EDF Talks Global Climate

How will forests be on the “menu” at UN Bonn climate talks?

The 2017 UN climate talks will take place from November 6 to 17 in Bonn, Germany | Photo: Pixabay

This year’s global climate conference (COP23) is upon us and will be an interesting mix of Fijian diplomacy and Kölsch beer. As I do every year, in this year’s pre-COP blog I lay out what will be happening during the COP related to REDD+ in the negotiations and what I hope to hear about in the hallways and many side events.

The COP23 conference is expected to be a working COP as parties make the necessary progress in rule writing to meet the 2018 deadline of a final rulebook. There will also be a lot of news about non-state actors – the private sector, states like California, and other non-federal entities – being discussed as a reaction to Trump’s reckless decision to leave the Paris Agreement.

For a good overview of how we are doing in with respect to the climate change and forest sector, I suggest reading this year’s New York Declaration on Forests report. It includes a good review on progress in the private sector (or lack thereof) and funding for forest conservation – and activities causing deforestation.

But, back to the UNFCCC …

REDD+ in the negotiation agenda

After a year’s hiatus from the COP agenda, REDD+ will make an expected brief appearance in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) agenda the first week during discussions about the “coordination of REDD+ finance”. This is a leftover item from the Warsaw REDD+ Framework decision, when parties agreed to not create a “REDD+ Committee” to coordinate REDD+ finance as some parties wished, but rather annual informal and voluntary meetings during the mid-year subsidiary body negotiations (SBs) for 4 years to share experiences about REDD+ financing. Many of the attendees from parties to observers would agree that these informal meetings were of little value.

In this COP, negotiators are scheduled to reevaluate whether to continue the SBs or create the REDD+ Committee. I doubt there will be interest in either of them. However, the agenda item could be used as an opening to push a party’s or coalition’s not completely related proposal for financing REDD+, such as a centralized registry for REDD+ transactions.

REDD+ related negotiation items: transparency, NDCs and market

Much of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ addressed transparency. After following initial discussions in the broader transparency agenda item that is part of the APA, many parties and negotiators are worried that those negotiations might dilute what was achieved for REDD+. Transparency in REDD+ thus far includes the Lima REDD+ Information Hub where countries submit their National REDD+ Strategies, Reference Emission Level (REL) submissions, Safeguard Information System summaries, and results. The process established for reviewing the RELs, which includes a technical assessment and publication of that assessment, is very important. The fact that the new US negotiator for transparency is the former REDD+ negotiator for the US, however, could be very helpful to ensure no dilution occurs.

Many of the party submissions on producing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mentioned the land use sector explicitly, and REDD+ implicitly. The more detail related to the inclusion of the land use sector in NDCs the better, but it might be hard for negotiators to come to agreement on the extent or nature of those details.

The market negotiations under the SBSTA will continue; those on Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement and Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) are particularly relevant. More explicit guidance on no double counting/claiming is needed to ensure environmental integrity for REDD+ and ITMOs that might come from any other sector or project. REDD+ in itself, however, does not need explicit language in Article 6.2.

Other noticeable REDD+ financing developments

The Green Climate Fund recently approved guidance and $500 million for REDD+ results based payments, which I expect to be discussed substantially during the COP. Although the amount is not sufficient, the methodologies the GCF agreed upon will be relevant to other REDD+ finance decisions in the future.

Private finance for advancing deforestation free commodities is another hot topic and I expect to learn more concrete details about the andgreen.fund that was announced earlier in the year. Specifically, I’d like more clarity on how they will be defining jurisdictions advancing in becoming deforestation free, which is a requirement of the fund to determine what private sector actors will be funded.

This year’s report on New York Declaration on Forests provides extensive insight on the current state of forest finance. The report reviews the billions of pledges, commitments, and amounts spent to advance REDD+. More interesting is the amount of “grey” funding available from public subsidies and private sector investment for the land sector. The amount of “grey” funding greatly exceeds direct REDD+ funding and needs to be changed or channeled to activities that support forest conservation.

Indigenous Peoples in the negotiations

Indigenous territories have rates of deforestation eight times less than external forests.

Indigenous Peoples are hoping for a decision on the Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge platform that will support the inclusion of them and their solutions to mitigating and adapting to climate change. A number of parties from Ecuador to Canada are prioritizing and supporting this platform. While interested in all agenda items, Indigenous Peoples will also probably focus on the NDC negotiation to ensure that the need to include them in the development and revision of the NDCs is explicitly mentioned. Many party submissions on the topic included the need for NDCs to discuss how they consulted Indigenous Peoples and other groups in their development.

Indigenous leaders from the Amazon basin will be promoting a new scientific analysis which found, that from a regional level, indigenous territories have rates of deforestation eight times less than external forests. Hopefully, parties will take note of this and include more overt references to the importance of supporting and including Indigenous Peoples in decisions.

Reporting on progress by countries implementing REDD+

While not formally on the negotiation agenda, I expect a number of countries at their pavilions or in other events to present the final versions of their National REDD+ Strategies. Parties have already submitted 25 Reference Emission Levels (REL) and I expect a few more to arrive during the COP or before the end of the year. Discussions around best practices in REL construction and lessons learned will be a popular topic – amongst the technical people at least.

The richest presentations and discussions related to REDD+ will likely happen on November 12th during a set of panels on forests as part of the Action Agenda, now called the Marrakech Partnership for Climate Action. During this event, I hope to hear more about how the private sector is implementing the 700+ deforestation-free related commitments they’ve taken, but largely have yet to implement.

A “working” COP

Many expect no big decisions on forests – like a Warsaw Framework for REDD+ – to be agreed upon at this COP. However, I would like to see a decision on the platform for Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, which would be helpful for REDD+.

The parties should make progress on advancing the markets, NDC, and transparency negotiations that are indirectly related, but no less important, to REDD+. Decisions on those topics at the COP next year, as mandated in the Paris Agreement, are essential for continuing the implementation of REDD+ and unlocking necessary finance.

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Is Brazil stepping back from environmental leadership, just when it’s needed the most?

Michel Temer in April 2016. Credit: Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom/ Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

Every conversation I have with my Brazilian friends and colleagues these days starts off with a discussion of whose political crisis is worse. It’s a hard question. But Brazil’s President Temer has the chance to show a little real leadership June 19th if he decides to veto a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers.

U.S. and Brazilian presidents: The 19th-century take on development and the environment

Wildly unpopular U.S. President Trump was elected by maybe a third of eligible voters, with a substantial minority of votes cast. He is doing everything he and his staff can think of to roll back environmental protections in the United States and stymie progress on climate change globally. His ill-conceived scheme to pull the United States out the Paris Agreement would have us abdicate international leadership and surrender the enormous economic opportunity of the new, renewable, energy economy to China and other competitors.

Wildly unpopular Brazilian President Temer was put in power by an even more wildly unpopular Congress in an ultimately failed bid to shut down judicial investigations that are sending herds of them, and their business associates, to jail for massive graft and corruption. He (and his predecessor, who mismanaged the economy into the worst recession in Brazil’s modern history) has totally dropped the ball on controlling Amazon deforestation, which, in the absence of budget for enforcement has increased for two years running for the first time since 2004.

Brazil’s Amazon at risk

Since the weight of corruption scandals Temer is personally implicated in has him clinging to power by his fingernails, the yahoos in the “rural caucus” of the Congress (the voting bloc of big ranchers’ and agribusiness’ representatives) are taking the opportunity to run hog-wild with proposals to gut forest protections and roll back indigenous territories – two of the major reasons why Brazil became the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing deforestation by about 80% from 2004–2014.

By June 19th, Temer has to decide whether to veto measures that would deliver 600,000 hectares in an Amazon protected area to land-grabbers – and rampant deforestation. It’s not just 600,000 hectares of forest at stake – caving to a flagrant play to carve up a federal conservation area to benefit slash-and-burn land grabbers is a terrible precedent for all of the Amazon protected areas.

All of this is rapidly eroding Brazil’s international climate leadership, and is bad news for the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s demonstration that a major emerging economy could reduce large-scale emissions while growing its economy and bringing millions out of poverty was a beacon of light in the climate negotiations that is dimming by the moment.

Brazil’s President Temer can show a little real leadership if he vetos a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers

The abandonment of Brazil’s successful deforestation control program by President Temer and former President Dilma, if continued, will only hinder Brazil’s economic prospects in the 21st century global economy – like President Trump’s radical misreading (or ignorance) of the economic implications of the Paris Agreement for the United States. Increased deforestation will likely cause Brazil to lose market share as major commodity traders and consumer goods companies that have committed to zero-deforestation beef and soy supply chains curtail market access. Rampant violence and human rights abuses against indigenous peoples and grassroots environmental activists will expose public-facing companies to increasing reputational risk – and send them looking for lower-risk places to source.

On the other hand, support for sustainable development first movers such as Acre state and agriculture powerhouse Mato Grosso could make Brazil the go-to supplier for zero-deforestation commodities worldwide. And, as Amazon states, civil society and green business leaders have consistently advocated, if Brazil opened up to carbon market crediting for reduced deforestation in emerging international markets, it could unlock the finance needed to end deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil’s other mega-diverse biomes; make family and industrial agriculture 100% sustainable; and create sustainable prosperity in the 200 million hectares of indigenous territories and protected areas of the Amazon.

It’s hard to say whose loss is worse under U.S. and Brazil’s lamentable current policies, but maybe even harder to say whose gain would be greater if Trump and Temer would wake up and recognize the real opportunities in the 21st century economy.

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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.

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Can airlines help reduce deforestation?

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The global airline industry could become an ally in combating deforestation, as countries are set to vote at the September 2016 meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on whether airlines can use REDD+ credits to offset their emissions. Image Source: Flickr, Marinelson Almeida

A window of opportunity may be opening to secure sustainable financing – from an unusual source – to support national, state, and provincial-level efforts to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).

The global airline industry is seeking international agreement on a program to cap the carbon dioxide emissions of flights between countries, and let airlines use a Market-Based Measure (MBM) to offset emissions above the cap. When the 191 governments that comprise the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) vote on the MBM at the end of September, that may decide whether airlines can use REDD+ to offset their emissions above 2020 levels.

Why does ICAO need REDD+?

In 2013, ICAO member states adopted a goal of “carbon neutral growth from 2020” – i.e., capping the net emissions of international flights at 2020 levels. International aviation’s emissions, however, are forecasted to rise dramatically, as tens of thousands of new large aircraft take to the skies in coming decades.

Even after international aviation makes improvements in operational and technological efficiency, the sector will still likely face an “emissions gap” of 7.8 billion tonnes (or 7.8 Gt CO2) over the period of 2020-2040. National and jurisdictional level REDD+ projects that meet the environmental and social safeguards agreed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are anticipated to be able to supply offsets enabling aviation to cover a significant portion of the expected gap, even while ensuring that these reductions are not also claimed against national emission reduction commitments.

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The international aviation sector will still likely face an “emissions gap” of 7.8 billion tonnes over the period of 2020-2040 between their goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and their projected emissions – even after international aviation makes improvements in operational and technological efficiency. Image source: Flightpath 1.5

Getting the right REDD+ into ICAO: REDD+ programs that meet UNFCCC requirements

The December 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 197 Parties to the UNFCCC, gave special recognition to the key role that REDD+ can play in mitigating climate change.

The Paris Agreement, the UNFCCC’s 2013 Warsaw Framework on REDD+, and related UNFCCC Decisions provide that REDD+ programs must be created at national, or – temporarily – subnational (e.g. state and province) level. This is important because national and subnational REDD+ programs (collectively known as jurisdictional REDD+ or “JREDD+” programs) can create and enforce policies to address deforestation at a large scale.

For example, without jurisdictional REDD+, there’s a risk that forest protection in one project area could displace deforestation to other areas; this is avoided when REDD+ projects are “nested” in a national or jurisdictional-level program. According to guidance by the UNFCCC, JREDD+ programs’ results must be recognized by national REDD+ Focal Points and submitted to the REDD Information hub in order to ensure that emissions reductions are not claimed more than once.

ICAO’s timeline

In March and April, ICAO convened a set of regional dialogues to give governments, industry, and civil society stakeholders the opportunity to discuss MBM design options and potential sources of offsets. ICAO will convene a high-level ministerial meeting May 11-13 at ICAO headquarters in Montreal, Canada, to review a draft text. Additional meetings will be held throughout the summer and the final, and most important ICAO Assembly, where the MBM will be finalized, is to be held in Montreal from 27 September to 7 October 2016.

Seizing the opportunity

REDD+ countries interested in sustainable financing for their national and jurisdictional REDD+ programs should be aware of the potential for a new ICAO market based mechanism to provide such financing. In order to seize this opportunity, REDD+ policy makers and aviation counterparts need to collaborate to ensure an ICAO market based mechanism inclusive of REDD+ and with environmental integrity.

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California’s Climate Leadership Can Help Save Tropical Forests

Source: Environmental Defense Fund, Steve Schwartzman

Source: Environmental Defense Fund, Steve Schwartzman

Back in 2006, when California was passing the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), some in industry pushed back hard, claiming that California couldn’t stop climate change by itself and that all AB32 would do was compromise the competitiveness of the state’s economy. California has proved the naysayers wrong – its economy is booming, and emissions are falling. Far from going at it alone, the Golden State is increasingly leading a global trend.

Now, California has an opportunity to build on its international leadership. By setting the gold standard for carbon market credit for international sectoral offsets – the subject of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) upcoming workshops – it can send a powerful signal to communities and governments that are fighting to stop tropical deforestation: carbon markets will help support their struggle.

California’s climate change program has prompted a plethora of bottom up climate action programs around the world, some of which are already achieving large-scale emissions reductions. Last December in Paris, California hosted a meeting of the “Under 2 MOU”, a group of 127 sub-national jurisdictions started by California and Baden-Wurttenburg in Germany, accounting for over a quarter of the global economy that have committed to reducing emissions below 2Mt per capita or 80% – 95% by 2050. Since the national commitments made at the Paris UN climate conference represent about half of what the science tells us is needed to keep warming below the critical threshold of 2°C, the Under 2 MOU could contribute significantly to closing the gap.

California has an opportunity to build on its international leadership by setting the gold standard for carbon market credit for international sectoral offsets.

California was also a founder of the Governor’s Climate and Forest Task Force (GCF), with Amazonian states and Indonesian provinces, in 2008. The GCF now includes 29 states and provinces from four continents, covering over a quarter of the world’s remaining tropical forests and collaborates on low-carbon rural development and creating incentives for reducing emissions from tropical deforestation and forest degradation – and GCF members have become global leaders in reducing CO₂ emissions.

Between 2006 and 2013, the states of the Brazilian Amazon, supported by national policy, reduced Amazon deforestation about 75% below the 1996 – 2005 annual average, reducing emissions by about 4.2 billion tons of CO₂ — far more than any other country or region in the world — while simultaneously increasing agricultural output and improving social indicators. Regional leader, Acre, is developing a market-based system to reward landowners and forest communities financially for conserving forest, and dedicated 70% of the proceeds of the first international transaction for forest carbon credits to indigenous and forest communities.  Overall,  reduced deforestation resulted from both state and federal policy, law enforcement, and signals from major consumer goods companies that deforestation-based soy and beef would be denied market access. California and the GCF’s work on carbon market credit for reducing deforestation gave communities and producers the prospect of economic incentives – for the first time – for protecting rather than destroying forests.

Around the world, some 50 states and countries are moving ahead with either cap-and-trade emissions reductions regime or carbon taxes – most of which began well before the Paris Agreement and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Meanwhile, 188 nations have made reduction commitments  covering about 90% of global emissions through the UN Paris Agreement. Increasingly countries and states are recognizing – as California and the Amazon have demonstrated – that they can stop Greenhouse Gas pollution and grow their economies at the same time, and that learning how will make them more competitive and prosperous in a carbon-constrained global economy. California, Acre, and other GCF members’ innovative development of international sector-based credits will ultimately give all of these  carbon pricing  initiatives more options and make them stronger.

Moving ahead with allowing international sector-based offsets into California’s carbon market will take the process to the next level, signaling to tropical jurisdictions globally currently responsible for more Greenhouse Gas pollution than all the cars and trucks in the world that living forests can become worth as much as dead ones.

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What the Paris Agreement’s references to indigenous peoples mean

By: Chris Meyer, Environmental Defense Fund, and Estebancio Castro, Independent Indigenous Leader

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The Paris Agreement makes five explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge. Above: A report launched at a December 2015 press conference in Paris found indigenous territories hold one-fifth of the world’s tropical forest carbon. Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they can also play a crucial role in stabilizing the climate. Though the 1997 Kyoto Protocol didn’t include a single reference to indigenous peoples, the Paris Agreement– though not perfect – made some great strides.

The Paris Agreement and implementing decisions include:

  • five explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge. These appear in the preambles of both the Paris Agreement and the Decision text, and in specific topic areas of the exchange of experiences and adaptation.
  • a reference to a topic important to indigenous peoples, non-carbon benefits in relation to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).

Importantly, the references to indigenous peoples in the preamble to the Paris Agreement, and repeated in the preamble to the Decision text, say that countries need to respect indigenous peoples’ rights when taking action to address climate change. It’s significant that this rights language is included in the preambles, as it ensures these rights will be part of the framing of the whole agreement and implementing decisions.

The Paris Agreement and its Decision texts contain important references to indigenous peoples’ rights that can help drive change at the country levels, where it is most needed.

The other references to indigenous peoples discuss the need to include them in the exchange of knowledge, especially considering the topic of adaptation. As they are one of the more vulnerable groups, they will need access to more western knowledge to support their own indigenous knowledge about how to adapt to climate change and protect their livelihoods. Additionally, the Paris Agreement recognizes indigenous peoples’ “traditional knowledge” as an asset for helping themselves – and their neighbors – adapt.

Indigenous peoples for many years advocated strongly for the consideration of non-carbon benefits as a part of REDD+, including through a number of formal submissions to the process. The inclusion of explicit language in the REDD+ article to promote non-carbon benefits reflects their efforts and the importance of the topic.

The Paris Agreement and its Decision text aren’t perfect, and though some may have wished to see a greater number of specific references to these rights in the text, the Paris outcome was kept intentionally broad so it could be applicable to nearly 200 countries.

Regardless, we see important references to indigenous peoples’ rights in the Paris Agreement and its Decision texts that, together with other international human rights instruments, can now be leveraged to drive change at the country levels, where it is most needed. That is the challenge in the years to come – to ensure indigenous peoples and their rights are adequately represented and respected in countries’ policies and actions they take to implement the Paris Agreement.

Additional resources:

Also posted in Indigenous peoples, Paris / 1 Response