The United Nations climate agreement in Paris, and the intense negotiations leading up to it, were a breakthrough in a number of important ways.
First of all, the agreement represents the coming of age of climate diplomacy. It was evident from the beginning that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who chaired the talks, had the full trust and confidence of the room.
He artfully identified a zone of agreement among 196 delegations that gave nearly everyone something they wanted without crossing red lines.
The agreement was also the culmination of months of bilateral diplomacy at the highest levels, most visibly between the U.S. and China. The direct involvement of President Obama and other world leaders was critical to success – and shows a strategic savvy and leader-level involvement that we haven’t seen in past climate talks.
But it’s the language of the agreement itself, and the broad backing it received, that makes it such a big deal. It means that we now have a chance – not a guarantee, but a chance – to put the world on a healthier path.
By Chris Meyer, Senior Manager, Amazon Forest Policy and Dana Miller, Research Analyst
The Paris Agreement sends a strong signal for the forest protection policy REDD+. Credit: Flickr/Dams999
The Paris Agreement was a historic moment for the world, including the world’s forests. Now it is time to implement the agreement. But first, let’s take a moment to celebrate three important wins for forests and the framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
1) Article 5 on REDD+ signals political support for the existing internationally agreed framework
The Paris Agreement included a specific provision (Article 5, below) on forests and REDD+. Experts from EDF, Conservation International, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and Union of Concerned Scientists told press that this article “would send a strong political signal to support better protections for forests in developing countries and encourage developed nations to provide the financial incentives to do so.” This article also encourages “results-based payments”, which refers to a promising mechanism where donors pay for verified emissions reductions achieved through REDD+.
The REDD+ negotiators in Paris still have plenty of explicit and implicit references to REDD+ in the text that have a better-than-good chance of surviving this week.
While we would like to see an explicit reference to REDD+ in the Paris Agreement or its decisions that guide its implementation, what is most important for REDD+ is a good final Paris Agreement. That will provide the impetus for quicker implementation of REDD+ and the big, big signal some say it needs. This second week is when the ministers need to focus on delivering it.
The REDD+ negotiators have spent most of their time trying to unlock language around what some countries want to call the new “REDD+ Mechanism” (currently paragraph 3bis).
The COP21 climate negotiations on REDD+ made little progress last week – keep calm and see why here – while there was a flurry of announcements from countries regarding the implementation of REDD+.
Among the 170+ countries that have submitted their carbon-cutting plans — known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or “INDCs” — more than half have either stated their intention to use international carbon markets to tackle carbon pollution, or are already employing them domestically. Image source: cropped INDC map from IETA's INDC Tracker
With only a few days before nations meet in Paris to negotiate an inclusive post-2020 structure for global climate cooperation under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we already know that the world will be entering a new paradigm of climate action, in which all nations play a role in the collective fight against climate change.
We also know that while the emissions reductions pledged for 2025 or 2030 by over 170 countries over the course of this year are significant, aggressive additional action well beyond 2030 will be necessary to meet the internationally agreed goal of limiting global average atmospheric warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That goal is the upper limit agreed by the international community, at a level that scientists believe would likely avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Because the Paris pledges mark only the beginning of a new era of climate cooperation, it is imperative that an effective international climate agreement promotes greater and greater ambition as it matures. A successful Paris agreement can thus set the stage for the world to turn the corner on global emissions.
Even before they arrive in Paris, countries have started identifying effective tools that can be used to accelerate ambition over time, so that the UNFCCC’s objective – to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” – can be met.
In Paris, announcements on REDD+ finance and implementation by governments, companies and indigenous peoples will be as important as negotiations around text. Image: Flickr
The biggest tip-off as to how REDD+ will fare in Paris will come early on in the conference.
Heads of state and ministers are expected to announce new financial support for REDD+ countries on the Dec. 1, the second day of the climate talks, at the Lima Paris Action Agenda event on forests.
This financial support will target readiness—how prepared a country is to implement REDD+ programs—and results—the financial rewards a country will receive for verified emissions reductions.
At the same time, we expect to hear from REDD+ countries themselves about their progress in completing key milestones in the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. They’ll be addressing reference emission levels, REDD+ national strategies, and status reports on the implementation of safeguard information systems.
Also posted in Paris, REDD
The U.S. Clean Power Plan – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to cut carbon pollution from the country's largest emitting sector, electric generating stations – is here to stay. Image: cropped photo from Flickr/ USCapitol.
It’s always hard to interpret political maneuvering in other countries. Governments resign, coalitions form, legislation means something other than what it seems to mean. So in the coming weeks, when newspapers around the world run headlines saying “U.S. Congress Votes to Overturn Clean Power Plan,” their readers may be forgiven for some confusion about America’s position coming into the Paris climate talks.
The first and most important thing to understand is that the Clean Power Plan – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to cut carbon pollution from our largest emitting sector, electric generating stations – is here to stay. Bills to “block” the Plan may pass the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, but they will go no further. That is because those bills cannot become law unless President Obama signs them. He has made it abundantly clear that he won’t agree to dismantle his leading climate initiative.