EDF Talks Global Climate

LATimes: Saving Amazon is most cost-effective way to cut global warming pollution

The L.A. Times produced a beautiful series on Brazil’s Amazon this week, saying what EDF has said all along: Protecting the Amazon not only preserves biodiversity — it also cuts global warming pollution faster and at lower cost than almost any other approach.

The destruction of tropical forests causes nearly a fifth of all global warming pollution, and as reporter Margot Roosevelt discovered, too often these forests are destroyed to make low-value products like charcoal.

It's exactly what EDF has been saying – we can't stop global warming without protecting tropical forests – and protecting forests is the fastest and lowest-cost way to curb warming. So, logically, it's the first thing we should do.

It's no surprise the L.A. Times would zoom in on this story. California businesses and citizens, like the people who live in the Amazon, stand to reap both health and economic benefits by preserving the forest.

That's because California's cap-and-trade market, set to begin in 2012, would let businesses buy tropical forest offsets to help meet their emission caps, using a policy approach called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation) pioneered in part by EDF.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger already signed agreements with several Amazon state governors to measure the carbon stored in their forests. (He hosted two Governors’ Global Climate Summit's in Los Angeles.)

Amazon deforestation fell to the lowest rate in more than a decade last year. By letting big polluters pay to keep deforestation down, we help protect this resource and curb global warming in the fastest, most cost-efficient way.

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COP15 debrief: U.N. says world leaders rolled up their sleeves

Lawyers will be debating for months and weeks what exactly was achieved at the Copenhagen climate summit. Which key goals, pledges and targets were, or were not, firmly nailed down – and what work remains to be finished in 2010.

But U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon gave a sweeping summary of events on Saturday that made you stop, rub your bleary eyes and marvel at what just happened. Nearly 120 world leaders gathered here in the last 48 hours to discuss how they can work together to stop global warming. And despite deep divisions and conflicting interests, they refused to walk away from the table and instead hashed out an outline for advancing next year.

Here’s what Ban said:

"Bringing all the leaders to the table paid off. The Copenhagen accord may not be everything everyone hoped, but this is an essential beginning. We now have a foundation for the first truly global agreement that will limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

In case anyone in Copenhagen thought global agreements come easily, U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Policy Planning Robert Orr was there to remind us:

"The process you just witnessed, one reason it was a wild roller coaster ride is that it was truly unprecedented. This was the most genuine negotiation I've ever seen between leaders – and I've worked at the U.N. a long time — usually it's something pre-cooked.

Orr said he never saw so many world leaders roll up their sleeves and get down to caucusing and negotiating at all levels, especially in the face of uncertain outcomes. In plenary remarks Friday, Brazil’s President Lula said it reminded him what it felt like to be a labor leader.

But will it be enough? President Obama and others have already said the Copenhagen accord is a first step and there's a lot more to be done to reach the kind of legally binding treaty we need. The accord's critical contribution may turn out to be the fact that it drew world leaders into the process and got us all moving forward together in the right direction.

Some sleep-deprived delegates and observers in Copenhagen expressed frustration that more wasn't achieved. But Mr. Orr was optimistic the Copenhagen accord could draw countries in and kick-start a virtuous circle:

"The key is to get the machinery going. This will create a dynamic in countries, marketplaces and innovation systems… it's not inconceivable that with the dynamics in the marketplace and technologies unleashed by this you could outperform targets."

"The instinct is to be conservative at first, and not over-pledge, but they're getting into the game of setting targets and surpassing them. It was a common refrain in negotiations that countries said they could progressively outperform targets."

Posted in Copenhagen (COP-15), UN negotiations / 1 Response

Brazil Commitment to Climate on Display

With the world’s largest tropical forest and a mostly hydro-powered economy, Brazil has been very busy with efforts to curb deforestation and use the resulting avoided emissions to fight climate change.

In Copenhagen, with a modest bit of help from EDF, several top Brazilian officials put their commitment to forest protection and green growth on display.

At the Mogens Dahl Center, just up the road from the Bella Center where UN climate talks are taking place, last night's Amazon Governor's Forum featured six state governors and Brazil's Environment Minister speaking about REDD. (That's the UN acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, a policy approach to curbing deforestation.)

Brazil has become a global leader in curbing deforestation, developing mapping and monitoring systems to track forest cover, and creating legal systems to protect it. With a tropical forest half the size of the continental United States, officials know they need to be active players in climate talks -and most likely in emissions trading – to tap the resources they'll need.

Minister Carlos Minc told an audience of 250 people, two TV networks and a crowd of other journalists that Brazil will need public funds but also can't snub market financing for REDD.

While the governors were busy at the Mogens Dahl Center, three of the leading potential contenders for Brazil's presidency swept into the Bella Center – putting to rest any doubts about whether a national commitment to reducing deforestation will outlast 2010 presidential elections.

One possible presidential contender, Marina Silva, a rubber tapper from Brazil's far west state of Acre and a former environment minster, has the other candidates striving mightily to establish their green credentials. Her approach seems to be working for the environment; industrial powerhouse Sao Paolo state has passed an emissions reduction law, and Brazil's congress is looking at the possibility of an ambitious national emissions law.

The Washington Post published a Q and A with Ms. Silva following her recent visit to Capitol Hill.

The other likely presidential contender is Jose Serra, the governor of Sao Paulo. He's expected to be the leading opposition candidate in Brazil’s 2010 presidential race.

The third likely presidential candidate who's here in Copenhagen is Dilma Rousseff of Brazil’s incumbent Workers’ Party. President Lula himself will arrive in Copenhagen later this week.

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Ministers arrive, demonstrators hit streets

Climate talks ramped up a level Saturday as high-level ministers arrived and went behind closed doors to hash out differences over negotiating texts.

But the real excitement was in downtown Copenhagen, where tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the streets to voice their support for strong action to stop climate change.

Desmond Tutu led a peaceful candle light vigil. And a few hundred demonstrators who got rowdy early on quickly found themselves lined up and handcuffed by Danish police.

Police line up Copenhagen demonstrators

Police line up Copenhagen demonstrators

A contingent of demonstrators marched across town to the Bella Center where ministers were expected to continue talks through the weekend. Here's a link to a CNN story on the march.

Inside the Bella Center, the chair's draft text released Friday opened up fault lines over finance numbers and compliance rules.

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Copenhagen: U.S. Climate Envoy in the House

U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern arrived in Copenhagen this morning …  and by mid-afternoon was already on stage conducting his first press conference.

When reporters started asking about the state of negotiations, he reminded them: 

I just got off the plane, had a shower and came straight over here.

As the first ever U.S. climate envoy appointed to spearhead American global leadership on climate in multilateral negotiations, Stern’s mere presence in Copenhagen signals the seriousness of U.S. commitment to stopping global warming.

But we're a long way from March, when Stern got a standing ovation just for showing up at climate talks and telling delegates that the Obama administration won’t deny scienctific evidence of rising temperatures and melting glaciers.

Stern made it pretty clear he’s not expecting sugary smiles and lots of thanks here in Copenhagen. When one reporter asked what President Obama will have to do to get a standing ovation, Stern said:

When I got that standing ovation in March, I told myself that’s it, I’ve peaked, and I think that’s true. President Obama has had a lot more standing ovations than I have, and I’m sure it would be nice to get one here but he’s not expecting it. We’re not worried about standing ovations, we’re here to get a deal done.

Stern also answered serious and substantive questions about U.S. positions on climate for the next 30 minutes. The UNFCCC has video of the entire news conference on its web site.

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Barcelona: what they said in closing plenary

Sweden: In some respects this has been a good meeting, but the world is waiting for us to agree difficult issues. Failure is not an option. On one thing all parties agree — we need to reach an ambitious global agreement in Copenhagen this December.

India: The clock has not stopped ticking in Barcelona. India is not prepared to give up at this stage and will spare no effort to reach a strong outcome. Developing countries are not slackening efforts. We will certainly retain the audacity to hope.

United States: The perfect, while attractive, is the enemy of the good, and the deal we are working on is good. Never has there been this high level of commitment.

Bangladesh: many things we need can wait. Climate cannot. (Loud applause)

Australia: Let us be clear, we need to agree on some really significant issues in Copenhagen. We need the best possible outcome. One that reduces emissions substantially and causes funding to flow, that protects forests and provides finance for adaptation.

China: To be or not to be is no longer the question. Copenhagen must be a success. Our resolve remains to achieve an ambitious, strong, binding outcome in Copenhagen. (The United States) must wake up. Developing countries are leaving you behind.

Tanzania: A fair and equitable agreement must be struck in Copenhagen. The willingness and true leadership of industrial nations will be shown.

Egypt: Some progress was achieved, yet we still have serious differences on fundamental aspects. Both sides have different expectations. We still have hope we can achieve consensus in Copenhagen. If the issues are going to be resolved at the political level we should get the leaders involved as soon as possible.

South Africa: We are deeply concerned about the lack of progress in Barcelona. But we do not despair. South Africa called for a two track outcome — (where the Kyoto Protocol would continue until a new and stronger global climate treaty is reached.)

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