Category Archives: Cancún (COP-16)

Cancún climate talks can spur momentum toward global deal, national and regional actions

The United Nations climate conference begins today in Cancún, Mexico — a two-week intensive negotiations session with nearly 200 countries meeting to broker a global deal addressing climate change, in a city best known for its white-sand beaches and spring break getaways.

Beyond the city's reputation as a vacation destination and the conference's casual dress code, in Cancún countries are finding themselves at a critical point when they need to restore momentum toward a global climate deal, even as many are embarking on their own domestic and regional efforts to curb climate change rather than waiting on a global deal.

U.N. forum can make progress on climate issues

The U.N. climate conference starting today in Cancún can make progress in global climate issues, especially in avoiding deforestation, transparency and finance. Countries are already taking their own actions domestically to curb climate change.

The clouds of last year's hyped meeting in Copenhagen still loom over the negotiations, and both environmental groups and countries themselves have been tempering expectations for the Cancún summit after Copenhagen concluded with countries making only non-binding commitments in the conference’s final hours.

However, as the negotiations begin today alongside the sun and surf, EDF's Managing Director of International Climate Policy Jennifer Haverkamp said there are reasons to look to Cancún for some positive movement:

Despite the lowered expectations this year, it’s critical to remember that Cancún is an opportunity for countries to move forward on critical climate change issues. There is still positive progress to be made on curbing deforestation, increasing transparency, and financing climate change mitigation activities.

In parallel process, countries already taking national steps

Since the Copenhagen conference, there have been clear signs that parties are still interested in reaching an agreement within the U.N. process, and Cancún is their opportunity to show they can find a way — despite disagreements over some of the fundamental issues.

But as negotiators continue to work toward an overall agreement in the UNFCCC forum, nations are not waiting on an outcome from the U.N. before starting to take their own domestic and regional actions, in what has become a parallel process to that of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Haverkamp said:

While the U.N. will continue to be the preferred forum for reaching a global deal, the good news for a planet that can’t wait is that a parallel process is emerging at national and state levels, with countries and regions developing their own paths forward through domestic actions and bilateral and multilateral deals to curb climate change.

One example of success in this parallel process is when earlier this month the Governors of California, the Brazilian state of Acre and the Mexican state of Chiapas signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a working group to promote efforts on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) at the state level.  The MOU — whose working group will make recommendations to California’s Air Resources Board on how reductions in deforestation from Acre, Chiapas, and eventually other states enter California’s carbon market — clearly shows that state governments can take effective steps to substantially reduce emissions and grow their economies without waiting for an international agreement.

Opportunity in Cancún to move forward on critical issues

Haverkamp identified three critical issues the UNFCCC's Conference of the Parties (COP-16) needs to address in Cancún to move forward:

1. Implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

REDD+ policies have the best chances of advancing at Cancún of any of the climate effort.

But a major consideration in developing REDD+ must be indigenous peoples, who are the best-suited to monitor and protect their land from deforestation. The REDD+ language needs to strengthen protections for indigenous peoples, increase the role of stakeholders in the negotiating process and provide greater clarity on technical issues in establishing baselines for emissions and plans for implementing REDD.

2. Launch comprehensive and transparent monitoring, reporting and verification and reporting (MRV) systems that may be used in bilateral and regional agreements.

Experience shows that nations often are willing agree to more comprehensive inspection and verification systems on a bilateral basis than in a broader multilateral context.  We encourage negotiators to launch a process in Cancún to develop an international framework for monitoring, verification and reporting that can simultaneously be used by countries pursuing bilateral and regional approaches.

3. Establish transparency and accountability for climate financing efforts in developing nations, whether the sources are public or private.

It is clear from the Advisory Group on Finance report that getting to $100 billion per year in climate funding is possible, though it will require serious political will and incentives, and a price of at least $20-$25 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Direct public finance will be necessary to spur private finance, but regardless of the source, there must be transparency and accountability in how the funds are generated, allocated, and spent.

We must recognize that eventually it is private capital, the engine of global growth, that will shape the new carbon constrained global economy.

EDF has a team of experts on the ground in Cancún, and we'll be posting on this Climate Talks blog regularly — check back with us soon.

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Historic pact to protect tropical forests will link state-level carbon markets in U.S., Brazil, Mexico

More great news from California on the global climate change front.  Today the state joined with the Brazilian state of Acre and the Mexican state of Chiapas in a historic achievement to curb climate change through reducing deforestation.  (As we've mentioned before, the cutting and burning of tropical forests accounts for about 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions — more than all of the cars and trucks in the world produce.)

Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Binho Marques of Acre, Brazil, and Juan Sabines Guerrero of Chiapas, Mexico announced this afternoon that they had agreed to form a Working Group to promote efforts on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) at the "sub-national," or state, level.

The agreement calls for the Working Group to make recommendations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) by next October on how California can link its emerging carbon market to the REDD programs in Acre, Chiapas and potentially other states or provinces around the world.

EDF President Fred Krupp called the pact:

a significant and concrete step to protect the climate by protecting the world’s forests.  It also is a precedent-setting initiative as countries gear up for international climate change negotiations in December.

Governor Binho Marques of Acre, one of the poorest and most isolated — but also environmentally progressive — states in the Brazilian Amazon, said:

Acre has opted for development based on preserving and wisely using its forests to honor of Chico Mendes’ dream, which echoed around the world two decades ago. We seek to consolidate sustainable development through a low carbon, high social equity economy. This partnership between our states will allow our economies to grow and address global climate change.

This agreement comes just two weeks after California voters soundly rejected the industry-backed ballot Proposition 23, which would have suspended implementation of the state's landmark global warming law.

EDF Tropical Forests Director Steve Schwartzman said the agreement shows "international climate leadership," and:

It clearly demonstrates that we can start to effectively combat climate change and stop deforestation in the absence of a national policy and an international agreement.

California, Acre and Chiapas are members of the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), a collaboration of 14 states and provinces in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria that was created at the first Governor’s Global Climate Summit in 2008.

Read more in EDF's news release: Tropical Forests Protection Pact Hailed for Protecting Climate.

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Cancún talks must put paralyzed U.N. climate negotiations back on track

The following is cross-posted from Reuters AlertNet.

It seems a familiar story, these days: while heat waves break historical records and we suffer more of the floods, hurricanes and droughts that experts warn will only increase with climate change, the United Nations climate negotiations come and go with few expectations and even fewer constructive outcomes.

So it is not surprising to those following the climate talks that the recent meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Tianjin, China, sputtered to a close, highlighting deep-seated disagreements that continue to impede progress.

Late next month, ministers from the nearly 200 countries of the United Nations convene in Cancún, Mexico, to take up issues left unresolved in last year's Copenhagen talks. But their senior negotiators have managed to run out the 2010 clock through repeated unproductive negotiating sessions resembling a Bill Murray "Groundhog Day" movie plot.

(On the positive side, Tianjin's talks were the first that China has hosted, reflecting a more serious engagement by that country in the process.)

In Copenhagen's wake, countries should be motivated to rebuild confidence in the U.N. process by delivering concrete results at Cancún's Conference of Parties (COP-16). But instead, countries are still struggling with some major overall structural issues, and have made disappointing progress on important forestry and land-use policies.

Now it's unclear whether their negotiators will be able to rise far enough above these issues by Cancún to produce a meaningful outcome.

Historical problems stymieing progress

Since the 2007 Bali conference (COP-13), countries have locked themselves in two separate negotiating tracks, often with developing and developed countries pitted against each other. Now they find themselves groping for the keys to bring these tracks together.

The negotiations have also been plagued by distracting bickering among major players, and troubling progress – or lack thereof – in critical policies.

Much attention recently has been given to policies regarding deforestation and land-use practices like forestry, ranching and wetland restoration. Setting a troubling precedent, the parties appear poised to finalize in Cancún accounting rules for emissions from forest management that would allow developed countries to claim carbon credits or avoid debits without changing their activities.

Although negotiators spent the week in Tianjin crafting a mechanism to make this accounting method more transparent, the review process would do little more than make a bad approach transparently bad.

Similarly disappointing is the lack of progress in the REDD-plus Partnership, which 50 countries launched in May 2010 to provide billions of dollars toward reducing deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries. It's particularly dismaying that a process launched with such high hopes earlier this year is being bogged down by debates over procedural hurdles.

REDD policies are crucial, since deforestation and forest degradation account for 15 to 17 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Donor countries must stop dickering and start releasing the funding needed for this partnership to make REDD-plus a reality.

Global talks not the only way forward

Success in Cancún will be measured by adoption of a strong and balanced set of decisions, as well as a work plan for a way forward to South Africa's COP in December 2011. Cancún must put us back on a track to an eventual comprehensive approach to reducing global emissions and achieving climate safety.

But to reach climate safety, we may not be able to wait on the U.N. process. We're in a critical period: emissions must start to decline between now and 2020.

While efforts toward a comprehensive approach are being made, it is incumbent on major emitters – as well as on other areas like shipping and aviation that don't fit neatly into individual countries' responsibilities – to begin now the shift to a low carbon economy.

And while it is easy to make the UNFCCC process the scapegoat for the current paralyzed state the negotiations are in, it's highly doubtful that simply shifting the talks to another forum would resolve the problem.

Until major economies are prepared to put in the hard work needed to find genuine solutions for all parties, countries will continue treading water, no matter which forum's banner hangs over the conference center.

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