Selected category: UN negotiations

Ensuring ambition in the land-use sector through the Paris climate agreement

Representatives from countries around the globe met in Bonn, Germany this month to work on what could be the world’s most grueling but important group project: consolidating 90 pages of text into a global climate agreement to be finalized in Paris this December.

Governments and civil society organizations have more work to do before Paris, including ensuring land use is treated in a simple, flexible and ambitious way in the global agreement.

One sector that could play a fundamental role in the agreement is the land-use sector, which includes agriculture, forestry, wetland management, and other land management practices.

The land-use sector contributes about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it also has great potential to reduce emissions, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, improve rural livelihoods, and promote countries’ ability to adapt to a changing climate. The land use sector could also be an important part of countries’ emission reduction targets after 2020, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Interest in the importance of land use has brought together a broad group of civil society organizations – EDF, Conservation International, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, and World Wildlife Fund– to focus on the potential role of the land-use sector in the Paris agreement. With support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the groups have held a series of discussions on this topic alongside the United Nations climate negotiations.

Pipa Elias (right, The Nature Conservancy) introduces a discussion on whether the land-use sector is adequately addressed in the draft Paris text. (Photo credit: Steven Panfil, Conservation International)

During this month’s Bonn talks, we held two workshops in which we invited governments and civil society organizations to step back from their detailed work on the Paris text and reassess their progress toward promoting ambitious climate actions in the land-use sector in national and international policies.

For one workshop, we invited country negotiators to evaluate whether the draft text adequately addresses the land-use sector or whether further elaboration will be needed before or after Paris to drive action in the sector.

Participants generally agreed that the Paris agreement should take into account land-use issues by:

 

Building in incentives: Incentives are often necessary to trigger ambitious actions in the land-use sector, so the delivery of incentives needs to be clear if countries are going to include this sector in their INDCs. Developing countries will need financial incentives and other support, often from external sources, to continuously improve their capacity and to promote activities that yield climate mitigation and adaptation benefits. Developed countries can create incentives that reduce emissions and boost sequestration in their own land sectors, while also supporting external actions in developing countries.

Striking the right balance with flexibility and environmental integrity: The agreement should strike a balance that encourages all countries to participate in land-use sector mitigation, accommodating different capacities and circumstances, while also ensuring integrity in the way emissions reductions are measured. Too much rigidity could limit innovation and ambition, but too much flexibility could make it difficult to compare efforts among countries and ensure the environmental and social integrity of their activities.

Developing a work-plan after Paris: By the December meeting in Paris, countries need to have common expectations and objectives for accounting for land use in order to include the sector their INDCs. However, they may also need a process to continue to clarify and elaborate land-use issues after December. The outcomes of Paris should allow for further work on land-use issues, in order to build on early ambition and lessons learned, with the goal of transitioning to more comprehensive accounting for land use for all countries over time.

“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” covering about 30% of global emissions have been submitted so far. Source: http://cait.wri.org/indc/

Twelve "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” covering about 30% of global emissions have been submitted so far. Source: World Resources Institute via http://cait.wri.org/indc/

In another workshop, we discussed how countries could include the land sector in their INDCs. We invited the World Resources Institute (WRI) to present its recent guidance on INDCs, which it developed with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). We also made our own presentations on how the United Nations decisions on INDCs relate to the land-use sector and the current status of the sector in the draft agreement. Participants discussed the differences between reporting and accounting for emissions from the land-use sector; the importance of social and environmental safeguards; and treatment of natural disturbances in land-use accounting.

We will continue this discussion in a WWF webinar, (“The Land Sector in INDCs and the 2015 Agreement”) from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EDT on Thursday, June 25th, 2015.

Much of the real work will happen after Paris, when countries will begin to implement the agreement in their national land-use and environmental policies. However, governments and civil society organizations have more work to do before Paris, including ensuring land use is treated in a simple, flexible and ambitious way in the global agreement.

(Top photo: Flickr/elkaypics)

Also posted in Agriculture, Forestry| Leave a comment

New climate commitments from subnational governments set strong example for Paris

under2mou2_copped

Twelve states and provinces representing 100 million people from seven countries have committed to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hosted the May 19 event in Sacramento commemorating the official signing of the agreement by so-called "subnational" state and provincial governments.

The Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding is part of a growing momentum on climate action in the lead-up to the UN climate talks that will be taking place in Paris at the end of the year.

The founding signatories of the agreement are from three continents and have a combined GDP of $4.5 trillion, which would constitute the fourth largest economic entity in the world; they are:

Acre, Brazil*
Baden-Württemberg, Germany*
Baja California, Mexico*
British Columbia, Canada
California, United States*
Catalonia, Spain*
Jalisco, Mexico*
Ontario, Canada*
Oregon, United States
Vermont, United States
Wales, United Kingdom
Washington, United States

 

 

 

 

(* indicates the jurisdiction attended the May 19 signing ceremony)

The signers committed that by 2050 they would cut total emissions 80-95% percent below 1990 levels or achieve a per capita emissions target of below two metric tons.

The agreement is being referred to as the “Under 2 MOU,” a play both on this per capita target of two metric tons, and the goal of limiting global temperature rise to under 2 degrees, which Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous climate change.

The jurisdictions will take a number of steps to achieve these goals, including: establishing midterm emissions reductions targets for 2030 or earlier; increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy; and coordinating on specific areas such as science, transportation and short-lived climate pollutants.

The governments have also agreed to collaborate on climate change adaptation and resilience measures.

Fred Krupp, president of EDF, said in a news release on the day of the signing:

"This agreement is further proof that states, provinces, and cities are forging ahead with climate solutions, not waiting for others to act. By taking this bold step, California and the other partners will not only secure significant emissions reductions but also demonstrate that climate action and prosperity go hand in hand. As we look ahead to the climate conference in Paris at the end of the year, today’s announcement sets a strong example for countries to follow."

Why action by subnational governments is important

Subnational governments are particularly well suited to address climate change because their decisions can influence 50-80% of greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation initiatives needed to address climate change, according to the UN Development Program.

For example, subnational governments develop and implement policies that have the most impact on climate change, including in the areas of air quality, transportation, and energy. These governments can also serve as the laboratories for policy innovations that are adopted at national and international levels. And these jurisdictions can provide the critical link in the integration of climate policies between national and local governments.

Derek Walker, EDF’s Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and Energy Program said of the agreement:

"These subnational leaders understand first-hand that the future of people and the planet are at stake, and they are committing to concrete measures that will help us turn the corner in the fight against climate change. Today’s agreement demonstrates how dynamic climate leaders can create solutions that can be replicated elsewhere and can pave the way for more ambitious action."

More state, regional and city governments are expected to sign the agreement in the coming months.

(Photo: Governor Brown and international leaders sign Under 2 MOU. Credit:  Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol)

Also posted in Brazil, Europe, Mexico, United States| Leave a comment

Lima climate talks: What really happened.

Flickr

At the Lima climate negotiations, negotiators reached a narrow outcome that provided a little more clarity on the path to reaching a new international climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Source: Flickr (UNEP)

In the wee hours of last Sunday morning, negotiators at the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, finally concluded this year’s talks with a narrow outcome that provided a little more clarity on the path to reaching a new international climate agreement during the December 2015 talks in Paris.

Although the talks have been characterized as the “first time” all countries have agreed to cut emissions, that’s actually not the case.

Although the talks have been characterized as the “first time” that all countries have agreed to cut emissions, that’s actually not the case. That key development came in South Africa in 2011, where the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action established a process to develop a new agreement “applicable to all Parties” (the same accord that will be finalized in Paris).

And Durban itself built on the progress made in 2009 in the Copenhagen Accord, which included pledges by developing as well as developed countries to undertake mitigation actions. That put a crack in the so-called “firewall” that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol had raised between developed countries (which took on binding emissions reductions) and developing countries (which did not).

Nonetheless, the Lima Call for Climate Action did take an important step forward in reaffirming this trend.

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Also posted in Lima (COP-20)| 2 Responses

Lima climate talks showcase another path to global climate action: through states, provinces and cities

Kevin de Leon Peru COP

California state Senate President Kevin de León arrives at the conference center for the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. Image used with permission from Senator de León.

The chattering classes of the climate policy world are abuzz with their customary post-mortems following the latest breathless two-week session of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change 20th Conference of Parties (also known simply as COP 20), held in Lima, Peru.

Consensus is forming around a “slightly better than nothing” assessment of the Lima Call for Climate Action, which was adopted in the wee hours of Sunday amidst the usual skirmishes over money, monitoring, and mandates.

Lima clarified some of the expected content of the national pledges (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” INDCs in COP shorthand) to be presented by all countries next year.

Notwithstanding the softness engendered by the word “intended,” at least we aren’t firmly stuck in the “old world order” where only developed countries are taking on mitigation actions.

Subnational cooperation and pathways to climate progress outside UN process

While nations squabbled about intentions, another story was playing out on the sidelines of the COP, showcasing real, groundbreaking and consequential progress at the subnational level – within states, provinces, and cities.

After spending the vast majority of my time in Lima with innovative and dynamic subnational leaders, I came away with an unbridled sense of optimism and renewed hope that there are pathways to climate progress, even if many of them go around rather than through the formal UN process.

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Also posted in Lima (COP-20)| 6 Responses

Lima climate talks: Narrow outcome gives more clarity on path to Paris

Sea temperature map

A map at the Lima climate negotiations shows sea surface temperatures around the world. Source: Flickr (UNclimatechange)

The annual United Nations climate talks concluded in Lima, Peru, with a narrow outcome that provides some additional clarity on the path to finalizing a new climate agreement next year in Paris.

Nations were able to make limited progress on the modest goals expected of them, including:

  1. clarifying how countries will report their “intended nationally determined contributions” in early 2015; and
  2. identifying the main elements of the agreement to be negotiated next year and wrapped up in Paris.

When the talks ended well past their Friday deadline, Nathaniel Keohane, Vice President for international climate said:

The foot-dragging in Lima is out of step with the urgent signs of climate change that are already apparent in Peru's melting glaciers and threatened fisheries, as well as around the globe. To finalize an effective climate agreement in Paris next year, negotiators will have to move past the tired tactics and old ways of thinking that were on display these last two weeks.

We will not solve climate change with a single UN agreement. What an agreement in Paris can do is build a structure that spurs countries to be more ambitious, makes them accountable for their progress, and gives them the confidence that other countries are taking action as well.

With each passing year, more and more momentum on climate change is building outside the UNFCCC. The UN talks remain a valuable forum — the one place where all countries come together to discuss climate change. But as we have seen in the past few months, there are now multiple ways forward on climate change, including direct cooperation between nations, action by states and provinces, and engagement by the private sector. To make progress at the scale and pace required to meet the challenge of climate change, we need to take advantage of every pathway we have.

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Also posted in Lima (COP-20), News| 3 Responses

Lima climate talks: What progress can be made at COP 20?

Coming into this year’s UN climate talks in Lima, countries were riding a wave of positive momentum generated by good news.

COP20 plenary

As climate talks in Lima enter their final week, the main question is how much progress negotiators will make toward an effective international agreement for the long run. Source: Flickr (UNclimatechange)

In Beijing last month, the leaders of the world’s two largest economies — and largest emitters — stood together to underscore their joint commitment to addressing climate change.

A few weeks prior, the European Union announced its plans to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

As a result, the three jurisdictions that account for nearly half of annual carbon pollution worldwide have all made significant commitments to reduce or limit their emissions (although more ambitious cuts are needed to put the world on a path to climate safety).

As with many important topics, however, to get a full sense of how the UN climate negotiations are going requires also looking beyond the headlines.

As the talks enter their second and final week, some of the developments outside of the spotlight are raising concerns even as the US-China bilateral agreement continues to be the basis for broader optimism.

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Also posted in Lima (COP-20), News| 1 Response
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