps.

Private sector deforestation reduction strategies

Collaboration with the private sector will be important for the success of REDD+ – especially in countries where agriculture commodities such as beef and soy are the main drivers of deforestation. Previous strategies were focused on using third-party verified certification schemes, but their limitations have been recognized and now a more holistic and complete solution is being pursued: the jurisdictional approach.

Multinational companies such as Unilever, Mars, Olam, and Walmart all announced their support of this strategy last year at COP 23’s Forest Day while on a panel with leaders from the Mato Grosso, Brazil and Sabah, Malaysia jurisdictions. Mato Grosso’s Produce, Conserve, and Include strategy (PCI) is probably one of the most advanced jurisdictional approaches and has recently been buoyed by both a REDD+ Early Movers (REM) MoU worth 17 million euros  and a commitment of support from Carrefour.

Looking forward

While notable progress on the REDD+ front has been made over the last 6-12 months, the Global Forest Watch team at the REDDx conference will probably announce that deforestation for 2017 was still near record highs. More action is needed at all levels; perhaps more substantial actions will be highlighted at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit to be held in September.

Most important to curbing deforestation and enhancing REDD+, however, is for the amount and scope of results payments to national governments to increase. These payments could come from the Green Climate Fund’s REDD+ results based payment Request For Proposals or transactions from the FCPF’s Carbon Fund.

Until these payments start to flow in an efficient and methodologically consistent manner, it will be challenging to accelerate the necessary government-led actions and policy changes. REDDx in Oslo could provide an opportunity to hear how we can make this happen.

Posted in REDD+ / Leave a comment

Second California-Quebec-Ontario carbon auction sells out, showing market’s strength

 

https://www.pexels.com/photo/golden-gate-bridge-san-francisco-61111/

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Juan Salamanca. 

The second California-Quebec-Ontario joint greenhouse gas allowance auction has sold all current allowances, just like the inaugural tripartite auction in February 2018. There was again strong demand for future allowances, all indicating that despite political and regulatory uncertainty from a key partner, Ontario, the market is on solid ground.

May auction at-a-glance:

  • All 90,587,738 current and previously-unsold allowances sold, clearing at $14.65, which is 12 cents above the $14.53 price floor. This is slightly higher than the February settlement price.
  • 6,057,000 of the 12,427,950 future vintage allowances offered sold at the floor price. This is 2,519,000 million less than sold at the February auction. The decrease is likely due to ongoing uncertainty in Ontario, but as these allowances are not available for use until 2021, it is still an indicator of confidence in the Western Climate Initiative market down the road.
  • An estimated $681,051,270 was raised for California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to continue funding climate and equity priorities like urban greening, electric vehicle infrastructure, and affordable housing near public transit.
  • Ontario raised approximately $369,271,300 USD for funding public transit, electric vehicle incentives and energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Quebec raised approximately $151,353,660 USD to support the province’s transition to a green economy.

These results are encouraging because they show that despite ongoing political uncertainty in Ontario, the market is strong and stable. They also show the benefits of linkage to a larger market are real. All three linked jurisdictions have access to more trading partners through the Western Climate Initiative, which creates opportunities for even greater climate ambition. This kind of international cooperation shows that jurisdictions can have an outsized influence on global climate action, particularly at a time when federal leadership from the United States on climate is lacking.

Previously unsold allowances
The role of previously unsold allowances could also be impacting today’s auction results in two ways.

First, this is the third auction where held, or previously unsold allowances were offered for sale. These allowances increase the number of available allowances in the auction, which may contribute to keeping the price near the floor. This demonstrates the importance of that price floor. It is a central feature of the program that ensures stability of the market and the revenues.

Second, back in July 2017 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the so-called “24 Month Rule.” This establishes that any state-owned allowances that remain unsold for 24 months are either moved to the Allowance Price Containment Reserve (APCR) or retired. This has the effect of tightening the cap either temporarily (if prices were to unexpectedly jump) or permanently. The first significant retirement of allowances could happen after the August auction, so companies could be buying now in anticipation of decreased supply later.

Looking Forward
CARB is in the process of drafting a regulatory update for the cap-and-trade program post-2020. The program has been successful at reducing emissions, as demonstrated by current emissions being below the cap, even as California has grown to the fifth largest economy in the world. This emissions trend provides an important opportunity for California to continue driving increased ambition by setting a tighter post-2020 emissions cap, and continue showing that ambitious climate action can go hand-in-hand with strong economic growth.

Of course the biggest question in the linked carbon market right now is Ontario, which is having elections in June. Although two of the leading parties want to preserve the program, one party wants to end it, but would need to overcome a mountain of legal hurdles. The outcome of the June election could set up either increased confidence in the future of cap-and-trade in Ontario or lingering questions. But the results for both current and future vintage in this auction indicate that confidence is steady, and the California-Quebec-Ontario market remains a world leader in driving climate action.

Posted in California, Carbon Market Cooperation, Emissions trading & markets / Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Agriculture, UN negotiations / Leave a comment