Selected category: UN negotiations

U.S. subnational leaders enjoy banner event at COP 23

America's Pledge event at COP23 | Photo: UNClimateChange

COP 23 has been a banner event for subnational actors, and especially for California. Between events and breaking news, our EDF California team has enjoyed visiting informally with representatives from around the world.

One theme from these conversations is “we’re so glad you are here!”

The presence of American states and NGOs, and the leadership of states like California, has not gone unnoticed, especially when the absence of U.S. leadership on climate is so obvious.

Some have asked if we have received backlash from the United States about being here (so far so good!), and there’s universal enthusiasm for the US Climate Action Center (or “igloo” – nicknamed both for the big white tents and chilly temperatures).

It is clear from these announcements and conversations that the leadership of California is more critical than ever.

Here’s a quick round-up of key state-level news:

America’s Pledge – California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared the first report of their joint initiative, America’s Pledge. A reaction to the United States’ dismissal of the Paris Agreement, this project demonstrates the power of collective action and aims to spur greater climate ambition. If they were one country, the signatory cities and states would have the third largest GDP in the world, and would be home to one-third of the American people. This is a significant rejection of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric on climate, and a testament to Governor Brown and Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership.

Under2 Coalition Signing – A joint initiative of Governor Jerry Brown and the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the Under 2 Coalition commits ambitious states and regions around the world to making commitments on emission reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement and to keeping global warming below 2°C. Virginia became the latest partner in the Under 2 Coalition, solidifying its climate leadership and the state continues to works toward greater electric vehicle infrastructure and reducing carbon emissions from the power sector.

California’s Progress and Promise – Governor Brown, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriguez, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia and others have each had speaking engagements at COP 23, and across them all two themes emerge. First, California is leading the way on reducing emissions, cleaning up pollution, and striving for equitable climate policy. But the second theme is that there is much more to do. While celebrating these achievements, the state has further to go de-carbonizing the economy and improving local air quality.

California-Acre Luncheon – One of the most exciting things about COP23 is the opportunity to build connections across countries and cultures on issues of mutual importance. The California Legislative Delegation had the opportunity for lunch with the delegation from the state of Acre, Brazil. They discussed deforestation and its impact on the climate and local communities, as well the need for global partnerships to go further and faster stopping climate change.

2018 Global Climate Action Summit – Want your own COP-like experience? Governor Brown invited attendees to join him and sub-national leaders from around the world at the 2018 Climate Summit in San Francisco! Described as the “COP for subnationals,” one key goal is to establish a San Francisco agreement on sub-national climate action. Businesses, cities, states, investors, and civil society will explore how much more we can do together on climate action, learn from each other, and build positive momentum for COP 24 in Poland.

It is clear from these announcements and conversations (not to mention Governor Brown’s rock star status at COP 23) that the leadership of California is more critical than ever. This is especially true now that the United States is the sole country opposing the Paris Agreement, now that Syria and Nicaragua have joined the agreement.

California’s role as climate champion, success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic prosperity, and concerted efforts for greater climate equity are all stories we are proud to be sharing with the rest of the world.

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Agriculture negotiations reach agreement at COP23

Photo by UNClimateChange

In what could be the iconic decision of COP 23, negotiators in Bonn agreed to new future negotiation processes to “jointly address” a number of new agriculture topics, overcoming longstanding hurdles that had blocked progress on the topic in recent years.

Why is this important?

Emissions from agriculture are expected to continue growing as the world’s population continues to expand and diets change with rising incomes.

However, a recent journal article by Griscom et al. published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found activities under the agriculture and grasslands rubric, such as management of fertilizer use, could achieve roughly 6% of needed emission reductions to stay below a 2 degree temperature change. To realize that potential though, farmers need new tools and incentives.

Additionally, farmers are expecting to find their jobs of growing our food harder as climate change makes weather patterns more unpredictable, and makes climatic events such as droughts and flooding more frequent and intense. Farmers will also need new methods and technologies to make their farms more resilient and adapt to the new conditions.

Agriculture has been discussed for years, but progress had been stymied by disagreement related to potential trade implications on key commodity exports, whether to prioritize adaptation or mitigation in the agenda, and UNFCCC process-oriented concerns on what could and couldn’t be negotiated based on the last agriculture decision.

What’s in the decision?

The negotiators agreed to have the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) review issues associated with agriculture by using workshops and technical expert meetings.

Using both the SBI and SBSTA to review a topic “jointly” is not a frequent negotiation strategy pursued by negotiators. That’s because the complexity of the negotiation rises exponentially when a topic is jointly negotiated rather than negotiated in a single process. But this process was used for the set of policy approaches for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), which ended up being the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement.

Regarding topics in agriculture that the processes might first consider, they include:

  • How to assess adaptation, adaptation co-benefits (code for mitigation), and resilience
  • How to improve soil health, soil carbon in grasslands and croplands, and related water management
  • How to improve nutrient management – e.g. more efficient fertilizer use
  • How to improve livestock management systems
  • Studying the socioeconomic and food security issues associated with climate change in the agriculture sector
  • Any of the previous topics discussed in a set of workshops in recent years

Importantly, the negotiators also left other agenda items to be added as needed, which let countries see flexibility in the future to add a topic of more relevance to them.

 What is the timeline for the process?

The decision asks for reports back in three years at COP 26 in 2020. If the process is successful, countries should then have more knowledge and methodologies at their disposal to take action in their respective agriculture sectors in the post-2020 climate regime. At the moment, there is no clear guidance for them on how they might take such action, nor are there incentives for them to do so.

With this momentous decision on agriculture at COP 23, we now have a great opportunity for making our food supply and farmers’ livelihoods more resilient while also contributing to mitigating climate change.

Also posted in Agriculture, Bonn, REDD+| Leave a comment

California to showcase subnational climate action at COP 23

This week, signatories to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 23) meet in Bonn, Germany to discuss implementation of the Paris Agreement. While much of the domestic news will focus on the Trump Administration’s “break-up” with the Paris Agreement, there will also be significant focus at the COP on actions of sub-nationals: cities, states, and regions around the world who are stepping up to address climate change.

California is a leader in sub-national climate action, and Governor Jerry Brown has been designated Special Advisor for States and Regions to COP 23. He will be welcoming new partners in the Under2MOU: a coalition of 188 jurisdictions around the world acting to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Governor Brown was also instrumental in creating the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bi-partisan group of states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, even if Washington, DC tries to walk away.

At the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion at COP 23, Governor Brown, together with Michael Bloomberg, will release a new report on November 11th highlighting the progress of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in addressing climate change. He will also be participating in other events with the “We Are Still In” effort to promote American climate action and leadership. These are important examples of sub-national action that increases the ambition of other regions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To illustrate California’s state-level achievements, Environmental Defense Fund has two new publications for COP 23. “California’s Cap-and-Trade Program Step by Step” explains how California set up its cornerstone climate policy, cap and trade, in an easy-to-follow 10-step formula. Other sub-nationals as well as interested countries will be able to learn from the state’s experience in developing their own emissions trading system.

Cutting Carbon and Growing the Economy” highlights the progress California has made since cap and trade began in reducing emissions, strengthening the economy, and ensuring all California residents benefit.

Reducing emissions and growing the economy go hand-in-hand. The state is on track to beat the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and the state’s Gross State Product has increased more than 16% since 2006.

At the same time, California’s job growth has outpaced the nation, and the growth in “clean jobs” has dwarfed overall job growth. Revenues from cap and trade mean over $5 billion is being invested in communities across the state. This includes funds directed toward air quality and other environmental justice issues in the most polluted neighborhoods.

Together, these publications demonstrate the progress California has made in addressing climate change. In partnership with the California State Delegation to COP 23, EDF will illustrate to the world that the Trump Administration doesn’t have the last word on American climate action. States like California are leading the way and are encouraging other sub-nationals to join them in ambitious climate action.

For further questions please reach out to any of EDF California’s delegation heading to Bonn this week: Quentin Foster, Erica Morehouse, or Katelyn Roedner Sutter.

Also posted in Bonn, California| Leave a comment

“Fiji-on-the-Rhine”: Four things to expect from the COP 23 UN climate talks

By Alex Hanafi, Senior Manager, Multilateral Climate Strategy and Senior Attorney, and Soren Dudley, Program Assistant, Global Climate

A confluence of factors sets the stage for what to expect from this year's climate meetings, the first since the U.S. announced its plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Above: The Bula Zone at the UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. Photo: UNFCCC/ Flickr.

The first UN climate talks since the United States announced its plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement start this week in Bonn, Germany. Chaired by the island nation of Fiji, the meetings are the second-to-last Conference of the Parties (COP) before the Paris Agreement’s implementation “rulebook” is scheduled to be finalized in Poland next year.

This confluence of factors – Fiji’s presidency of the COP, President Trump’s announcement (and the ensuing groundswell of domestic and global support for the Paris Agreement), and the need to advance progress on the technical details of the Paris Agreement’s infrastructure – sets the stage for what to expect from this year’s climate meetings.

1. Islands’ COP, islands’ issues

As the President of the 23rd meeting of the COP, Fiji will aim to highlight both the needs of vulnerable parties as well as island nations’ climate action leadership. This year’s COP presents an opportunity to spotlight necessary adaptation to a changing climate, as well as the loss and damage experienced by islands due to the impacts of climate change. These concerns are especially important to low-lying island nations because their very existence is threatened by the rising sea levels triggered by climate change.

Many island nations, Fiji among them, have made ambitious renewable energy pledges central to their participation in the Paris Agreement. Leadership by small island developing states will shine an even brighter spotlight on the Trump Administration’s retreat from climate action.

2. Trump’s intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement isolates the U.S…. and triggers a groundswell of support for the Paris Agreement

President Trump’s June 1 announcement that the US intends to pull out of the Paris Agreement left the U.S. isolated. This isolation became even starker with the recent news that Nicaragua will join the Paris Agreement, leaving the U.S. and Syria the only two nations in the world refusing to join.

Although the Trump Administration has been working to roll back existing federal climate policies and will continue to do so, its initial efforts have encountered delays and legal setbacks.  The Administration has yet to successfully suspend, weaken, or repeal a major climate protection

While the U.S. government attempts to backtrack on common-sense efforts to reduce U.S. climate pollution, nations around the world are already taking concrete steps to meet their Paris pledges. Perhaps most notably, China plans to roll out a national carbon market in the coming weeks, demonstrating China’s continuing commitment to climate action. China is now increasingly seen as filling the leadership void left by the U.S. With news of recent trilateral climate meetings between China, the EU, and Canada, COP 23 offers the first chance for a this potentially powerful alliance to prove itself as a force for accelerating the transition to the clean-energy, low-carbon economies of the future.

3. U.S. subnational actors show commitment on the global stage

In direct contrast to Trump’s announced pull-out, U.S. subnational actors are eager to communicate to the global community that they are still committed to moving ahead despite federal backsliding. American businesses and state-level officials plan to use COP 23 to showcase concrete examples of their continued climate leadership. Notably, several U.S. governors, including those from California, Virginia, Washington, and New York, will attend to demonstrate the depth and breadth of U.S. state-level action.

4. Negotiations and progress on the Paris Agreement Rulebook

This COP will be important for keeping the ship sailing in the right direction on implementing the Paris Agreement. Countries decided last year that they will finalize the nuts and bolts of the Paris Agreement’s implementing infrastructure (its “rulebook”) by COP 24 in Poland in December 2018. Parties have a long list of tasks to complete, and negotiations on key tools Parties can use to cooperate in driving down climate pollution, like carbon markets, are moving slowly.

While agreement among all Parties on these carbon market standards is not necessary before “bottom up” cooperation on carbon markets may begin, up-front clarity on key issues (like how Parties can avoid “double counting” of emissions reductions) can reduce uncertainty and help catalyze additional investment in high-integrity emissions reductions around the globe.

This will be an important COP to watch for signs of how much work will remain for next year, and how likely it is that countries will stick to their tight timeline for delivering an effective roadmap to guide Parties in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This post was updated Nov. 5 with more detail in #2.

Also posted in Fiji (COP 23 in Bonn), News, United States| Leave a comment

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.

Also posted in Bonn, Deforestation, REDD+| Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

The promise for action

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

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

What went wrong?

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

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

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

The silver lining

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

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

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

Also posted in Agriculture, Marrakesh| Leave a comment
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