Category Archives: Durban (COP-17)

REDD+ finance, indigenous rights protections move forward in 2012 with boost from Durban negotiations

This is a joint post by Gus Silva-Chávez, EDF's Climate & Forests specialist and REDD+ project manager, and Chris Meyer, who coordinates EDF’s REDD+ activities with Indigenous Peoples.

The most recent UN climate negotiations wrapped up in December with a better-than-anticipated outcome, but the preparations for the next set — this year in Qatar — are already underway.

Policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and to protect the rights of indigenous peoples who live in the forests made important progress in the recent UN climate negotiations in Durban.

We've spent some time reflecting on the outcome of the 2011 talks in Durban, South Africa, especially on progress on policies to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, known in the UN world as REDD+. REDD+ was a huge winner in the 2010 negotiations, when the UN put its seal of approval on the policy, and this year made some additional progress, most importantly in finance and in ensuring rights for indigenous peoples.

We were recently invited to write about the REDD+ negotiations in Durban for the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), a coalition of -collaboration of 14 states and provinces in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria that was formed in 2008 at the first Governor’s Global Climate Summit.

Below is our analysis of where REDD+ negotiations ended in Durban, and what we're likely to see as countries gear up for the Qatar negotiations. You can find additional analysis of Durban negotiations by EDF's International Climate Program Director Jennifer Haverkamp in her blog post In Durban, world's major economies show will to address climate change.

The Durban REDD+ Outcome

Cross-posted from the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force Newsletter (January 2012)

In an annual ritual, government negotiators, NGOs and journalists attended the December 2011 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Durban, South Africa. Negotiators in Durban approved technical guidelines for ensuring that reference levels — benchmarks for measuring progress in reducing emissions from deforestation — have environmental integrity. EDF had been eagerly anticipating this technical decision going into Durban, these new guidelines will provide a framework and necessary guidelines on how to establish reference levels that are based on science and that can serve as a measuring stick for environmental performance and financial compensation.

REDD+ policies got a major boost in Durban when countries agreed that all sources of funding, including carbon markets, are eligible to pay for REDD+ activities. After years of exploring how to pay for all three stages of REDD+ (capacity building, early implementation and national-level pay-for-performance), the UN has put its seal of approval on the use of markets. Estimates indicate that while public financing is needed, especially for the capacity building stage, only large-scale, sustainable funding from carbon markets will generate sufficient funding. EDF applauds this decision.

The decision on REDD+ finance, in the “Long-term Cooperative Action” (LCA) negotiations, included a clear endorsement of all sources of finance, a call for a REDD+ finance workshop and a technical paper in 2012.

Looking forward to next year’s climate negotiations in Qatar, countries will start deciding on the details of reference levels, and some will begin to calculate their reference levels using the guidance decided in Durban. As more specific REDD+ financing methods are developed, countries will hold a REDD+ finance workshop and produce a technical paper that will attempt to answer some of the questions around financing REDD+.

Indigenous peoples & REDD+

Negotiators in Durban approved critical provisions for ensuring the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected and will be safeguarded in the implementation of REDD+ programs. Parties also outlined the protections for Indigenous Peoples prominently in the LCA’s financing sections. Still, negotiators only developed a framework for systems of reporting on the implementation of REDD+ safeguards and decided to continue working on the content of these REDD+ systems next year.

Durban resulted in a positive step forward in providing preliminary guidance for the reporting on the implementation of safeguards as countries launch REDD readiness initiatives already being financed through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, UN-REDD program, and other bilateral initiatives. More importantly, we’re seeing indigenous peoples in many countries developing their own consultation and information gathering processes that will feed information into these systems.

The Durban conference as a whole produced surprisingly good results, given our modest expectations. However, it is important to note that there are a lot of concrete actions taking place outside of the UNFCCC forum, including efforts to open a path for REDD+ credits from Brazil, Mexico and beyond to flow into California’s emerging carbon market. Top-down efforts at the international level can only succeed if bottom-up actions like these are being successfully implemented.

For additional information on EDF’s international work, please visit edf.org/international.


Also posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, REDD| 2 Responses

In Durban, world's major economies show will to address climate change

Sunday morning around 5 am, almost 36 hours after the UN climate negotiations were slated to conclude, the chair finally banged her gavel and declared the 17th annual UN climate ministers meeting at an end. Exhausted delegates and ministers — those that hadn't already melted away to the airport hours before — emerged from an already partially dismantled venue into the bright clear sunshine and fresh promise of a new day. And just maybe, that's a metaphor for the UN climate talks as well.

Durban was quite the cliffhanger, swinging back from the brink of collapse to produce surprisingly good results compared to the low incoming expectations. Instead of being the meeting that let the Kyoto Protocol "die on African soil", as many had feared, Durban will be known for launching negotiations of a new agreement that encompasses all the major emitters, and thereby beginning finally to erode the rigid old walls between developed and developing countries. The negotiations are to conclude by 2015, and come into effect by 2020, which is far slower than the enormity of the problem requires, but a fair reflection of what the political freight in 2011 can bear. As part of the deal, the EU has agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol to at least 2017, and Kyoto parties are to finalize their next round of commitments by December 2013. These next couple of years will test whether the parties can now coax into flame the spark of hope struck here, or whether they go back into their respective corners of stalling and delay.

Lack of certainty over whether the global community will move beyond the vague action plans and pledges that were the outcome of previous meetings has hampered the development of robust climate policy in many nations, and threatened to undermine the important national commitments that have already been made in jurisdictions from Australia to California, and Europe to New Zealand. The agreement reached in Durban is an opportunity to improve upon that situation: its goal is an outcome, that is, in the words of the Durban conclusions, "a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC", applicable to all Parties. Stronger than the "agreed outcome" language of the Bali Action Plan, the Durban meeting therefore cracks open the door on negotiations which could lead to the kind of comprehensive, legally binding treaty that can serve as a powerful driver of domestic action. But the lack of specificity in this negotiating mandate also means that the Parties could use it to continue to posture, delay, and reargue old fights.

In a top priority for developing countries, the gathered nations also took a critical step toward making the much-anticipated Green Climate Fund a reality, by agreeing on structural details for setting up the fund, which aims to finance efforts of developing countries to adapt to the impact climate change and curb their greenhouse gas emissions. And even though the new fund is not quite yet a functional bank, Germany, Denmark, and South Korea have made the first pledges for contributions in 2013.

In other key developments, there was solid progress on developing standards for anti-deforestation work in developing countries (known as REDD+, for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), as well as recognition that carbon markets could be used to finance forest protection. Unfortunately, though, standards were adopted for developed-country forest and land use accounting that create big loopholes in meeting their emission reduction commitments.

The global carbon market dodged a major bullet in Durban. Collapsed talks could have been disastrous. Instead, a positive signal came through clearly: the Kyoto Protocol will be extended; the Ministers endorsed market-based financing for REDD+; they have agreed to define a new market mechanism (in addition to the existing clean development mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation projects); and the EU is already talking about tightening its emissions reduction target, which will increase demand for international credits. And overall, Durban's signal that the world's major economies are serious about addressing climate change over the long term will boost countries' bottom up efforts to institute emissions trading schemes, as in Australia, Korea, Brazil, and China.

Nations that have implemented Kyoto through domestically binding targets, in particular the EU, have learned how powerfully these targets can drive national action, and how domestic carbon markets can drive innovation and the search for better, cheaper faster ways of cutting global warming pollution. It is vital that the next round of negotiations continue this drive.

Also posted in Forestry, REDD, UN negotiations| 2 Responses

Deep into overtime, countries in Durban lay groundwork for future global climate agreement

Breaking the record for the longest UN climate negotiations ever, the two-week-long international climate talks in Durban, South Africa wrapped up early yesterday morning with the world taking a small, but essential, step toward a global agreement to curb climate change.

The UN climate conference went into a second day past its scheduled end at the Durban International Conference Center, but its resulting Durban Platform has produced a good first step toward a global climate agreement.

It had been a long night leading up to the conclusion: enthusiastic soccer fans had taken a break from the dragging negotiations late Saturday night at the conference center's cafe and bar, seemingly the home to the only television not tuned to the center's closed-circuit channels, to drink local Castle beer and watch Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Real Madrid; and by the end of the negotiations at dawn on Sunday morning, most attendees — including a number of the negotiators and ministers covering critical issues at the talks — had already left, a significant number of them to catch their flights home.

But applause rang loudly from the remaining countries and non-governmental organizations in the large Baobob plenary room when the president of the conference, South African Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, wrapped up the UN climate negotiations' 17th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-17) at 5 a.m. Sunday.  Having run into a second day — 35 hours after its supposed 6 p.m. Friday deadline — Durban's conference now holds the record for the UN's longest climate negotiations.

The Durban Platform

The "Durban Platform" reached by countries at COP-17 reflects the "first small but essential steps toward creating a new global agreement to curb climate change," Jennifer Haverkamp, director of EDF's international climate program, said in a statement.

For the first time all major emitting nations, including China and India, have agreed on the need to move forward – and to do so together.

The challenge is that we begin the talks from the lowest common denominator of every party’s aspirations. For this effort to be successful, countries need to be ambitious in their commitments and to refuse to use these negotiations as just another stalling tool.

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

The president of COP-17, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaking at the closing session of the UN climate conference early Sunday morning.

The conference also saw two big wins on individual policy issues:

  1. Finance: Accomplishing one of the highest priorities for this conference, countries agreed to start building infrastructure for the "Green Climate Fund,"  which is dedicated to helping developing countries address and adapt to climate change.  Now that the Fund has been launched, one of the highest priorities for countries is to find the public and private money to finance it.
  2. Avoiding deforestation: Countries included carbon markets as a possible funding source to pay for policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).  This represents a major achievement for countries, as markets are important in achieving the large-scale, sustainable funding needed to keep carbon-rich tropical forests alive.
However, the Durban Platform included a less-than-positive move in rules to measure emissions from land-use and forestry.  In EDF's closing statement, Jennifer Haverkamp explained:

An unfortunate development in the Durban talks was the finalization of rules for measuring emissions from forests in developed countries that may allow countries to increase their forest emissions without penalty by almost half a billion tons of emissions a year.

Some countries will be rewarded even if they increase emissions from forests, while others will receive massive windfalls for doing nothing.

Read more about the Durban outcomes in EDF's closing statement and Reuters' wrap-up analysis.  We will be posting our own further analysis on the Durban outcomes soon.
Also posted in Deforestation, Forestry, News, REDD, UN negotiations| 2 Responses

Durban finance debate down to the wire

With the caveat that nothing is certain in these climate conferences until the deal is done, it appears negotiators in Durban are poised to set up the structure for the much-debated Green Climate Fund that would help finance efforts of some developing countries to adapt to the impact climate change and curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

This is exciting, and it doesn’t mean that we expect to see large sums of money flowing into the fund this year: There’s nothing wrong with that – you can’t put money in a bank until there’s a bank in which to deposit it. It is encouraging that Germany and Denmark pledged small funds yesterday to capitalize the Fund. Hopefully that is the start to a series of further contributions from countries over the next year.

At this point countries are still fighting over what institution or country will host the fund and there’s a complicated process between approving a fund and getting it up and working.

Report of the Transition Committee

The Transition Committee created last year in Cancun has been working to set up the infrastructure and the rules governing creation of the fund.

After a year of meetings, no one is completely satisfied with the Transition Committee Report. That’s not surprising given the complexity of the issues involved. Even so, it appears the convention here has little desire to reopen the debate in its final hours and may allow some of the dissent to be addressed in a cover note to the report.

Once the report is accepted, delegates are expected to set a deadline for appointing the board to govern the fund and having its first meeting—likely by April 2012. When the board is in place, we should see the details of the governing institution take shape.

At this meeting, Parties may approve the formation of a working group on long term finance that would create a series of options for delegates to consider at next year’s climate conference in Qatar; we’re still waiting these details to unfold.

And the final issue that needs to be decided in Durban is where the fund will be housed—which institution or country will actually host the fund. For example the Food and Agriculture Organization is “hosted” by Italy and physically housed in Rome. As to be expected, many countries are lobbying vigorously for the job.

We end with the same caveat with which we started: There is still plenty of time left in Durban for this scenario to fall apart in the usual chaos and bickering of the final hours.  The report has something for everyone, and not everything for anyone.  But it appears the nuts and bolts for setting up the Green Climate Fund are ready for assembly.

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Durban: UN aviation agency touts green initiatives, but emissions reductions nowhere to be seen

EDF has a team here in Durban, South Africa for two weeks to participate in the UN climate summit. One of the issues we’re engaged on in the negotiations is reducing emissions from international aviation and maritime shipping.

With tens of thousands of people from around the world here to discuss a global response to climate change, the daily schedule is always packed full of official negotiations, large plenary meetings, and press conferences.

Each day also features a number of “side events” — events outside the official negotiations put on by any “observer” of the climate negotiations, including countries, UN agencies,  and non-governmental organizations (like EDF) — which serve as an important venue for information sharing, creative thinking, and open discussion on policy recommendations.

Earlier in the conference, I attended “Emissions from international transport – global actions for global industries,” a side event jointly hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN agencies for aviation and maritime shipping affairs, respectively.

For nearly fifteen years, member states of ICAO have been toiling over how to reduce carbon pollution from the aviation sector. To date, ICAO has yet to design or implement a measure to curb such emissions and shows no sign of progress in the near future.  (It’s worth noting that the UNFCCC negotiations on international transport don’t aim to create an emissions reduction mechanism. Rather, countries here in Durban are trying to agree on a decision that would encourage ICAO and IMO to hasten their work to reduce emissions from their respective sectors.)

Given this history, the side event at the climate negotiations was stunning: ICAO spent nearly all its 45 minute event lauding its recent initiatives to reduce emissions, calling them “miraculous.”

So what ICAO climate initiatives are worthy of such praise? None.

ICAO’s current efforts to reduce emissions from aviation amount to a do-nothing plan: global inspirational goals to improve fuel efficiency and achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020.

What exactly does this mean? It means:

  1. Neither countries nor carriers have any legal requirements to reduce their total emissions; and
  2. Aviation emissions can grow unfettered until 2020, at which point emissions could plateau if countries voluntarily take actions to mitigate emissions growth.

What's next?

Here at the climate negotiations in Durban, countries have the opportunity to send a clear message that ICAO must expedite a process to achieve net emissions reductions from the aviation sector. ICAO member states don’t get another decade to dillydally on the issue. They must act now.

Considering ICAO’s lack of progress in the past decade, it’s hard to believe that a clear signal from the UNFCCC will do much to catalyze progress in that forum.

But in the interim, as ICAO gets its act together, countries should continue to move ahead with national policies to reduce emissions from aviation. The European Union’s Aviation Directive provides a great model for such action—as of January 1, 2012 airlines using EU airports will be held accountable for their carbon pollution.

While the EU aviation directive will achieve emissions reduction in the near-term, and represents a positive step toward a global policy to reduce emissions from aviation, some countries—including the United States—and some airlines are trying to derail the EU law, decrying it as a “unilateral” measure, and “the wrong way to go about the right objective.” In fact, the U.S. is scheduled to raise its concerns with the EU in a bilateral meeting tomorrow in Washington, DC. EDF Attorney, Pamela Campos will be present at the negotiations, representing US NGOs. Stay tuned…

Also posted in Aviation| 2 Responses

REDD+ Durban: Countries agree on key issues

Going into the final days of the UN climate conference, countries have agreed on key issues on policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

The draft decision on how to evaluate and ensure environmental and social responsibility in curbing deforestation is expected to be approved in the final hours of the conference later this week.

The results of the draft decision written by a technical working group are mixed. (I’ve assigned them letter grades below).

1) Reference Levels (Grade: A-)

Reference levels are benchmarks of measuring forest-related emissions in tons of carbon dioxide per year. A robust reference level means that we can measure whether a country is reducing emissions and maintains environmental integrity.

EDF supported a clear separation between the setting of reference levels and the political questions relating to compensation, and that’s what has been approved. The compensation discussion will be a political negotiation that depends on commitments (caps) from developed and major emitting countries.

Countries may adjust their reference levels, but they'll have to justify each adjustment individually to the satisfaction of an expert review panel. This is an important safeguard that will promote environmental integrity.

2) Safeguards (Grade: B-)

The discussions centered on the type of information that needs to be submitted, as well as how frequently and to whom the information should be reported.

This is critical because it allows us to see if REDD+ national programs are being implemented with the consent of indigenous peoples and local communities, and if their rights are being respected.

At this point, a framework for the safeguard information systems was decided, but explicit guidelines on its content were not decided upon. However, there is the opportunity for the guidelines to be strengthened next year. In addition, outside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, many other groups such as the UN-REDD program, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, as well as Brazil’s national and state REDD program are making major strides in implementing such safeguard programs.

3) Monitoring, Reporting and Verification/ MRV (Grade: incomplete)

In the UNFCCC, there is an entire set of negotiations dealing with this issue. As a result, countries did not explore this issue in relation to forest-specific issues.

The decision calls for guidance from the overall MRV negotiations and for an expert meeting next year to discuss these issues in depth. Waiting for overall guidance is a prudent move and should not be seen as a negative outcome.

Financing for REDD+

In the coming days, countries will be focusing on how to finance REDD+ activities. The discussions on REDD+ finance, taking place in the negotiations on “Long-term Cooperative Action,” (LCA) began last week but made little progress, due to the focus on the technical issues.

Although the Cancun agreements tasked the LCA with “exploring” all financing sources — including markets –the current negotiating text simply calls for more exploration in the form of a technical paper and a workshop.  This is disappointing and many countries agreed that we can be more ambitious and this conference needs to put its seal of approval on the use of all financing sources.

The EDF team is making the case that in order for REDD+ programs to be created and sustained over many years, the UNFCCC needs to recognize that all sources of financing should be used to pay for REDD+. Public funding will never be enough and the gap in financing will have to be made up by the private sector. Stay tuned to see what happens!

Also posted in REDD| 4 Responses
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