The United Nations climate agreement in Paris, and the intense negotiations leading up to it, were a breakthrough in a number of important ways.
First of all, the agreement represents the coming of age of climate diplomacy. It was evident from the beginning that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who chaired the talks, had the full trust and confidence of the room.
He artfully identified a zone of agreement among 196 delegations that gave nearly everyone something they wanted without crossing red lines.
The agreement was also the culmination of months of bilateral diplomacy at the highest levels, most visibly between the U.S. and China. The direct involvement of President Obama and other world leaders was critical to success – and shows a strategic savvy and leader-level involvement that we haven’t seen in past climate talks.
But it’s the language of the agreement itself, and the broad backing it received, that makes it such a big deal. It means that we now have a chance – not a guarantee, but a chance – to put the world on a healthier path.
By Chris Meyer, Senior Manager, Amazon Forest Policy and Dana Miller, Research Analyst
The Paris Agreement sends a strong signal for the forest protection policy REDD+. Credit: Flickr/Dams999
The Paris Agreement was a historic moment for the world, including the world’s forests. Now it is time to implement the agreement. But first, let’s take a moment to celebrate three important wins for forests and the framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
1) Article 5 on REDD+ signals political support for the existing internationally agreed framework
The Paris Agreement included a specific provision (Article 5, below) on forests and REDD+. Experts from EDF, Conservation International, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and Union of Concerned Scientists told press that this article “would send a strong political signal to support better protections for forests in developing countries and encourage developed nations to provide the financial incentives to do so.” This article also encourages “results-based payments”, which refers to a promising mechanism where donors pay for verified emissions reductions achieved through REDD+.
Two states in the Brazilian Amazon — Mato Grosso and Pará emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than all but six nations in the world. More climate pollution than Japan. By 2012 they had cut emissions so dramatically, they dropped beneath 37 other countries.
This progress, achieved through reduced deforestation, is a major reason for the 80% decline in Amazon deforestation between 2005 and 2014.
At the Paris climate conference, these two states rolled out plans for even more ambitious action.
(source: Observatório de Clima SEEG)
Ambitious forest policy is key to climate progress
Slowing Amazon deforestation has kept over 4 billion tons of CO₂ out of the atmosphere since 2005, several times more than the EU’s emissions reductions from 2005 – 2011. Major causes of the decline include better remote sensing monitoring, ramped-up law enforcement, credit limitations, company commitments to zero-deforestation commodity supply chains, large-scale creation of protected areas and recognition of indigenous territories.
The bad news is that plans positive incentives – payments from polluters to preserve forests — have not materialized. Consequently, while deforestation dropped to a historic low of 4,500 km² in 2012 (from a peak of 27,000 km² in 2004), it has crept back up to around 5,000 km² in recent years.
The REDD+ negotiators in Paris still have plenty of explicit and implicit references to REDD+ in the text that have a better-than-good chance of surviving this week.
While we would like to see an explicit reference to REDD+ in the Paris Agreement or its decisions that guide its implementation, what is most important for REDD+ is a good final Paris Agreement. That will provide the impetus for quicker implementation of REDD+ and the big, big signal some say it needs. This second week is when the ministers need to focus on delivering it.
The REDD+ negotiators have spent most of their time trying to unlock language around what some countries want to call the new “REDD+ Mechanism” (currently paragraph 3bis).
The COP21 climate negotiations on REDD+ made little progress last week – keep calm and see why here – while there was a flurry of announcements from countries regarding the implementation of REDD+.
In Paris, announcements on REDD+ finance and implementation by governments, companies and indigenous peoples will be as important as negotiations around text. Image: Flickr
The biggest tip-off as to how REDD+ will fare in Paris will come early on in the conference.
Heads of state and ministers are expected to announce new financial support for REDD+ countries on the Dec. 1, the second day of the climate talks, at the Lima Paris Action Agenda event on forests.
This financial support will target readiness—how prepared a country is to implement REDD+ programs—and results—the financial rewards a country will receive for verified emissions reductions.
At the same time, we expect to hear from REDD+ countries themselves about their progress in completing key milestones in the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. They’ll be addressing reference emission levels, REDD+ national strategies, and status reports on the implementation of safeguard information systems.
REDD+ and the land sector are already embedded in the UNFCCC, regardless of whether REDD+ is mentioned in the Paris text. Credit: Abigail's blog.
It’s hard to find a group more supportive than EDF of policies to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). With our Brazilian partners IPAM and ISA, we helped pioneer the concept, which places a value on living forests and ecosystems, and rewards forest protectors. That means states, such as Acre, Brazil, and countries that have significantly reduced emissions from deforestation could produce credits that companies could use for compliance with carbon markets.
REDD+ and the land sector will be in the Paris agreement – even if just between the lines.
The world’s land use, such as forests and agriculture, accounts for nearly a quarter of global emissions –and absorbs a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
It might seem, then, that we would be concerned if REDD+ isn’t explicitly mentioned in the final Paris agreement, an accord that over 190 countries will negotiate this December. We’re not. Here’s why.