28 years after Chico Mendes’s death, four environmental challenges still facing the Amazon

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Chico Mendes in the window of his home with Sandino, his son, in Xapuri, state of Acre, Brazil. Author: Miranda Smith, Miranda Productions, Inc. November 1988. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I was at home on the evening of December 22nd, 1988 when I got the call from Brazil telling me that Chico Mendes had been murdered a few hours earlier.

Chico Mendes's ideas, his story, and indigenous and forest communities’ fight for land rights that he gave his life for have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world. But the fight is far from over.

I, and Chico’s other friends, had thought that drawing media attention to his struggle to protect the forest and forest communities against the depredations of land-grabbing cattle ranchers would protect him. We were tragically mistaken.

But the cabal of land grabbers and their hired guns who killed Chico were wrong on a deeper level. They thought that his murder would go unnoticed, and that even if it didn’t everyone would know that cutting down the forest and driving a few poor rubber tappers off the land was the price of progress – inevitable.

The latest New York Times RetroReport, “The Fight to Save the Amazon,” does a very good job of showing both how very much Chico’s ideas, his story, and the indigenous and local forest communities’ fight for their land rights that he gave his life for, have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world – and how very far from over the fight is. My next post will address what’s changed over the past 28 years, but here I’ll address four things that haven’t.

What hasn’t changed since the fight to save the Amazon began in the 1980s?

1. The frontier is still lawless.

Even though government and state agencies have stepped up enforcement, particularly since the 2004 Plan to Prevent and Control Amazon Deforestation, about 30% of the Amazon is still at risk for illegal logging, deforestation, gold mining and land grabbing.

Deforestation went down from about 27,000 km² in 2004 to a little over 4,000 km² in 2012 – but since then has oscillated around 5,000 km² and now has increased two years in a row, to an alarming near-8,000 km² this year.

It seems that a big part of the residual deforestation is linked to illegal activities, if not organized crime. Environmental/land rights activists like Chico don’t get killed in his home state of Acre, where ten years after he died, his people came to power and have made the state a sustainable development leader. But Brazil is still the world leader in killings of environmental activists, such as Luiz Alberto Araújo, municipal secretary of environment, murdered in Altamira, Pará on October 13th. Dismantling land grabbing and illegal deforestation gangs (as the Federal Police have clearly shown they can do in the last few years) and aggressively prosecuting their leaders need to be high priorities, and gathering the intelligence to do it needs dependable support.

2. The forest is still worth more dead than alive.

Chico’s prescient ideas on the need for forest protection while developing the Amazon economy have won the rhetorical war – but the actual incentives needed to create robust economic alternatives for indigenous peoples and forest communities, compensate good-actor landowners willing to forgo legal rights to clear forest, and fund the shift to high-value, zero-deforestation agriculture for family farmers and agribusiness alike have yet to materialize, and Brazil’s climate negotiators are not helping. Brazil should open up to emerging carbon markets to fund the elimination of deforestation in the Amazon and other biomes, while also pursing public donor funding.

3. Technology and capital to build 21st century supply chains and develop markets for sustainable forest products are still lacking.

After Chico was killed and his story went viral a wave of newly minted MBAs washed over the Amazon, full of passionate conviction that commercially viable sustainable alternatives based on non-timber tropical forest products were there for the taking (Full disclosure: I thought so too, at the time.) Then they figured out that bringing products of highly variable supply and quality to market over continental distances and no infrastructure wasn’t all that good a recipe for business success.

In some places, though, governments and NGOs kept at it, and developed alternatives that yield real benefits for local people. In Acre, for example, the government has invested heavily in things like fish farming on already cleared land, a high-tech condom factory using native rubber latex, and scaled-up Brazil nut processing technology.

In the Xingu indigenous territories and protected areas, NGO Instituto Socioambiental has brought in state-of-the-art technology to add value through local processing of fruits, nuts and oils, while training local people to collect native tree species seeds for sale to famers obliged by law to restore degraded lands. Alternatives like these raise incomes and help the communities get access to the market, and with investment, could help landowners derive sustainable value from the 80% of their holdings they’re required to keep under forest cover. But with over 2 million km² (equal to the size of four Californias) of indigenous territories and protected areas, these innovative pilots will need major investment and a world of new technology to come to scale.

4. The weather in the Amazon is still changing for the worse.

Chico saw before almost anyone else that the weather in the Amazon was changing. The combined effects of climate change and deforestation on regional and global rainfall regimes are provoking more frequent and intense droughts, and causing runaway forest fires in places that were always too moist to burn, even in the dry season. About half the rain that falls in the Amazon is from moisture cycled into the atmosphere by the forest itself – about 20 billion tons of water a day.

If climate change, deforestation and fires continue feeding off of each other, the Amazon ecosystem could unravel, and large parts of the forest could change into savanna. This could affect rainfall patterns as far away as California, and seriously reduce agricultural production in Brazil and other countries.

In one of the last interviews Chico gave before he was killed, he talked about the death threats he was getting and said he wanted to live to save the Amazon. In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the things that have distinctly changed for the better in the last 28 years – in no small measure because of Chico’s life and story – that make saving the Amazon a real possibility.

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Good news in California as carbon auction results improve, and carbon emissions continue falling

Co-authored by Erica Morehouse and Jonathan Camuzeaux.

While we hope President-elect Trump will listen to the almost unanimous global voice of governments and business leaders who all understand that we must act to avert catastrophic climate change, it’s indisputable that leadership from U.S. states will be of paramount importance. Amidst this chaos and uncertainty California and Quebec are now four years into a successful cap-and-trade program with shrinking carbon pollution footprints and thriving economies.

California and Quebec released results today from a much anticipated carbon auction that took place on November 15, and sold a greater number of allowances than in the past two auctions resulting in proceeds for the state Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.  This good news comes after California’s 2015 greenhouse gas reporting data earlier this month showed another year of carbon pollution decline for the Golden State.

These year-over-year pollution declines are the most important indicator of success.  But understandably the auction performance and amount raised for climate investment priorities will get a lot of attention in California, Quebec, and Ontario, which is slated to launch its own cap-and-trade program in January with linkage likely to California and Quebec in 2018.

Auction results see increased demand

The November 15 auction offered more than 87 million current vintage allowances (available for 2016 or later compliance) and sold almost 77 million. Approximately 10 million future allowances were offered that will not be available for use until 2019 or later; over one million of those allowances were sold.

These auction results represent a significant increase in demand from the August auction which offered a similar number and sold about 31 million allowances, up from a little over eight million allowances sold at the May auction, the first auction to experience very low demand for allowances.  The May and August auctions raised almost no revenue for the California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF).  While final numbers won’t come in for another few weeks, based on the allowances sold, this auction likely raised over $360 million for the California GGRF. 

Impacts on demand for this auction

A number of factors, good and otherwise, contributed to this quarter’s results.

  1. One of the most immediate factors that likely contributed to increased demand in this auction is the knowledge that the minimum sale price or “floor price” will rise to about $13.50 in 2017. This is the last auction that participants will be able to purchase allowances for $12.73 before the annual increase.
  1. A constant during this and previous auctions is litigation brought by the California Chamber of Commerce and others challenging California’s cap-and-trade program design. The case was brought the day before California’s very first auction in 2012 and California won at the trial court level. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on January 24, 2017. This outstanding litigation may be leading some potential auction participants to take a wait-and-see approach.
  1. This wait-and-see approach is only possible if regulated businesses in California already have enough allowances to cover their 2016 obligations. California just released preliminary data for 2015 which shows emissions were about 14 percent below the cap. This suggests a successful set of climate policies that are incentivizing polluters to lower levels of pollution below required levels if they are able.  Some have referred to this as an oversupply of allowances, but it’s perhaps more accurate to refer to it as over-compliance.  Businesses have a choice of how to respond when they over-comply: avoid buying allowances in a future auction or buy allowances when they are presumably cheaper and bank them for future use.

A big question is how much the passage of SB 32 in August has impacted auction demand.  Governor Brown had previously established a target of reducing carbon pollution 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 through an executive order, but SB 32 cemented this requirement into law making it much more certain.  Setting a 2030 target could increase demand for allowances, but the market will not necessarily get certainty about that target or how California will meet it in one fell swoop.  While SB 32 set the 2030 target, like AB 32 it was silent on policy tools to meet that target so decisions about cap-and-trade post-2020 are still outstanding.

Greenhouse gas emissions decline again in 2015

California’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting program requires that state’s largest polluters to report their emissions annually. The California Air Resources Board released the final tally of 2015 greenhouse gas emissions on November 4th, which showed yet another year of carbon pollution decrease.

In 2015, California’s emissions covered under the cap-and-trade program decreased by roughly one percent compared to the year before. California is on track to meet its target of reducing pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.  Carbon pollution for capped and uncapped sources was down in 2015.

Meanwhile, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows the state’s gross domestic product increased by almost six percent in 2015 – while California also experienced an increase of total employment of a little over two percent in 2015 – proving again that economic output and emissions don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

With these results California is on solid footing to continue as a beacon of hope for climate action in the United States and perhaps even to attract new partners inside or outside the country who are ready to join a successful program.

 

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What happened to agriculture's potential for action at the "COP of Action"?

By Jade Lu, Environmental Science and Biology major at Duke University, and Dana Miller, EDF Policy Analyst

November 14, 2016 – the SBSTA closing plenary at COP22 in Marrakesh, photo by Dana Miller

Hailed as the “COP of Action” since before its opening, COP22 no longer holds such promise for agriculture. The scene seemed set for action: the Paris Agreement opened the doors for real progress on agriculture and there were clear commonalities in both country goals and practices. During the negotiations, while there were differences, countries were able to agree on some significant issues and worked hard to reach a decision. However, differences won out and countries were not able to focus on these areas of consensus to reach a substantive decision when the agenda item closed on Friday, postponing discussions until the next negotiations in May 2017. So, how did this happen, and where do we go from here?

The promise for action

As parties began to discuss agriculture, they unearthed many areas of common ground. There was a strong sense of urgency and desire for action shared by many countries. Countries agreed on the need to explore policy options to spur action. Countries also acknowledged the need to address climate change through good agricultural practices and to share knowledge and lessons learned. As we wrote in our last blog and analysis, countries are already implementing many common practices, which they shared in their submissions to SBSTA 44. These practices include efficiently managing resources like water, nutrients, and soil, which can have multiple benefits for adaptation, mitigation and productivity.

Full negotiating texts were put forward, giving parties a starting ground. This was further than negotiators had gotten since discussions on agriculture started in Durban in 2011. They finally had the ability to address possible points of contention, then to adjust, and finally compromise. The delegates were obviously hard at work in the days leading up to their submission deadline. They met late into the night negotiating a text that could be somewhat acceptable to all parties. After three long days, however, negotiators could not get past fundamental differences. This led to a half-worked upon text that countries decided they could not use as a starting point for negotiations at the next SBSTA in May, losing much of the progress they made this week.

What went wrong?

Even as progress was made in certain areas – with valuable contributions from many parties – other components were locked in complete standstill. There were fundamental disagreements that stalled the negotiations, such as:

  • Whether to only focus on adaptation and food security—which is of utmost importance to all, but especially vulnerable, developing countries—or to also address mitigation in agriculture
  • and whether there should be a call for developed countries to provide finance and other support for developing countries.

While the COP presidency strongly encouraged the Parties to reach an agreement and put pressure by offering clear deadlines, parties were unable to negotiate efficiently. It is clear that both significantly more time and efficiency will be required to achieve real progress on agriculture.

The silver lining

The issue of agriculture is complex and the fact that parties are offering texts as starting points for negotiations shows that future progress on agriculture may be closer than it looks:

  • There is even stronger urgency and desire for action. Negative impacts of climate change are being felt now for agriculture. Agricultural emissions are significantly contributing to the warming of our planet. Inaction will no longer be an option. This urgency will be made clear on Wednesday, November 16 at the Agriculture and Food Security Action Day during the second week of COP22.
  • Though it was difficult to reach agreement at this COP, countries are starting to acknowledge that many best agricultural practices have benefits for both adaptation and mitigation.
  • Countries are already implementing many good agricultural practices, which they have shared with each other at the UNFCCC and in other international fora. These practices can provide areas of common ground for the next negotiations.
  • Progress, even incremental and painstaking, is still progress. Text was proposed and discussed; valuable contributions and ideas were shared. Parties can take elements of this text, especially points of consensus, to the subsidiary meeting in May.

Of course, this is all dependent on the commitment and willingness to engage on agriculture – from all stakeholders. Countries must be willing to focus on common goals between all countries, and also to compromise where needed. EDF and our partners stand ready to provide support and share our experiences in agriculture in countries around the world to reach a decision on agriculture.

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Why we could see progress on agriculture at the Marrakesh climate talks

By Jade Lu, Environmental Science and Biology major at Duke University, and Dana Miller, EDF Policy Analyst

Photo: Rakesh Tiwari (SACRED)

The interactions between the agricultural sector and climate change have undeniable implications for both global food security and our environment. Despite this global significance, and perhaps due to the complexity of the subject, there has been little progress to date on agriculture in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. However, this could be about to change.

The impetus of Paris Climate Agreement and leadership by the Moroccan presidency could unlock the opportunity to advance agricultural issues at the climate talks, known as COP22, taking place this week in Marrakesh. Furthermore, country actions and targets as inscribed in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) both show commitment to the agricultural sector and help highlight key common practices that could form a basis for international collaboration.

While much of COP22 will be focused on laying groundwork for the Paris Agreement, agriculture could be an area of significant progress in Marrakesh, potentially resulting in a COP decision or work program on agriculture.

There is a strong need to address agriculture in COP22

Agriculture at once contributes significantly to climate change and faces some of the greatest risks posed by climate change. Agriculture is estimated to contribute one-third of all emissions. Conversely, climate change is projected to have negative impacts on agriculture, especially in developing countries. With 800 million people currently undernourished worldwide, the majority of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and a projected population increase of more than 2 billion people by 2050, it is no wonder that “Zero Hunger” is identified as the 2nd Sustainable Development Goal by the UN and that adequate nourishment is interwoven with almost every goal listed.  However, agriculture has yet to be codified within the UNFCCC framework.

There is an opportunity to address agriculture in COP22

The Paris Agreement, monumental in more ways than one, identifies food security as a priority in the climate agenda. This recognition is emblematic of the necessity to address the foundation for food security – the agricultural sector – in the international climate negotiations.

It is clear from previous negotiations that countries have different priorities and perspectives in considering mitigation versus adaptation.  However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these two goals are not mutually exclusive in practice.

A new EDF analysis of countries’ submissions to the 44th SBSTA (Subsidiary Body on Science and Technological Advice) finds that countries are employing similar agricultural practices in different parts of the world. Several submissions also noted that these practices can have multiple benefits for adaptation, productivity and mitigation.

For example, soil management can increase soil fertility (and therefore productivity) as well as carbon storage in soils. Improvements in livestock such as diet management could both increase productivity and reduce methane emissions. The efficient management and storage of water could also increase resiliency to drought and reduce reliance on irrigation. These are just a few examples of commonly identified agricultural practices that meet both goals of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of emissions.

In addition to common practices, it is also clear that the vast majority of countries, driven by national interest, are committed to taking actions on agriculture in the context of climate. Within countries’ INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions), 80% include agriculture in their mitigation targets and 64% include agriculture in adaptation strategies.

Parallel to the negotiations, the Global Climate Action Agenda will highlight agriculture and food security on November 16th, demonstrating leadership by the Moroccan presidency to advance issues on agriculture at COP22.

The potential way forward

With clear necessity and urgency, a way must be paved for work on agriculture issues within the UNFCCC.  The Paris Agreement, INDCs, and common practices from SBSTA submissions that countries are already implementing could provide a foundation for countries to work together on agriculture. The best outcome of Marrakesh would be a COP decision on agriculture.

International cooperative action on agriculture is in the best interest of all countries due to critical importance of food security, adaptation, and climate stabilization. In addition, international collaboration could facilitate accounting for emissions towards INDCs and accelerate deployment of finance for agriculture.

We hope that negotiators will work constructively together on agriculture inside and outside of the negotiations, especially on areas of common ground such as the practices mentioned above. EDF and our partners will be closely following the agriculture negotiations at COP 22 and meeting with negotiators to discuss how to move forward on agriculture issues in the UNFCCC.

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What happens in Marrakesh now that the Paris Agreement has entered into force?

Marrakesh

Photo credit: Luc Viatour

Friday, November 4, 2016 was a day for the record books: it marked the day that the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, unlocking the Agreement’s legally binding rights and obligations for countries that have joined the agreement. This milestone came almost four years earlier than many expected even just last year. 

Rapid entry into force proves that the diverse political coalition of countries that constructed the Paris Agreement – both developed and developing, large and small – is alive and strong around climate change. It sends a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that governments take the agreement seriously, and that now is the time to ramp up investment in a prosperous, low-carbon future. 

Early entry into force also adds a sense of urgency to the work of the just-opened climate talks in Marrakesh under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP22, from November 7-18. The inaugural session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will take place in conjunction with COP22. 

What to expect at Marrakesh

Countries in Marrakesh will be expected to provide concrete evidence that the world is on track to effectively implement the Paris Agreement.

The goal of the Marrakesh gathering is to maintain the strong momentum on climate action that comes from the trio of climate wins we’ve seen recently: entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the adoption of a market-based-measure to tackle significant climate pollution from airlines, and the phase down of HFC “superpollutant” greenhouse gases. 

To continue that momentum, countries in Marrakesh will be expected to provide concrete evidence that the world is on track to effectively implement the Paris Agreement, in the form of an ambitious workplan to complete the Agreement’s necessary infrastructure. The Agreement provides an inclusive, solid foundation for global climate action, but the “nuts and bolts” of how to implement the Agreement were left to future meetings.

Key implementation tasks that will occupy negotiators in Marrakesh include Finalizing the Paris Agreement’s “enhanced” transparency framework and building an effective ambition mechanism.

Finalizing the Paris Agreement’s “enhanced” transparency framework

Transparency is the backbone of the Paris Agreement: It drives climate action by holding countries accountable to their commitments on action and support. 

But often overlooked are the additional direct domestic benefits of transparency to countries and subnational actors, which helps them to:

  1. understand the scope of the climate challenge;
  2. develop strategies to address it;
  3. assess the extent to which policy interventions are succeeding; and
  4. more easily access resources needed for effective implementation, including via carbon markets.

The Paris Agreement lays out common and legally binding rules that require – for the first time – each country to regularly report on progress they are making in meeting their commitments.  And those reports must go to a panel of experts for technical review. As EDF President Fred Krupp wrote, “It's the environmental version of President Reagan's ‘trust but verify.’”  

The details of the Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework must now be elaborated to ensure that countries demonstrate credibly and publicly how they are making progress against their commitments. Support should be made available to assist countries that need help to meet these new requirements. A variety of climate funds and support programs currently exist that can help developing countries to build the necessary institutional and technical capacity. 

At the same time, nations must now prioritize efforts to develop a set of clear accounting rules that prevent “double counting” of emissions reductions and facilitate the high-integrity emissions trading needed to drive emissions down and investment up. Double counting – applying one ton of emissions reductions towards more than one commitment, a sleight of hand that cheats the atmosphere – is explicitly prohibited by the Paris Agreement no less than six times.

Building an effective ambition mechanism

We know that the commitments pledged by countries thus far are not enough to limit warming below new temperature limits set by the Paris Agreement – “well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels” – let alone enough to meet the Agreement’s aspirational limit of 1.5 degrees.

That’s why the heart of the accord is the process it establishes to periodically review countries’ progress toward meeting their commitments, and to ratchet up ambition over time, beginning with a global assessment (a “facilitative dialogue,” in UN-speak) in 2018 and updates of commitments in 2020.

The Paris Agreement recognizes that cooperation on emissions trading between countries can help drive the ambitious emissions reductions that science demands. Under Article 6, the Agreement encourages the growing use of bottom-up agreements between jurisdictions to link markets for greater efficiency, as California and Quebec have done. Countries that prefer the option of an international structure can wait to utilize the nascent new market mechanism outlined under Article 6.4 of the Agreement – the strong rules and accounting standards necessary for this new approach must also be fleshed out by negotiators in the coming months and years.

Prompt agreement on accounting for market mechanisms under Article 6, including how to practically implement the requirement to avoid double counting of emissions reductions, will help quickly build the infrastructure needed for carbon markets to drive ambition. In particular, the facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to assess global progress appears to be a good time to provide additional clarity on the tools available under the Paris Agreement to increase ambition. 

What will happen during CMA1 

Although the Paris Agreement specifies that the significant amount of work necessary to build its essential infrastructure must be completed by CMA1, countries are likely to agree a “procedural fix” to give themselves the time necessary to develop the Paris Agreement’s rulebook. For example, Parties could agree to keep CMA1 formally in session rather than gaveling it closed at the end of the COP, extending CMA1 – and the associated deadlines – until perhaps 2018. Countries used a similar fix to minimize procedural wrangling in the successful negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement. Given the Paris Agreement’s surprisingly quick entry into force, it is not surprising that negotiators will need more time to complete the long list of tasks on their plate.

The upshot is that substantive discussions will occur instead in the COP, the APA (the “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement”) and the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies, in which all Parties to the UNFCCC can participate. As long as these bodies move promptly to accomplish their “to do” list, keeping discussions under the COP provides an additional benefit to inclusiveness and political “buy-in.” That's because decisionmaking in the CMA is limited to only those Parties to the Paris Agreement, currently slightly more than half of those participating in the UNFCCC, but expected to be nearly equal by 2018. 

The continuing need for national and “minilateral” action

A decade ago, the presumptive approach to climate progress was a global governance structure driven by international institutions such as the U.N. Now, the challenges are more urgent and the landscape is more decentralized. 

"Minilateral" cooperation among groups of countries is emerging as a focal point for climate action. The prospect of “climate clubs” is gaining currency as a vehicle for securing greater investment, market access, and financial stability, and for driving greater ambition in climate action. For example, a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions, or “CCM”, could go faster and farther than the UNFCCC in promoting coordination among carbon markets, ensuring environmental integrity, and ultimately spurring greater ambition in climate action. Robust coalition standards could potentially inform global approaches, complementing and building additional momentum for climate efforts under the UNFCCC.

No major environmental problem is solved with one document. The Paris Agreement provides a solid foundation for cooperation among jurisdictions, but nations recognize that progress on climate depends on implementation at home. It’s time for countries to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the rules, guidance, and domestic policies that will put Paris into practice. 

The significant political will reflected in the entry into force of the Paris Agreement now needs to be translated to building the essential infrastructure for implementation. The world is watching.

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What to expect for forests and REDD+ at COP22 in Marrakesh?

Forest

Photo credit: Flickr @CIFOR

With the Paris Agreement entering into force on November 4th, climate negotiators at this years’ climate talks (COP22) in Marrakesh will have to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the rules and guidance that will translate Paris climate commitments into action.

As the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement, the land sector will be discussed this year in the context of implementation and progress – especially REDD+. There are no agenda items directly addressing forests at COP22, so REDD+ negotiators will need to focus on how REDD+ fits into other items on mitigation, accounting, transparency, and markets. Forests will also be highlighted during a series of COP events in the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA).

Forests in the Global Climate Action Agenda

On November 8th—the US election day—the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) will showcase important forest initiatives. Held alongside the negotiations, the GCAA is meant to highlight initiatives not only from nation states, but also from a broad set of stakeholders including civil society and the private sector. Partnerships among these stakeholders will be especially emphasized.

The GCAA will also highlight the New York Declaration on Forests annual assessment report, which was released globally on November 3rd. This year’s report focused on private sector’s implementation of their zero-deforestation supply chain commitments. The report also gives a good overview of overall progress against halving deforestation in natural forests by 2020, which should be at the center of the discussions at the GCAA forest showcasing event.

While I find it heartening that many companies based in North America, Europe, and Australia are making deforestation commitments, the world’s forests need countries and companies in emerging markets to start implementing and reporting on their commitments.

Negotiations: Transparency, Accounting, and Markets

At COP22, REDD+ negotiators will most likely be found at the sides of their colleagues that focus on transparency and accounting. REDD+ methodological guidance included in the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and other previous decisions already ensures a high level of transparency in any REDD+ programming. Experience with effective transparency provisions under REDD+ provides an opportunity to inform the development of the “enhanced transparency framework” that will be critical to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Accounting in the land and forest sector is as important as that in other sectors – if not more important, given the sector’s potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is critical to ensure that consistent principles apply throughout all sectors, including effective accounting that avoids double counting of emissions reductions.

To promote environmental integrity between countries’ policies to implement REDD+, a report published today by EDF and four other leading organizations collected recommendations from experts from REDD+ countries and technical assessment teams on forest reference levels. It provided key guidance for tropical countries to receive payments for results from REDD+.

The negotiations on markets will probably be some of the most interesting. Markets could provide a much needed source of funding to support results from REDD+, while REDD+ could provide useful lessons for the development of accounting guidance for Article 6 (related to transfers of mitigation outcomes), as detailed in our joint submission with four other leading observer organizations.

Countries may choose to use REDD+ emission reductions as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO) under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, consistent with the Warsaw Framework and other REDD+ decisions. The use of ITMOs toward national commitments must also be consistent with the accounting guidance yet to be developed under Article 6.2, including the clear requirement to avoid double counting of emissions reductions.

The country of Brazil offers an example of where the REDD+ and ITMO debate is playing out. Recently, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, made up of over 130 leading environmental NGOs and companies has recently, after extensive internal discussion, approved a consensus position on REDD+. Their position – that can be found here – posits that the positions of Brazil’s international climate negotiators dealing with land use – in particular their opposition to market-based REDD+ and failure to recognize subnational REDD+ systems in national carbon accounting – do not reflect the overwhelming majority views on these issues in Brazilian society. It will be interesting to see these differences between Brazilian society and their climate negotiators debated at the COP.

It is not clear how forests or REDD+ will be featured in the new market mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development (under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement). I don’t expect negotiators to start discussing a new REDD+ methodology for Article 6.4 in Marrakesh, and this is likely many years down the road.

As previous analysis has shown significant costs savings from using REDD+ in carbon markets, I expect countries interested in using markets to discuss the details of transacting REDD+ ITMOs next year, either within the UNFCCC negotiations or in clubs of carbon markets in parallel to the UNFCCC.

The Marrakesh COP will probably yield less tangible text related to REDD+ than past UNFCCC meetings, though REDD+ negotiators will probably have much to discuss with each other outside the negotiating rooms. What I will be looking for are signs that REDD+ implementation is accelerating and how the accounting and transparency discussion in the UNFCCC might impact REDD+ and the forest sector.

Posted in Deforestation, Forestry, REDD+| Leave a comment
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