Category Archives: REDD

How measuring trees in Panama is benefitting indigenous groups, forests and the climate

By Chris Meyer, Outreach Manager, Amazon Basin and Lauren Newton, Program Associate, International Climate Program

en español  |  Indigenous peoples  have relied on the rainforests for their survival for thousands of years. Their knowledge of the forests and dependence on the lands make them effective protectors of the forests — and particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

indigenous-technician-measuring-cuipo-Panama

An indigenous technician takes the measurement of a cuipo tree in Darien, Panama. The measurements will help researchers calculate the quantity of carbon stored in the forest. (Credit: Chris Meyer)

The indigenous group Organization of Embera and Wounaan Youth of Panama (OJEWP) formed teams that recently started measuring and recording the size of trees in the territories of five indigenous communities, with technical guidance from academics from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and McGill University.

In May, the OJEWP team started their work in the community of Arimae, located in the Darien, an eastern province of Panama. The team is now nearing completion of the data-gathering project, which will ultimately help researchers calculate the quantity of carbon stored in the forest.* The results will also contribute to identifying the overlap between Panama’s valuable forest carbon “stocks” and its indigenous territories, which are home to more than half of Panama’s forests.

Access to this accurate forest carbon stock data for indigenous territories is crucial for indigenous peoples when they discuss policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) with government officials. It's also helpful for policy makers who design policies to conserve forests and their respective carbon stocks.

Deforestation accounts for as much as 15% of all manmade global warming pollution. This measuring of forest carbon stocks is an important step in the measuring, reporting and verification step that ensures the integrity of REDD+ policies.

STRI-indigenous-technicians-plot-measurement-Panama

STRI's Javier Mateo discusses measuring plot boundaries with indigenous technicians in Darien, Panama. Proper measuring of plots will allow the technicians to take accurate measurements of the forest’s carbon stocks. (Credit: Chris Meyer)

Before heading to the forests, the team first needed to become “technicians” in accurately measuring trees. STRI and McGill University trained them in the fundamentals of accurate tree measurement, including how to measure tree diameter (width) and height, collect plant and soil samples, set up the 100m x 100m (1 hectare) plots, and use GPS technology to tag these measurements. Once in Darien, STRI’s Javier Mateo-Vega said the group’s forest carbon measurements went well, and that:

Our team, comprised of mostly Embera [people] from various territories across Darien, has been instrumental in carrying out rigorous scientific research that will inform future REDD+ related policy and on-the-ground work.

Nakibeler Lopez of OJEWP added that the team also learned “the potential contained in the natural resources of the territories of indigenous peoples in Panama." With this potential in the forest’s natural resources, and the historical role indigenous peoples have played in protecting them, ensuring the indigenous groups receive a fair distribution from any future REDD+ program will be essential for the program’s success.

An effective solution to global climate change must include REDD policies that engage indigenous peoples, and EDF will continue to support the effort to integrate lessons learned from the implementation of this work into REDD+ policy discussions.

*Note: The fifth and final field visit for this project is scheduled for August. Once measurements are completed, the data collected will be fed into territorial carbon maps and shared with the participating indigenous communities. STRI, McGill University, OJEWP, and EDF – with the support of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facilities’ capacity building program – plan to present the results in December at the United Nations climate change convention in Lima, Peru. 

Also posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples |: | 1 Response

Indonesian ministries draw on EDF to advance greenhouse-gas accounting capabilities

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made one of his most urgent pleas yet to stop climate change last month, calling climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” — and it was no coincidence he chose to do it in Indonesia.

The island nation is, as Secretary Kerry said, “one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth.” It is already prone to storms, floods, droughts, forest fires, and other extreme weather events, all of which could be exacerbated by climate change. A changing climate could also trigger catastrophic sea level rise that could contaminate Indonesia’s drinking and irrigation systems, and, in some of the worst case scenarios, swallow many of its islands whole.

Indonesia degree of exposure to natural hazards

Indonesia’s vulnerability to climate change. Source: UNOCHA, 2006 in UNDP, 2007.

Needless to say, those sorts of impacts would have dire consequences on the human beings living in Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on earth. However, the nation’s ecosystem would also be in grave danger. Indonesia harbors large reserves of carbon and biodiversity, and is home to the world’s third-largest rainforest and widespread peatlands, flooded soil that stores carbon from thousands of years ago.

But Indonesia also ranks among the top ten countries for its greenhouse gas emissions, 80 percent of which come from land-use change and forestry. The nation has experienced the greatest increase in forest cover loss from 2000 to 2012, with a high of 20,000 km2 per year (or about 4.9 million acres) between 2011 and 2012 (including harvest of timber and palm oil plantations). The main “driver” of deforestation in Indonesia is clearing for agriculture, particularly for palm oil plantations. Haze from slash and burn agriculture has caused respiratory infections, asthma and other illnesses in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Photo Campur 432_web

Experts from EDF and Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change conducted workshops with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The good news is these emerging challenges have prompted Indonesia to recognize the dangers of climate change and its responsibility to act. In 2011, President Yudhoyono committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent below its current trajectory by 2020, or even 41 percent if the country receives international support. The bulk of emission decreases are to come from reducing deforestation and forest degradation.

To demonstrate that they are honoring their commitments, the country needs to collect and analyze data on greenhouse gas emissions following guidelines set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and submit this data in its National Communications for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) asked EDF to help conduct training workshops for two of the agencies primarily responsible for the data, the Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Agriculture. The workshops detailed each step involved in creating for the UN an inventory of the country’s emissions and removals of greenhouse gasses from agriculture, forestry and other land uses and the mitigation activities it has undertaken. These workshops also facilitated our collaboration and data-sharing capabilities with the Indonesian government, who worked with EDF’s Chief Natural Resource Economist, Ruben Lubowski, and colleagues from other non-governmental organizations to analyze the carbon reduction potential of different policies.

blog3

Delegates from the Ministry of Forestry fill out IPCC worksheets to calculate gains and losses of carbon from forests for each province, while EDF and DNPI experts look on.

Accurately accounting for emissions will help Indonesia’s government demonstrate its progress toward reaching its reduction target by 2020, and could position the country to receive international funding for its efforts, including through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a program that provides economic incentives to protect forests.

In 2010, Norway committed to a $1 billion agreement with Indonesia, with most of the funds contingent on verified emissions reductions from forest protection. Indonesia also prolonged its forest moratorium, which prohibits new licenses for clearing forests after 2011. On the private-industry end, a number of companies that source commodities from Indonesia recently have made their own commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, including Unilever, Wilmar, Kelloggs, and Asia Pulp and Paper.

This alignment between public and private sectors in protecting forests should be reinforced by good quality data, well-structured economic incentives and policies, and ambition. However, much work remains to be done on land-use issues to protect forests and biodiversity, improve livelihoods and food security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Until then, Indonesia remains, in the words of Secretary Kerry, a country on the “front lines of climate change.”

Also posted in Deforestation |: | 2 Responses

California's carbon market could help stop Amazon deforestation

(This post appeared in Point Carbon North America on Feb. 7)

By Juan Carlos Jintiach, Shuar indigenous leader from the Amazon basin, and Derek Walker, Associate Vice President for the US Climate and Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund

Credit: Dylan Murray

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. Credit: Dylan Murray

A recent article in the Journal of Climate predicts that destroying the Amazon rainforest would cause disastrous drought across California and the western United States. Californians are already no strangers to drought – the state is suffering one of its worst on record.

But the research adds an interesting dimension to what we already know from numerous studies about deforestation: that greenhouse gas pollution in California and around the world makes forests, including the Amazon, drier and more susceptible to widespread fires. California may be thousands of miles away from “the Earth’s lungs,” but how we treat our diverse ecosystems directly affects the one atmosphere we all share.

It is good news for everyone that California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) – which includes the world’s most comprehensive carbon market – is already helping reduce the state’s greenhouse gas pollution. Amazon states and nations have also greatly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, which collectively accounts for as much greenhouse gas pollution as all the cars, trucks, and buses in the world. California now has a terrific opportunity to show global environmental leadership by helping Amazon states keep deforestation rates headed for zero while helping save money for companies and consumers in the Golden State.

The current world leader in greenhouse gas reductions is Brazil, which has brought Amazon deforestation down about 75% since 2005 and kept almost 3 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Indigenous peoples and forest communities have played an essential role in this accomplishment. Decades of indigenous peoples’ struggles against corporate miners, loggers, ranchers, and land grabbers and advocacy in defense of their land rights have resulted in the legal protection of 45% of the Amazon basin as indigenous territory and forest reserves – an area more than eight times the size of California.

These dedicated indigenous and forest lands hold about half of the forest carbon of the Amazon, and have proven to be effective barriers against frontier expansion and deforestation. In a real sense, indigenous and forest peoples are providing a huge global environmental service, but that service is almost entirely unrecognized, let alone compensated. And in Brazil, where agribusiness is pushing back hard against law enforcement and reserve creation, deforestation is back on the upswing – increasing nearly 30% last year.

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. A program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) gives countries or states that commit to reducing deforestation below historic levels “credits” they can sell in carbon cap-and-trade markets. Getting these programs recognized by California’s carbon market would send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon and around the world are worth more alive than dead, and would also provide real incentives for further reductions.

Forest community and indigenous leaders from Latin America visited California to engage state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with the state's carbon market. From left: Juan Carlos Jintiach (Shuar indigenous leader), Megaron Txucarramae (Kayapo indigenous leader) and Lubenay (of a Chiapas forest community).

A few weeks ago, indigenous leaders from Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico were in California engaging state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with California’s carbon market. California should insist that only jurisdictions that respect indigenous and local peoples’ rights, territory and knowledge, and ensure that they benefit from REDD+ programs get access to its market.

The successful adoption and implementation of AB 32 is proof that California is leading the nation on effective, market-based climate change policies. But it’s time to take that another step forward. By allowing credits from REDD+ to play a role in the AB 32 program, the Golden State can be a world leader on one of the most significant causes of climate change and take action to protect the health and prosperity of a threatened land and its people.

 

Learn more about REDD+ and California:

Also posted in Brazil, Deforestation, Indigenous peoples |: | Leave a comment

Does the future of the Amazon rainforest lie in California?

Derek and CA delegation Jan 2014

From left to right: Lubenay, Juan Carlos Jintiach, Derek Walker and Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe).

This post was co-authored by Steve Schwartzman, EDF's director of tropical forest policy, and originally appeared on EDF Voices.

Over the past year, California’s new carbon market has held five auctions, generating $530 million for projects that reduce climate pollution in the state. This is just the start, however, as we believe the program has potential to achieve substantial environmental benefits half a world away in the Amazon rainforest.

We are working with community partners, scientific and business leaders, and California policy makers to craft a rule that permits credits from REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) to be used in California’s carbon market, rewarding indigenous and forest-dwelling communities with incentives for ecosystem protection.

California is leading the way

Using California’s new carbon market to reward rainforest protection would be a powerful signal to Brazil, Mexico, and other tropical countries—and to the world—that leaving forests standing is more profitable than cutting them down.

With the right rules in place, California could create an international gold standard for REDD credits that could be adopted by emerging carbon markets in China, Mexico and beyond.

The right technology

There’s a misperception about how hard it is to measure whether forests are being destroyed or protected. Current technology makes it possible, right now. Satellite and airplane-based sensors are already capable of recording what’s going on with high accuracy. This technology enables us to measure emissions reductions across whole states or countries, the best way to ensure that the reductions are real.

The right partners

We need to help pull together the best policy experts, scientists, and environmental organizations to help California government officials write model rules for REDD that can create a race-to-the-top for forest protection around the world. We need to show that trailblazing states – like Acre in Brazil and Chiapas in Mexico – are ready to be partners with California and can deliver the rigorous level of enforcement and program implementation that California requires.

The right time

There’s real urgency to linking California’s carbon market with REDD. Even though Brazil, home to the world’s largest tracts of tropical forests, has cut deforestation by about 75% from its 1996-2005 levels and consequently become the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that progress is fragile. Over the past year, agribusiness has been pushing back hard against law enforcement and the creation of protected reserves, and deforestation increased nearly 30%. If we want Brazil to continue reducing its deforestation towards zero, we must provide economic incentives to protect the Amazon, and California can be an important catalyst in doing that.

You might also enjoy:

Also posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, United States |: , | Leave a comment

UN talks produce a strong agreement on forest protection, but otherwise déjà vu

Around midnight on Friday, November 25 – several hours after the annual UN climate conference was scheduled to have ended – I stood in the hallway of a temporary conference center erected on the soccer pitch of the National Stadium in Warsaw, watching the scrum of the climate talks in their final hours.

nat_keohane-377x287

Nat Keohane is EDF's Vice President for International Climate and a former economic adviser to the Obama administration.

NGO representatives were pitching stories and sharing intelligence with reporters, negotiators were huddling in groups or dashing off to last-minute bilateral meetings, and everyone was scrounging for coffee or late-night sandwiches to power another all-nighter.

The talks appeared on the brink of failure as countries deadlocked over the core questions of which countries should be obligated to reduce emissions and who should pay for it. In the end, as nearly always happens, an agreement was reached and the talks didn’t fall apart. That has become a typical pattern at these annual UN talks.

If the scene was familiar, the headlines that came out of the talks were familiar as well: Developing Nations Stage Protest at Climate Talks (NY Times); UN presses rich nations to act on climate funds (FT); Modest deal breaks deadlock at UN climate talks (AP); UN talks limp towards global 2015 climate deal (Reuters); Climate Finance Battle Shows Expectation Gap at UN Talks (Bloomberg).

But despite the dulling sense of déjà vu that Friday night in Warsaw, there was already reason for celebration. That’s because earlier that same evening – in a break with past years – the Conference of the Parties (or COP, as the talks are formally labeled) had already held the first part of its closing plenary to formally adopt decisions on areas in which negotiators could agree.

During that session, the COP agreed on a comprehensive agreement on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) – leading to what the UN, countries, media outlets and NGOs all identified as a bright spot in the negotiations.

Forest protection remains a crucial part of the climate action toolkit

With deforestation responsible for about 15% of the world’s manmade greenhouse gas emissions – that’s more than all the cars and trucks in the world – we can’t solve climate change without saving our forests. REDD+ creates economic incentives to reward countries and jurisdictions that reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation below rigorously defined baselines.

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ Action, as it’s formally known, sets down deep roots for REDD+, and sends a clear signal that it will continue to be a crucial tool for protecting forests and the people who depend on them, by:

  1. ensuring a rigorous, transparent framework for measuring emissions reductions from reduced deforestation;
  2. affirming that financial flows will be “results-based,” meaning that REDD+ compensation will be tied to demonstrated results; and
  3. creating a structure for forest nations to share views on the effectiveness of REDD+ implementation.

The REDD+ outcome was a “big step forward,” my colleague and EDF REDD+ expert Chris Meyer told E&E News, explaining:

We had a foundation for the house; now we have the walls, the plumbing, the electricity and the roof for REDD+.

On the issue of forest protection, at least, the UN talks did exactly what they are supposed to do: they reaffirmed work that had been done in previous years, built upon it in negotiating sessions held over the past twelve months, and made the final push to resolve key issues of disagreement in the two weeks of talks in Warsaw.

This comprehensive package of decisions provides a structure for countries to develop REDD+ programs at a national level, and take advantage of the approximately $700 million per year already pledged for REDD+ program preparation and to pilot results-based payments.

The REDD+ agreement also opens a path for the International Civil Aviation Organization and other bodies that are considering developing market-based mechanisms, whether multi-lateral, national or regional, to bring REDD+ into their systems with an imprimatur of a multilateral standard.

Beyond REDD+, little formal progress

Outside of REDD+, the talks were notable more for what didn’t happen than what did. The talks didn’t make significant progress, although they managed not to collapse.

With two years until a new agreement is supposed to be reached in Paris, countries didn’t set a clear template for what they need to announce in terms of emissions reductions targets, or when they need to announce the targets. Nor did they make much progress on the key issue of climate finance – although surprisingly constructive talks on the difficult issue of compensating the world’s most vulnerable countries for the impacts of climate change reached a compromise agreement to create the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage to address the issue going forward.

On two important but lower-profile issues, there appeared to be signs of common ground behind closed doors – but these didn’t translate into movement in the formal negotiations.

On the issue of agriculture, useful conversations occurred that could help integrate agriculture into a more holistic discussion of the role of the land sector in responding to climate change, even if no formal progress were made in the context of these negotiations.

On the critical question of how to construct an international climate architecture that promotes and supports ambitious national action through carbon markets, countries put some useful options on the table – but could not reach a decision, instead deferring further discussion until next June.

To be sure, we never expected much to happen at these Warsaw talks. They were always going to be more about headaches than headlines.

But it’s hard to escape the sense that countries spent two weeks reopening issues that we thought had been resolved and fighting the same battles that have been fought before, only to make a last-minute lunge in the final hours to finish barely ahead of where they started.

A good example is on the key question of participation. Since the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which listed the world’s advanced economies in an appendix or “annex,” the distinction between “Annex I” and “Non-Annex I” countries has been a central point of contention. Five years later, the Kyoto Protocol assigned emissions reductions only to “Annex I” countries. Eliminating the so-called “Kyoto firewall” has been a red line of the U.S. and other advanced economies, which point to the rapid growth in major emerging economies such as China and India, and the concomitant rise in their greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2011, at the UN talks in Durban, South Africa, countries declared that a new agreement, to be finalized in Paris in 2015, would be “applicable to all Parties” – a phrase widely understood to mean that the Annex I/Non-Annex I distinction would be erased. But the first draft of the negotiating text in Warsaw hardly referred to Durban and instead used the different term “broad participation.” That opening salvo didn’t last, and the final text reaffirmed the Durban agreement – but not before significant energy had gone into re-fighting that battle.

The world outside the UN talks

With little to show for their two weeks of long days and all-nighters, negotiators have left themselves a lot to do over the next two years to reach a meaningful outcome in Paris.

However, countries and other actors don’t need to wait for an international agreement in 2015 to start addressing climate change. It was clear, through events on the sidelines of the negotiations and conversations with other attendees at the conference, that cities, states, countries and regions around the world have already started moving to cut their emissions and adapt to climate change.

Some of the most interesting side events highlighted the progress made in China on provincial carbon trading pilots and explored how the Chinese experiments could learn from California’s experience in building a successful carbon market. And the Climate and Clean Air Coalition – a group of more than 70 state and nonstate partners working together to reduce short-lived super-pollutants like methane, black carbon, and HFCs – also announced important progress. Those side events were a reminder that the UN talks, while they remain important, are not the only game in town.

That’s a good thing, and a reason for optimism. Because with the damaging impacts of climate change already apparent in the United States and around the world, the world urgently needs near-term action to turn the corner on global emissions and put us on a downward trajectory toward climate safety.

Read EDF's press release on the outcome of the Warsaw negotiations: Strong agreement to protect forests highlight of UN climate talks.

Also posted in Deforestation, UN negotiations, Warsaw (COP-19) |: | 3 Responses

First-of-its-kind map of the Amazon's indigenous lands and forest carbon will empower indigenous communities to protect their forests – and the climate

Para español, vea el blog del Instituto del Bien Común

On the last day of our meeting in Lima, Peru last month, five consultants from indigenous organizations across the Amazon were hunkered down at their computers.

WHRC's Alessandro Baccini (center) teaching Peruvian indigenous participants how to use software to analyze satellite imagery. (Photo credit: Dylan Murray)

Three of them represented the Madre de Dios region in eastern Peru, where illegal mining threatens their forests and rivers. Another was from the Ecuadorian Amazon, which is grappling with the implications of a recent presidential decree to open up the land for oil and gas exploration. The fifth worked with tribes in rural Colombia, where a dearth of ways to make a living has both fueled a decades-long insurgency and the isolation of indigenous peoples there.

The three-day workshop was the latest effort facilitated by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to inform Amazonian indigenous communities about REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), a program that would provide forest-dwellers with economic incentives to keep their forests standing.

In Lima, EDF brought together a top-notch team to begin finding answers to some of the larger questions about REDD+.

For example, if a program were created where communities could be paid for not deforesting, just how much would the forests in all Amazonian indigenous reserves and protected areas be worth? And, would the economic and social benefits from such a program compare to the rewards reaped from deforestation, mining, or other unsustainable activities that often fail to benefit indigenous communities?

Since about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the carbon released by deforestation, incentive programs such as REDD+ that can keep the carbon locked in forests will be a key part in stopping climate change. Determining how much carbon a given forest owner or community holds is necessary to determine compensation.

Chris_whiteboard_web

EDF's Chris Meyer explains how satellite imagery and on-the-ground measurements by indigenous participants helped to improve estimates of forest carbon in indigenous territories. (Photo credit: Dylan Murray)

During the workshop, indigenous consultants representing COICA, a pan-Amazonian indigenous coordinating body, worked with scientists from Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and RAISG, a network of remote-sensing scientists from Amazon countries, to quantify how much “forest carbon” was being stored in these territories.

WHRC provided a trove of satellite data that gives estimates of how much carbon is stored in tropical forests around the globe – crucial information in and of itself, as some forests hold much more carbon than others. Meanwhile, RAISG brought to the table a painstakingly detailed map of all indigenous lands and protected areas in the Amazon. WHRC and RAISG’s work yields a tool that is nothing less than state of the art.

By merging the content from the two organizations, the team has created a first-of-its-kind map* that simultaneously shows the density of forest carbon throughout the Amazon and where the indigenous and protected areas are relative to it.

So what does this mean for indigenous peoples?

Maps could inform indigenous groups’ interactions with government, buyers of REDD+ credits

The new map that shows how forest carbon aligns with indigenous territories means indigenous groups will better understand the climate benefits of preserving their tropical forests.

The five consultants are preparing detailed maps for specific regions in their countries in the hopes that they may be REDD+-eligible in the future, and plans are in the works to disseminate the complete maps and their underlying data to communities throughout the Amazon Basin. This will in turn allow communities that want to participate in REDD+ to represent themselves more effectively to governments and REDD+ credit buyers when REDD+ markets come on-line.

The consultants are optimistic that their efforts in specific regions in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia might lead to their countries’ inclusion in an eventual “Jurisdictional REDD+” system. Whereas most REDD+ efforts function at the smaller project-level, the increasingly popular jurisdictional approach allows for areas at the sub-national scale (for example, the Madre de Dios region) to be certified as having zero net deforestation.

Indigenous lands have less deforestation, but face political pressures

These maps also illustrate what’s at stake if we lose sight of indigenous people’s proven record of environmental stewardship.

caption

Indigenous participants and collaborators from RAISG, WHRC and EDF at the workshop. The maps being held illustrate the indigenous reserves and protected areas throughout the Amazon Basin. (Photo credit: Instituto del Bien Común)

Past studies, including one co-authored by EDF’s Director of Tropical Forest Policy Steve Schwartzman, have proven that indigenous lands suffer from much less deforestation than non-indigenous lands.

Recent political winds in Brazil and Ecuador, though, suggest that politicians are leaning towards unbridled agricultural expansion and resource extraction in the Amazon, even if this means violating or scaling back indigenous rights.

These maps can help make the case that indigenous management of tropical forests makes both environmental and economic sense. With such a tool, indigenous communities can convince their countries that they do not have to sacrifice environmental protections and the well-being of indigenous communities for economic growth.

*Note: The maps are still being finalized, and are expected to be done by early 2014.

Also posted in Deforestation |: | Leave a comment

Warsaw talks can lay groundwork for new international climate architecture

For the next two weeks, representatives from more than 190 countries are meeting in Warsaw for the annual international climate negotiations, known as the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — or “COP-19.”

Countries in Warsaw face the challenge of how to invite broad participation to an international climate agreement, while encouraging ambitious emissions cuts. Above: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres gives a welcome speech in Warsaw. Source: Flickr (UNFCCC)

But while the delegates are gathering in Poland — and their hearts are with the Philippines — their minds will be 850 miles to the west, in Paris. That’s because in two years’ time, the same set of countries will meet there to conclude a new global agreement to fight climate change, intended to take effect from 2020.

As a result, even as delegates in Warsaw continue to work on individual issues – such as how to support policies that reduce emissions from deforestation, and how to finance work that reduces greenhouse gas emissions — they are also beginning to grapple with how to knit those components together in an overarching agreement.

No major breakthroughs are expected this year, but many nations have expressed the desire to develop a skeletal framework and flesh out a coherent design for the 2015 agreement.

Their challenge: How to invite broad participation, while simultaneously encouraging ambitious emissions cuts?

A middle path between “top-down” and “bottom-up”

The answer may be to seek a middle ground between what are sometimes called the “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches.

The top-down approach envisions a sweeping agreement that would allocate the allowable “carbon budget” among countries and create a comprehensive system to implement it. Solving the problem in a single go would be great for the climate. But that approach doesn’t mesh with the political realities of tackling the climate issue in an arena with 190+ different nations, each with its own energy mix and development priorities. Those realities came into sharp relief four years ago in Copenhagen, where grand hopes of a “global deal” ran into the reality of a UN process better suited to incremental progress.

At the other extreme, a purely “bottom-up” approach may appear more realistic, but risks achieving little. Without any framework in place to encourage countries to undertake ambitious actions, to verify that they are abiding by commitments they have made, or to provide them with the tools they need to carry them out, it is unlikely that their pledges will add up to anything remotely ambitious enough to solve the problem, or that their pledges will be implemented.

A middle road is needed: a path between “top down” and “bottom up,” and an approach that recognizes that while the UN can’t solve the problem at one blow, it has a key role to play in supporting and promoting effective action by countries. The key to this approach is constructing a legal framework, or “architecture,” that provides a home for a range of different national approaches while ensuring market integrity and encouraging ambition.

In Warsaw, an important portion of the discussion about the architecture of the 2015 agreement will play out in a track known as the “framework for various approaches,” established in Durban in 2011. Created as a forum for exploring both market and non-market approaches for reducing emissions, the “FVA" offers an important opportunity to set guidelines for the design of effective, high-integrity national programs. As a result, it provides an opening to chart the middle path.

Minimum pillars of an effective climate architecture

A sound climate architecture should give countries the confidence to take on and implement ambitious targets. It can do that by ensuring rigorous and transparent monitoring and reporting — so that countries can verify that other nations are following through on their own commitments. An architecture should create incentives for early action, even before a new agreement takes effect from 2020.

An architecture should also establish minimum guidelines or standards for the integrity of domestic programs, enabling countries to evaluate each other’s actions. Such an approach would also have the effect of facilitating environmentally sound linkages between and among those nations with existing and emerging carbon markets.

This kind of architecture could then become a “gift that keeps on giving,” as it would reinforce nations’ willingness to undertake even more ambitious targets in the future, secure in the knowledge that their negotiating partners are also undertaking and implementing their commitments.

Fortunately, establishing these guidelines does not require re-inventing the wheel: existing domestic and international emissions reductions programs have provided lessons that can be applied to both non-market and market approaches to reducing greenhouse gases. (We’ve summarized these in our most recent submission to the UN [PDF].)

One clear lesson from existing programs is that a workable and effective agreement to reduce carbon pollution would contain the following “minimum pillars”:

  1. National emissions budgets, with sectoral or jurisdictional emissions caps which may be internationally or domestically enforceable, supported by rigorous measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of emissions following internationally agreed standards, to ensure transparency;
  2. Incentives for early action;
  3. For those nations that choose to use them, high-integrity market mechanisms to meet their emissions caps; and
  4. Flexibility in how nations might participate in a new agreement, recognizing that some nations may not be able to ratify internationally binding elements of any final 2015 deal.

Our policy brief, A Home for All: Architecture of a future global framework for mitigation action [PDF], has more details.

What the Warsaw talks can deliver

Although nations are unlikely to define the content and structure for the 2015 agreement at this level of specificity by the close of the Warsaw meeting, we hope countries can agree on a clear blueprint for the next phase of work that incorporates these “minimum pillars” of transparency and environmental efficacy.

The Warsaw meetings are unlikely to generate much front-page news. But behind the scenes, the talks can play an important role in preparing the ground for Paris. The key task is to lay the foundation for a durable and dynamic legal architecture that accommodates real-world constraints, while refusing to accept a lack of ambition: an architecture that provides a home for all nations to contribute to addressing the shared global challenge of climate change.

As the impacts of warming temperatures and rising seas become ever more apparent around the globe, the need for such an architecture becomes all the more urgent.

Also posted in News, UN negotiations, Warsaw (COP-19) |: | Leave a comment

In Warsaw climate talks, potential to make real progress on key issues

Countries meeting in Warsaw for the annual United Nations climate conference won't  finalize the structure of an international agreement to address climate change, but they should make progress on some important topics that will serve as the foundation for such an agreement.

Countries meeting in Warsaw for the UN climate negotiations can make real progress on key issues that will serve as the foundation of an international climate agreement. Above: Election of the negotiations' President His Excellency Mr. Marcin Korolec. Source: Flickr (UNFCCC)

Over the next two weeks, more than 190 countries will be working on topics that constitute the nuts and bolts of an international climate agreement, such as how to support policies that reduce emissions from deforestation (REDD+), and how to finance work that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries at the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — or “COP 19” — also face the broader issue of how to knit these topics together in an overarching agreement, set to be finalized at the 2015 negotiations in Paris. The 2015 agreement's structure, or framework, will be an important area for discussion in Poland.

Nathaniel Keohane, EDF’s vice president for international climate and a former economic adviser in the Obama administration, said:

Negotiators in Warsaw need to clear out the brush so they can see a path to resolving major issues on the road to Paris.

Warsaw is unlikely to generate front-page headlines – but below the surface, there is considerable potential to make real progress on key foundational issues.

This is the year for negotiators to get their hands dirty and prepare the ground for an effective framework in 2015 – one that encourages countries to take ambitious emissions cuts and invites all countries to participate.

Read the full news release: In Warsaw UN climate meeting, focus is on 2015 Paris talks as countries take on foundational issues

Also posted in Deforestation, News, UN negotiations, Warsaw (COP-19) |: | Leave a comment

Clarifying the Role of Non-Carbon Benefits in REDD+

(This post was written with the help of Sarah Marlay, EDF summer intern and graduate student at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies)

In the face of the growing threat of climate change, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) has been a hot topic in international climate negotiations for nearly a decade.

Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are currently in the process of deciding on many important elements of the REDD+ policy framework. The ‘non-carbon benefits’ of REDD+ activities is one such issue that is just now being discussed in two different forums under the UNFCCC.

In June, countries at the UNFCCC’s 38th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) proposed a draft text to be considered at the Conference of the Parties’ (COP) 19th session this coming November. The draft text acknowledged the need for clarity on the types of non-carbon benefits and related methodological issues and for the discussion to take place in 2014.

Also, this week Parties will convene a workshop on the COP Work Programme on Results-based Finance for REDD+, with the mandate to explore ways to incentivize non-carbon benefits.

In this post, I offer my answers to the two key issues related to non-carbon benefits that have been raised by the Parties this summer: the lack of clarity surrounding non-carbon benefits; and the need to identify ways to incentivize non-carbon benefits in REDD+.

For a more in-depth discussion, please see  our policy paper on non-carbon benefits.

Lack of Clarity Surrounding Non-Carbon Benefits

Defining Non-Carbon Benefits

‘Non-carbon benefits’ are positive outcomes resulting from REDD+ activities beyond those associated with carbon storage and/or sequestration. Non-carbon benefits are often broken down into 3 main types: social, environmental and governance benefits.

The diagram below provides several examples of potential non-carbon benefits in each of these 3 categories:

One difficulty with the term ‘non-carbon benefits’ is that it encompasses such a wide range of potential benefits that it becomes challenging to target and promote specific non-carbon benefits at the national level.

To provide additional clarity on non-carbon benefits, specific non-carbon benefits should be identified and prioritized at the national level, according to each country’s objectives and context.

Once selected, these priorities for non-carbon benefits can inform the design of the national REDD+ program.

Clarifying the Relationship between Non-Carbon Benefits and Safeguards

At COP 16 in Cancun, Parties of the UNFCCC adopted a list of safeguards that should be promoted and supported by REDD+ activities. Through this decision, key non-carbon benefits were formally incorporated within the framework of ‘REDD+ safeguards.’

While certain safeguards are protective in nature and set minimum standards for REDD+ actions, other safeguards fall within the category of ‘non-carbon benefits’ by extending beyond protective measures to require that REDD+ activities promote and/or enhance social, environmental and governance benefits.

Incentivizing Non-Carbon Benefits

Centrality of Non-Carbon Benefits to the Success of REDD+

There has been growing global recognition of the fact that, if REDD+ is to succeed in mitigating climate change, non-carbon benefits must play a part. It is often through the promotion of these benefits that many REDD+ strategies address the root causes of drivers of deforestation and achieve real and permanent emission reductions.

Ways to Incentivize Non-Carbon Benefits

The discussion in the COP Work Programme this August will focus on Phase 3 of REDD+, when payments for REDD+ results will be made.

Here, I suggest ways that non-carbon benefits can be incentivized in Phase 3 by both the UNFCCC and avenues external to the UNFCCC.

The UNFCCC should incentivize non-carbon benefits by making results-based payments conditional upon compliance with the REDD+ safeguards link more explicit.

Despite significant progress in the UNFCCC in institutionalizing safeguards, Parties have not clearly defined ‘results-based payments.’

‘Results-based payments’ should be defined under the UNFCCC as payments for emission reductions that are conditional upon compliance with the REDD+ safeguards. Under this definition (and as already stated in the Cancun Agreement), only REDD+ activities that enhance social and environmental benefits, incentivize the conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and promote effective forest governance mechanisms, along with the other safeguards, will be eligible to receive payments.

Outside of the UNFCCC and the REDD+ mechanism, REDD+ activities can receive direct compensation for non-carbon benefits by securing funds from funding sources that promote specific non-carbon benefits.

For example, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) initiatives worldwide have promoted and directly paid for diverse ecosystem services, like biodiversity conservation.

Additionally, emission reductions associated with non-carbon benefits are more competitive in carbon markets and in attracting multilateral or bilateral funding, thereby providing another incentive for REDD+ activities to promote non-carbon benefits.

In the voluntary carbon market, emission reductions achieved while promoting non-carbon benefits often receive higher prices, and there has been growing demand for larger quantities of these credits. Also, national REDD+ programs with prominent non-carbon benefits may have a higher likelihood of securing multilateral or bilateral funding arrangements (the case of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund).

The Role of the UNFCCC Moving Forward

To help bring clarity to the discussion surrounding non-carbon benefits, Parties of the UNFCCC should begin identifying and prioritizing non-carbon benefits at the national level. This progress will help clarify the types of non-carbon benefits that will be promoted and potential challenges to their implementation.

In order to incentivize non-carbon benefits, Parties should adopt a definition for results-based payments that clearly defines them as payments for emission reductions that are conditional upon compliance with the REDD+ safeguards.

While there is general consensus that non-carbon benefits are closely tied to the success of REDD+, what remains is for the Parties of the UNFCCC to clarify the role of non-carbon benefits in the global REDD+ framework, and in doing so, strengthen the foundation of REDD+ itself.

Also posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples |: | 2 Responses

A blueprint for advancing California's strong leadership on global climate change

A key reason California has become a global leader on climate change is its ability to successfully adopt the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s climate law that uses market-based tools to significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emission levels.

A group of leading tropical forest experts has presented a blueprint for how California can significantly reduce global warming pollution while keeping pollution control costs down and helping stop tropical deforestation. (image source: Wikimedia Commons)

A group of tropical forest experts has now presented a blueprint for how California can secure significantly more reductions in global warming pollution than the law requires, while keeping pollution control costs down and helping stop the catastrophe of tropical deforestation.

California is widely recognized as the major first mover in the United States on climate change, but tropical states and countries are making strong progress in stopping climate change, too. Brazil and Amazon states have reduced emissions from cutting and burning the Amazon forest by about 2.2 billion tons of carbon since 2005, making Brazil the world leader in curbing climate change pollution.

Research has shown that government policies played a big role in this major achievement. But so far this success in reducing deforestation has been entirely from government “command-and-control;” promised economic incentives for reducing deforestation haven’t materialized.  Pushback from ranchers against environmental law enforcement and the officially recognized indigenous territories and protected areas that cover an area four times the size of California have weakened critical environmental legislation.

Brazil and the Amazon states will continue to reach their ambitious deforestation reduction targets, at least for the next few years, but deforestation rates recently appear to be edging upward.

California now has an opportunity to send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon – and ultimately elsewhere – can be worth more alive than dead by partnering with sustainable development leaders outside the United States.

Since state-wide, or “jurisdictional,” reductions in deforestation and forest degradation are large in scale and relatively low-cost, it’s critical that well-governed and effective pollution control programs from early movers, like the state of Acre, Brazil, are recognized by California’s carbon market. Ultimately, this can help California control costs, while giving these environmental leaders the sign they need to keep deforestation under control.

REDD Offsets Working Group report

The REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW), along with observers from the governments of California, Acre and Chiapas, Mexico, calls for the Golden State to allow limited amounts of carbon credits from Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) into its carbon market, but only from states that can show that they have reduced deforestation state-wide and below historical levels.

The ROW report: Recommendations to Conserve Tropical Rainforests, Protect Local Communities, and Reduce State-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions" recommends:

  • Partner states receive credit for a part of their demonstrated reductions only after showing they have succeeded in halting deforestation through their own efforts.
  • Free, prior and informed consent for local communities in REDD+ programs.
  • Adherence to internationally recognized standards for protection of indigenous and local peoples’ rights and participation in policy design in partner-state REDD+ programs.

REDD+ programs are especially important for indigenous and forest-based communities because these groups have historically protected forests, and typically want to continue doing so, but they have largely lacked access to markets, modern technology, quality health care and social services that REDD+ could help deliver. With California’s help, forest communities can achieve better economic opportunities and forest conservation.

Also posted in Brazil, Deforestation |: | Leave a comment