Selected category: UN negotiations

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.

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Why we could see progress on agriculture at the Marrakesh climate talks

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

Photo: Rakesh Tiwari (SACRED)

The interactions between the agricultural sector and climate change have undeniable implications for both global food security and our environment. Despite this global significance, and perhaps due to the complexity of the subject, there has been little progress to date on agriculture in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. However, this could be about to change.

The impetus of Paris Climate Agreement and leadership by the Moroccan presidency could unlock the opportunity to advance agricultural issues at the climate talks, known as COP22, taking place this week in Marrakesh. Furthermore, country actions and targets as inscribed in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) both show commitment to the agricultural sector and help highlight key common practices that could form a basis for international collaboration.

While much of COP22 will be focused on laying groundwork for the Paris Agreement, agriculture could be an area of significant progress in Marrakesh, potentially resulting in a COP decision or work program on agriculture.

There is a strong need to address agriculture in COP22

Agriculture at once contributes significantly to climate change and faces some of the greatest risks posed by climate change. Agriculture is estimated to contribute one-third of all emissions. Conversely, climate change is projected to have negative impacts on agriculture, especially in developing countries. With 800 million people currently undernourished worldwide, the majority of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and a projected population increase of more than 2 billion people by 2050, it is no wonder that “Zero Hunger” is identified as the 2nd Sustainable Development Goal by the UN and that adequate nourishment is interwoven with almost every goal listed.  However, agriculture has yet to be codified within the UNFCCC framework.

There is an opportunity to address agriculture in COP22

The Paris Agreement, monumental in more ways than one, identifies food security as a priority in the climate agenda. This recognition is emblematic of the necessity to address the foundation for food security – the agricultural sector – in the international climate negotiations.

It is clear from previous negotiations that countries have different priorities and perspectives in considering mitigation versus adaptation.  However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these two goals are not mutually exclusive in practice.

A new EDF analysis of countries’ submissions to the 44th SBSTA (Subsidiary Body on Science and Technological Advice) finds that countries are employing similar agricultural practices in different parts of the world. Several submissions also noted that these practices can have multiple benefits for adaptation, productivity and mitigation.

For example, soil management can increase soil fertility (and therefore productivity) as well as carbon storage in soils. Improvements in livestock such as diet management could both increase productivity and reduce methane emissions. The efficient management and storage of water could also increase resiliency to drought and reduce reliance on irrigation. These are just a few examples of commonly identified agricultural practices that meet both goals of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of emissions.

In addition to common practices, it is also clear that the vast majority of countries, driven by national interest, are committed to taking actions on agriculture in the context of climate. Within countries’ INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions), 80% include agriculture in their mitigation targets and 64% include agriculture in adaptation strategies.

Parallel to the negotiations, the Global Climate Action Agenda will highlight agriculture and food security on November 16th, demonstrating leadership by the Moroccan presidency to advance issues on agriculture at COP22.

The potential way forward

With clear necessity and urgency, a way must be paved for work on agriculture issues within the UNFCCC.  The Paris Agreement, INDCs, and common practices from SBSTA submissions that countries are already implementing could provide a foundation for countries to work together on agriculture. The best outcome of Marrakesh would be a COP decision on agriculture.

International cooperative action on agriculture is in the best interest of all countries due to critical importance of food security, adaptation, and climate stabilization. In addition, international collaboration could facilitate accounting for emissions towards INDCs and accelerate deployment of finance for agriculture.

We hope that negotiators will work constructively together on agriculture inside and outside of the negotiations, especially on areas of common ground such as the practices mentioned above. EDF and our partners will be closely following the agriculture negotiations at COP 22 and meeting with negotiators to discuss how to move forward on agriculture issues in the UNFCCC.

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What happens in Marrakesh now that the Paris Agreement has entered into force?

Marrakesh

Photo credit: Luc Viatour

Friday, November 4, 2016 was a day for the record books: it marked the day that the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, unlocking the Agreement’s legally binding rights and obligations for countries that have joined the agreement. This milestone came almost four years earlier than many expected even just last year. 

Rapid entry into force proves that the diverse political coalition of countries that constructed the Paris Agreement – both developed and developing, large and small – is alive and strong around climate change. It sends a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that governments take the agreement seriously, and that now is the time to ramp up investment in a prosperous, low-carbon future. 

Early entry into force also adds a sense of urgency to the work of the just-opened climate talks in Marrakesh under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP22, from November 7-18. The inaugural session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will take place in conjunction with COP22. 

What to expect at Marrakesh

Countries in Marrakesh will be expected to provide concrete evidence that the world is on track to effectively implement the Paris Agreement.

The goal of the Marrakesh gathering is to maintain the strong momentum on climate action that comes from the trio of climate wins we’ve seen recently: entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the adoption of a market-based-measure to tackle significant climate pollution from airlines, and the phase down of HFC “superpollutant” greenhouse gases. 

To continue that momentum, countries in Marrakesh will be expected to provide concrete evidence that the world is on track to effectively implement the Paris Agreement, in the form of an ambitious workplan to complete the Agreement’s necessary infrastructure. The Agreement provides an inclusive, solid foundation for global climate action, but the “nuts and bolts” of how to implement the Agreement were left to future meetings.

Key implementation tasks that will occupy negotiators in Marrakesh include Finalizing the Paris Agreement’s “enhanced” transparency framework and building an effective ambition mechanism.

Finalizing the Paris Agreement’s “enhanced” transparency framework

Transparency is the backbone of the Paris Agreement: It drives climate action by holding countries accountable to their commitments on action and support. 

But often overlooked are the additional direct domestic benefits of transparency to countries and subnational actors, which helps them to:

  1. understand the scope of the climate challenge;
  2. develop strategies to address it;
  3. assess the extent to which policy interventions are succeeding; and
  4. more easily access resources needed for effective implementation, including via carbon markets.

The Paris Agreement lays out common and legally binding rules that require – for the first time – each country to regularly report on progress they are making in meeting their commitments.  And those reports must go to a panel of experts for technical review. As EDF President Fred Krupp wrote, “It's the environmental version of President Reagan's ‘trust but verify.’”  

The details of the Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework must now be elaborated to ensure that countries demonstrate credibly and publicly how they are making progress against their commitments. Support should be made available to assist countries that need help to meet these new requirements. A variety of climate funds and support programs currently exist that can help developing countries to build the necessary institutional and technical capacity. 

At the same time, nations must now prioritize efforts to develop a set of clear accounting rules that prevent “double counting” of emissions reductions and facilitate the high-integrity emissions trading needed to drive emissions down and investment up. Double counting – applying one ton of emissions reductions towards more than one commitment, a sleight of hand that cheats the atmosphere – is explicitly prohibited by the Paris Agreement no less than six times.

Building an effective ambition mechanism

We know that the commitments pledged by countries thus far are not enough to limit warming below new temperature limits set by the Paris Agreement – “well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels” – let alone enough to meet the Agreement’s aspirational limit of 1.5 degrees.

That’s why the heart of the accord is the process it establishes to periodically review countries’ progress toward meeting their commitments, and to ratchet up ambition over time, beginning with a global assessment (a “facilitative dialogue,” in UN-speak) in 2018 and updates of commitments in 2020.

The Paris Agreement recognizes that cooperation on emissions trading between countries can help drive the ambitious emissions reductions that science demands. Under Article 6, the Agreement encourages the growing use of bottom-up agreements between jurisdictions to link markets for greater efficiency, as California and Quebec have done. Countries that prefer the option of an international structure can wait to utilize the nascent new market mechanism outlined under Article 6.4 of the Agreement – the strong rules and accounting standards necessary for this new approach must also be fleshed out by negotiators in the coming months and years.

Prompt agreement on accounting for market mechanisms under Article 6, including how to practically implement the requirement to avoid double counting of emissions reductions, will help quickly build the infrastructure needed for carbon markets to drive ambition. In particular, the facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to assess global progress appears to be a good time to provide additional clarity on the tools available under the Paris Agreement to increase ambition. 

What will happen during CMA1 

Although the Paris Agreement specifies that the significant amount of work necessary to build its essential infrastructure must be completed by CMA1, countries are likely to agree a “procedural fix” to give themselves the time necessary to develop the Paris Agreement’s rulebook. For example, Parties could agree to keep CMA1 formally in session rather than gaveling it closed at the end of the COP, extending CMA1 – and the associated deadlines – until perhaps 2018. Countries used a similar fix to minimize procedural wrangling in the successful negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement. Given the Paris Agreement’s surprisingly quick entry into force, it is not surprising that negotiators will need more time to complete the long list of tasks on their plate.

The upshot is that substantive discussions will occur instead in the COP, the APA (the “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement”) and the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies, in which all Parties to the UNFCCC can participate. As long as these bodies move promptly to accomplish their “to do” list, keeping discussions under the COP provides an additional benefit to inclusiveness and political “buy-in.” That's because decisionmaking in the CMA is limited to only those Parties to the Paris Agreement, currently slightly more than half of those participating in the UNFCCC, but expected to be nearly equal by 2018. 

The continuing need for national and “minilateral” action

A decade ago, the presumptive approach to climate progress was a global governance structure driven by international institutions such as the U.N. Now, the challenges are more urgent and the landscape is more decentralized. 

"Minilateral" cooperation among groups of countries is emerging as a focal point for climate action. The prospect of “climate clubs” is gaining currency as a vehicle for securing greater investment, market access, and financial stability, and for driving greater ambition in climate action. For example, a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions, or “CCM”, could go faster and farther than the UNFCCC in promoting coordination among carbon markets, ensuring environmental integrity, and ultimately spurring greater ambition in climate action. Robust coalition standards could potentially inform global approaches, complementing and building additional momentum for climate efforts under the UNFCCC.

No major environmental problem is solved with one document. The Paris Agreement provides a solid foundation for cooperation among jurisdictions, but nations recognize that progress on climate depends on implementation at home. It’s time for countries to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the rules, guidance, and domestic policies that will put Paris into practice. 

The significant political will reflected in the entry into force of the Paris Agreement now needs to be translated to building the essential infrastructure for implementation. The world is watching.

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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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A bright spot amid Brexit? Growing momentum for global climate action.

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A new era of climate leadership: Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. announced major joint commitments on climate and clean energy on June 29, 2016. Image Source: Presidencia de la República Mexicana

Last week’s vote by the British to leave the European Union has triggered a crisis in political leadership, thrown financial markets into turmoil and prompted eulogies for the European project – even as the ultimate consequences of the vote remain uncertain.

Against that backdrop, a bit of good news may be welcome. And it comes from an unlikely quarter: climate action.

That may sound surprising at first since climate change was hardly a high-profile issue in the Brexit campaign. Voting on the referendum reflected concerns about inequality, immigration, globalization, multiculturalism and an out-of-touch political elite.

Even so, the prospect of the United Kingdom’s departure has raised concerns about impacts on climate and energy policy, including possible delays in finalizing the EU’s 2030 emissions target.

But whatever the implications may be for Britain and the EU, one thing is clear: Brexit can’t derail the overwhelming global momentum on climate action that produced the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement: Strength in numbers

A British exit from the EU would not have any effect on the formal architecture of the agreement, which was approved last December by more than 190 countries and has been signed by 177 – including each of the EU member states.

Given that overwhelming support, the agreement may very well enter into force this year – something that will happen once at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions formally join the agreement.

To date, 50 countries representing more than 53 percent of global emissions have formally joined or committed to join the agreement this year — closing in on the threshold of 55 countries and 55 percent of emissions needed for the agreement to enter into force. As a result, the agreement may well enter into force as soon as this year, even without the EU (which was not expected to join the agreement this year in any case).

This signals a remarkable shift. A decade ago, Europe was the world’s indispensable leader on climate action – and even temporary uncertainty about the pace of progress in the EU would have had repercussions around the globe.

The Paris Agreement, however, was the culmination of a paradigm shift away from a model of “top-down” climate action concentrated in a handful of countries, and toward more a more decentralized and inclusive approach.

As climate action has become much more broad-based, it has also become more resilient.

Climate leadership beyond the EU

That is not to say that leadership on climate from both the U.K. and the EU is not vital; it is, and will continue to be. Taken as a whole, Europe is still the world’s third-largest emitter. It remains a powerful and valuable voice for ambition.

Fortunately, political support for climate action in the region remains high, with 60 percent of Europeans saying global warming is already harming people around the world.

But we are long past the days when climate progress depended on one bloc of countries. Just consider this:

  • The leaders of the three North American countries met today to announce greater cooperation on climate change – including major new commitments on clean energy and on methane emissions from oil and gas.
  • Under the leadership of President Obama, the United States is now a global leader on climate action, with U.S. emissions in 2014 at 9 percent below their 2005 level, and an ambitious target of reducing emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025, relative to 2005.
  • President Xi Jinping of China has made tackling climate change a priority, with a commitment to ratify the Paris Agreement this year, a pledge to peak China’s emissions by 2030, if not before; and a plan to institute a nationwide emission trading program as early as next year.
  • The unprecedented bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and China, culminating in the joint announcements on climate change made by Presidents Xi and Obama in November 2014 and again in September 2015, were a crucial step in laying the foundation for success in Paris.
  • Brazil – although currently engulfed in political turmoil of its own – has reduced emissions over the past decade more than any other country, thanks to the enormous success of its Amazon states in curbing tropical deforestation.
  • India, where the moral imperative of poverty alleviation remains paramount, is committing to renewable energy and experimenting with new models of low-carbon development.

Other factors driving momentum

Underlying these country-level shifts are more fundamental drivers. The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly more visible, in record temperatures and extreme weather events.

A clean energy revolution is underway: Wind power is competitive with coal in much of the world even without subsidies, the cost of solar panels has dropped 75 percent in less than a decade and new technologies for how we use and store energy more efficiently are transforming markets.

Meanwhile, leading companies are stepping up by reducing their carbon footprints, greening their supply chains and calling for policies such as a price on carbon.

In short, leaders around the world have come to the realization that the path to shared global prosperity is a low-carbon path.

That makes the politics of climate action more resilient now than they ever have been before. And that is good news to keep in mind in these uncertain days.

This post originally appeared June 29 on EDF Voices.

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How a Coalition of Carbon Markets Can Complement the Paris Agreement and Accelerate Deep Reductions in Climate Pollution

Paris_._Eiffel_Tower_in_the_evening_Final

International cooperation is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of keeping warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the Paris Agreement provides several market- and transparency-related tools that can help spur international cooperation, countries must now create the coalitions needed to move forward with implementation. Image Source: Jorge Royan

As countries gather here in Bonn, Germany to begin the work of translating the historic Paris Agreement into action, there is widespread recognition that individual countries’ carbon-cutting pledges must be strengthened in the coming years to deliver the ambitious long term goal agreed in Paris: keep warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and achieve global net zero emissions before 2100.

The Paris Agreement provides several market- and transparency-related tools that can help spur the international cooperation necessary to achieve its long term goal, including provisions that facilitate high-integrity, “bottom-up” linkages of domestic carbon markets to cut carbon pollution. These linkages (described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as “cooperative approaches”) promise to reduce costs, and unlock the finance needed to drive deeper global emissions reductions. The agreement on cooperative approaches in Paris reflects the widespread recognition among nations that carbon markets, accompanied by a clear, comprehensive transparency framework, will help drive the deep emissions reductions needed to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change.

With the urgency of climate action clear, the key challenge now becomes: how can we accelerate the international cooperation needed to solve the Paris equation?

One concrete step, drawing on the cooperative approaches provisions of the Paris Agreement, would be to establish a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions to catalyze the development and increase the ambition of domestic carbon markets.   Much as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) helped broaden participation and ambition in trade, a voluntary coalition of carbon market jurisdictions (CCM) could expand the scope and maximize the cost-effectiveness of ambitious climate action around the globe.

Why coordinate on carbon markets?

As carbon markets continue to expand, coordination among jurisdictions using or considering carbon markets – especially on the rules and standards needed to ensure environmental integrity and maximize cost-effectiveness – will give governments and the private sector the confidence to go faster and farther in reducing their climate-warming pollution.

A coalition of carbon markets can help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and catalyze the deep global emissions reductions that climate science demands.

Although the Paris Agreement provides a framework for international cooperation on carbon markets, it is ultimately up to countries to work together to agree the detailed rules necessary for international carbon markets to drive emissions down and investment up.

The good news is that groups of countries can make substantial, early progress, ultimately informing and complementing the longer-term UNFCCC process.

 

“Minilateral” efforts can stimulate faster, deeper emissions cuts and strengthen international cooperation

Rapid and early emissions cuts are the single most important determinant of whether the global community is likely to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). And delaying necessary action to reduce global warming pollution dramatically increases costs to the global economy.

For both the climate and our economies, not all emissions reductions are the same:  the earlier, the better.

That’s why it is so important that Article 6 of the Paris Agreement affirmed that cooperative emissions trading between countries can continue and expand while multilateral accounting guidelines are developed. Transactions will need to be “consistent with” any multilateral guidance developed by Parties to the Paris Agreement over the coming years – particularly to ensure that the same emission reductions are not claimed toward more than one mitigation pledge (“double counted”).

A “minilateral” coalition of carbon markets could complement efforts under the UNFCCC by fostering agreement on detailed standards for the accounting, transparency, and environmental integrity of internationally transferred emissions units. These “nuts and bolts” standards, which will help avoid errors in tallying up total emissions and traded units, form the bedrock of high-integrity emissions trading. Early agreement would give countries the confidence to move forward quickly in implementing their Paris pledges and a basis for increasing their ambition over time.

Practically speaking, future UNFCCC guidance on cooperative approaches will likely be influenced by working examples of international emissions trading, making the success of a carbon markets coalition an important precedent for broader cooperation on markets in the UNFCCC. This process could mirror recent progress on standards for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), where technical advances made by countries in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility contributed to greater progress in the UNFCCC.

What’s next?

In Paris, a diverse group of 18 developed and developing countries led by New Zealand announced that they will work quickly together to develop standards and guidelines to ensure the environmental integrity of international market mechanisms.

This group – or another similar coalition – could “set the bar” for market-based climate action by developing robust accounting and transparency standards for environmental and market integrity. Coordinated leadership by forward-looking jurisdictions would help ensure that the growth of international emissions trading is accompanied by enhanced ambition and real, permanent, additional, and verifiable emissions reductions.

Over a longer period, these same guidelines could support the establishment of a common trading framework among a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions. A framework might include mutual recognition of emission units, harmonized approaches to verifying emissions reductions and generating offset credits, and a shared trading infrastructure, which together could ensure environmental integrity and encourage more countries, states, and provinces to cap and price carbon.

Paris began a new, more ambitious chapter in the history of climate action, but much of the chapter is yet to be written. We’re in the race of our lives to finish the work of protecting future generations and building prosperous low-carbon economies. A coalition of carbon markets can help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and catalyze the deep global emissions reductions that climate science demands.

Also posted in Carbon Market Cooperation, Emissions trading & markets, Paris| Leave a comment
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