EDF Talks Global Climate

The Cancún Agreements: what they mean, where issues now stand, and where they’re going (to Durban!)

Jennifer Haverkamp is EDF’s Managing Director for International Policy & Negotiations.

The deal U.N. climate negotiators reached last week in Cancún is modest, but the gathering’s dramatic conclusion does restore confidence in the U.N. process, which was limping badly after last year’s fiasco in Copenhagen.

Observers witnessed one of the most dramatic closing “plenary” sessions of the 16 years of negotiations yet, complete with rounds of standing ovations as the Mexican chair overrode Bolivia’s vocal objections and efforts to block adoption of the agreement.  But, seeing themselves as holding in their hands not just the fate of the U.N. climate process, but also the credibility of the multilateral system, 193 of the 194 countries united to adopt the “Cancún Agreements” and redefine what the climate convention’s “consensus” decision-making process means.

Unlike so many previous meetings, ministers and their negotiators vacated the Moon Palace beach resort with giddy relief and a renewed self-confidence in their ability to make progress in this particular forum.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks appear to have stumbled back on track.

The Cancún Agreements

Once the euphoria wears off, the Cancún Agreements will look much like the Copenhagen Accord brought in from its limbo, but with more elaboration, more institutions and committees, and a detailed work program for 2011 that will necessitate additional negotiating sessions.

The Agreements contain no new binding national pledges to cut carbon emissions, and no decision about whether to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to cut greenhouse gases whose first “commitment period” is set to end in 2012.  But the Agreements do include a commitment by rich nations to create a $100 billion Green Climate Fund to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.  And for the first time, the UNFCCC has put its seal of approval on a framework for reducing emissions from deforestation.

The Cancún deal was reached in significant part by kicking down the road the most difficult decisions, such as the fate of the Kyoto Protocol’s second round of commitments, and how to merge the Kyoto agreement with the parallel “LCA” negotiating track, where negotiations over obligations for the U.S. and major developing countries are lodged.

The Agreements are a package of decisions balanced across the main areas of negotiation, and include:

  • a reaffirmation of countries’ Copenhagen Accord commitments to curb their greenhouse gas emissions (also known as mitigation)
  • a legal structure for the reporting and monitoring of mitigation and finance commitments
  • a strong decision on emissions from deforestation (REDD+)
  • the creation of a Green Fund and attendant institutional arrangements
  • “centers and networks” to advance the transfer of clean technology
  • institutions to assist developing countries with adaptation

What Cancún means for 2011’s Durban talks

Despite these successes, the prospects for achieving an overarching, legally binding agreement by the next Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP-17) in Durban, South Africa are not materially brighter than before.

With Japan and Russia adamantly declaring they won’t re-up their Kyoto commitments beyond 2012 without the U.S., Brazil, South Africa, India and China on board with commitments, and with no prospect of U.S. legislation anytime soon, the building blocks for a deal are still elusive.

Moreover, the South African hosts have large shoes to fill: Cancún’s success is widely attributed to the diplomatic skills of Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Patricia Espinosa, and its Special Representative on Climate and U.N. Permanent Representative, Luis Alfonso de Alba, and to Mexico’s ability to run an inclusive, transparent confidence building process throughout the year.

The UNFCCC remains a forum worthy of countries and non-governmental organizations’ active engagement, but all involved need to take a long-term view of its prospects for reaching a comprehensive agreement and meanwhile continue to pursue opportunities to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in other forums.

Cancún outcomes: where policy issues stand now

On the first day of the talks, we shared a list of what we expected would be the most important issues to watch in Cancún.  It’s now clear that reducing emissions from deforestation and finance were big winners in the two-week conference, but each major policy saw some movement.

Here’s a breakdown of what happened with the main policy issues at COP-16 in Cancún, how our expectations fared, and what it means as countries turn their sights on COP-17 in Durban.

Avoiding Deforestation (REDD+)

In what Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared “undoubtedly one of the greatest outcomes of this conference”, the UNFCCC adopted a decision on deforestation and climate change.  Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) was seen by many as an area most likely to make some progress in Cancún if an overall agreement could be reached, but negotiators managed to exceed expectations, approving the key elements needed to make REDD+ a reality.

In a welcome move, negotiators agreed to all three proposed phases of REDD+: REDD+ readiness (phase 1), REDD+ implementation (phase 2), and results-based payment-for-performance (phase 3).  The agreement also includes a global goal for reducing emissions from deforestation, and allows for interim state-level REDD+ programs that have clear paths toward becoming national-level.

In the next year, countries will explore the options for financing all three phases and report back their findings in Durban.  To ensure REDD+ policies’ workability and durability, countries must use the sustainable and large-scale funding that carbon markets can generate, and heading out of Cancún, all but one country – Bolivia – agrees that markets should be explored.  The decision also instructs the technical advisory group to the Convention to decide on the monitoring, methods and safeguards needed to implement REDD+ in the next two years.

The basic framework that this decision creates will give countries and the private sector the needed guidance and certainty to make REDD+ a reality.  In a historic achievement, after five years of debate, the UNFCCC has put its seal of approval on REDD+.

Indigenous Peoples and REDD+

The role of stakeholders was strengthened through the REDD+ decision’s incorporation of social and environmental safeguards.  The decision includes transparency measures for protections for indigenous peoples, who are critically important to REDD+ policies because they are best-suited to monitor and protect their land from deforestation.

The Parties also agreed to tie financing for REDD+ activities to these environmental and social safeguards, meaning countries will have to show they are protecting forests and indigenous peoples in order to receive financing for their REDD+ projects and giving indigenous peoples more control over the financing of their development pathway.

The REDD+ decision also importantly includes a reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that could provide for annual reporting of social safeguards by countries to the UNFCCC, and should provide a safeguard framework from which to start REDD+ readiness work.


Finance has been and remains one of the lynchpins for a comprehensive global climate deal.  Cancún produced a good, balanced result, establishing a Green Climate Fund (GCF) while focusing more on institutional arrangements for finance than on by when and from where funds might come.  The GCF, a top-line demand of developing countries, will disburse funds devoted to climate mitigation and adaptation activities.

The funds are to be governed by a board of 24 members – with equal representation from developed and developing countries – and includes mechanisms that allow recourse to experts.  The structure also ingeniously addresses the concerns of the developing world; instead of using current and existing institutions for setting the guidelines and the delivery of long-term finances, the World Bank is deemed an interim trustee of the funds for the next three years and will manage and deliver the funds under direction from the Board with clear administration and accounting guidelines.  Under this process, Parties will have transparency and control of the process, and are ensured balance between financing activities for climate mitigation and adaptation.

For short-term finance issues, the Cancún Agreements reiterate developed countries’ commitments in the Copenhagen Accord to deliver on “fast-start finance” within three years, and include commitments to better reporting, balance among themes (e.g. adaptation, mitigation, forestry, and capacity building), and prioritization for the most vulnerable nations.

Now long-term finance will be the larger focus, though Parties postponed addressing sources of finance and commitments, instead taking note of the report of the U.N. Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Finance (AGF) and designating a Standing Committee for the Fund to mobilize resources for long-term financing.  This postpones – to Durban or beyond – a discussion of long term finance options, pending establishment of the Committee.

The AGF report clearly indicates there are multiple ways to reach the targeted $100 billion-per-year climate funding by 2020, including well-designed and transparent market mechanisms.  Governments must take the first step in providing financing, but ultimately the only truly scalable and sustainable source of finance is the private sector, responding to proper government incentives – which is why it was encouraging to see in the negotiating text language supportive of markets.

To ensure effectiveness and build confidence in the GCF, the global community must now guarantee transparency and accountability in how the funds are generated, allocated, and spent.

Shared Vision (Long-Term Targets) and Pledges

One of the most contentious issues in the negotiations, and a top priority for the United States, was giving the emission reduction pledges of last year’s Copenhagen Accord a more formal status under the U.N. climate agreement.  Because they spanned both developed and developing country commitments, and thus departed from the Kyoto Protocol’s stark division of responsibility, where and how this was done carried major baggage.  Ultimately, the Parties simply “took note of” the pledges, arguably little improvement over their taking note of the Copenhagen Accord.

The Parties did, however, agree on the need to take urgent action to meet the long-term goal of holding temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, a level above which the planet is expected to suffer serious irreversible impacts.  Notably, they also agreed on the need for “peaking emissions”, and to work in 2011 towards identifying a timeframe for when emissions at a global level should reach their peak and begin declining.  And, addressing a “must have” of the Small Island States, they agreed to a review and possible strengthening of the goal to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  Agreeing on an actual collective emissions reduction goal by 2050 was postponed until Durban.

Transparency & Accountability (MRV)

Thanks in large part to a compromise proposal from India’s Minister Ramesh, the U.S. and China were able to reach agreement on their biggest sticking point: transparency and accountability (known in the UNFCCC as monitoring, reporting, and verification, or MRV) for developed and developing countries’ mitigation actions and for the financing of developing country actions.

The agreement requires developed countries to enhance the reporting of their mitigation actions (including submitting annual emission inventories and reporting on their progress in achieving their emissions reductions), and also to improve the reporting of their financial, technological and capacity-building support to developing countries.  It requires developing countries to improve their reporting on emissions and actions, with their reports subject to domestic monitoring, reporting, and verification “in accordance with guidelines to be developed under the Convention”.  The reports will also be reviewed by independent technical experts.

The Parties also agreed on a workplan for enhancing the relevant guidelines.  These provisions are an important step toward national accountability, but what precisely goes into those guidelines, how they are applied, and how they are enforced remain crucial open questions that will have to be answered credibly if the UNFCCC is to support a viable global carbon market and ensure that countries deliver the emission reductions needed to avert dangerous climate change.

Land-Use and Forestry

Heading into Cancún, hopes were high that agreement could be reached on the accounting rules for emissions from changes in land use (like forestry), which are a prerequisite to setting targets for the Kyoto Parties’ second commitment period.  Parties in Cancún had the opportunity to reach consensus on robust rules with strong environmental integrity that would enhance accuracy, comparability, completeness, consistency, and transparency in land-use accounting – but they only managed a few baby steps toward this goal. ‪

Parties ultimately agreed to require developed countries to undertake a technical review of how they were constructing their chosen forest-accounting baselines (initial level of emissions), and agreed on a detailed set of guidelines for conducting such reviews with environmental integrity.  The technical review process was developed in response to developing countries’ (and non-governmental organizations’) concerns about potential loopholes and a lack of transparency.

These scientific reviews will ensure developed countries will be forthcoming about their data in a comparable and consistent way; their data will be reviewed by independent experts from around the world; and the review process will catch any problems.  The strength of this review process also creates a powerful disincentive for any Party that is considering a baseline that isn’t comparable, consistent, or as accurate as other Parties’.

All other questions were put off – including those that could have made progress toward delivering a complete package, like forest management baselines, and the accounting for harvested wood – with the intention of finalizing them by Durban, when Parties will also have the benefit of seeing the results of the technical reviews.  In the meantime, countries should focus on accomplishing a robust and timely review, and resolving these remaining elements of the package in a way that maintains the environmental integrity of the system.

Future of the Kyoto Protocol

The Parties punted on one of the most contentious issues facing them: the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.  In Cancún, developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol finally embraced a collective goal of reducing their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, though with caveats, and without agreeing to a second round of emission reduction commitments after 2012.  Both Japan and Russia had announced they would not sign up for post-2012 obligations without seeing the United States and major emerging economies take on obligations as well.

Instead of forcing the issue, parties agreed that discussions will continue in the coming year, with the goal of avoiding a gap between the first and second commitment periods.  Also postponed to Durban were decisions on how long the second commitment period should be.

International Shipping & Aviation (Bunker Fuels)

Negotiations on the international transport sector reached a deadlock in Cancún, with Parties unable to agree on even the opening language of negotiating text to address bunker fuels, nor any general framework for an agreement, nor a work plan for the coming year headed toward Durban.‪

As such, Parties missed their opportunity to send a clear signal to the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization – the U.N. agencies for international maritime shipping and aviation affairs which have accomplished next to nothing on climate over 16 years – that greenhouse gas emissions from international transport must be regulated immediately. ‪

There is clear disagreement in multilateral negotiations on international shipping and aviation, which makes it even more important for regions and states to continue moving forward in regulating the emissions from these sectors.  The international forums should push forward on the development and implementation of global sectoral measures to reduce emissions from international transport.  However, they must work in parallel with regional systems, whose right to regulate these sectors instead of waiting for uncertain and belated action from these bodies should be preserved.

Momentum as preparations for Durban begin

Even though Cancún’s talks just ended, the trek to Durban has begun – and there’s a lot to be done before COP-17 starts on Nov. 28, 2011.  We expect the Parties will schedule several additional sessions between now and then to start hammering out some details and move negotiations forward before reconvening in South Africa.

This year’s measured success, particularly with REDD+ and finance, offers an encouraging start for the coming year, but it’s up to countries to maintain the momentum – and for nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders to keep them headed toward the ambitious, durable outcome we so desperately need.

Many of our colleagues have also posted thoughtful analyses of the Cancún summit outcomes.  See, for example, posts by Harvard University’s Robert Stavins, World Resources Institute’s Jennifer Morgan, and Natural Resources Defense Councils’ Jake Schmidt.

**EDF’s international climate experts contributing to this blog post include Steve Schwartzman (REDD+, Indigenous Peoples); Gus Silva-Chávez (REDD+); Chris Meyer (Indigenous Peoples); Richie Ahuja (Finance); Gernot Wagner (Finance); Annie Petsonk (MRV, Future of Kyoto Protocol); Jason Funk (Land-Use and Forestry); Miriam Chaum (Land-Use and Forestry); and Jenny Cooper (International Shipping & Aviation).  You can read their updates from Cancún at http://blogs.edf.org/climatetalks/category/un-negotiations/cancun/.

Also posted in Deforestation, Forestry, Indigenous peoples, News, REDD+, UN negotiations / 2 Responses

Modest advances made at Cancún climate talks, forests and finance among winners

After talks in Cancún predictably went hours over their scheduled Friday-evening end, the United Nations climate conference approved, early this morning, a modest package of climate initiatives that includes preserving forests and creating an international green fund.

Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director of EDF’s international climate program, said the package of climate initiatives was “modest, but important”:

The U.N. has now put its seal of approval on compensating countries for protecting their forests.  And Mexico’s skillful leadership here has helped to rebuild confidence in the U.N.  process.

However, not all issues were decided in the Cancún talks.  To reach agreements, the conference postponed some of the toughest decisions, but pledged to make progress on them before next year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa.  Haverkamp said this morning’s outcome:

represents only a fraction of what’s needed.  Despite the best efforts by many countries, glaciers are still melting faster than this process is moving.

Key components of the Cancún Agreements

The package of initiatives agreed to this morning, referred to as the “Cancún Agreements”, includes provisions for:

  • Implementing key elements needed to compensate countries for protecting their forests under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).  The initiative includes environmental safeguards for preserving threatened forests and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. The conference agreed to allow state-level REDD+ programs for a limited time, with a clear goal of establishing nationwide programs.
  • Creating a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries find ways to reduce their emissions and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Transparency and accountability. The conference agreed to obligations and the development of guidelines for accurately accounting for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and for countries’ financing commitments.

This is part of a series from EDF’s experts, who are blogging regularly from the U.N. climate conference in Cancún on EDF’s Climate Talks blog.

Also posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, News, REDD+, UN negotiations / 1 Response

Brazilian state’s success in reducing deforestation a lesson in vision, persistence for Cancún talks

The sun and sea in Cancún can almost make you forget how difficult it is to get around the U.N. climate conference here.  Hotels, conference center and meeting venues are far from one another, conference bus routes change unexpectedly, traffic ebbs and flows.

The traffic was certainly a challenge last night as we headed to a resort hotel strangely reminiscent of resort hotels in Bali in the 2007 U.N. climate conference, and it was hard to get to our off-site venue.  So it was surprising to see the room slowly fill up for a conference “side-event” hosted by the government of the State of Acre, one of the poorest and most isolated — but also environmentally progressive — states in the Brazilian Amazon.

Signaling the strong interest in Acre’s state sustainable development program and new state System of Incentives for Ecosystem Services (SISA) law, in the audience were climate heavyweights including the Climate Change Director for Brazil’s Environment Ministry; the head of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national program to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD); the Environment Secretary for Campeche, Mexico; and France’s Special Ambassador for Climate Change.

What’s particularly impressive about Acre is the political stability it has achieved in the past dozen years, after a tumultuous past.  This is primarily due to the Workers’ Party (PT) winning the governor’s office in 1998, bringing to power the group of people who formed the social movement and stood off ranchers and their gunmen to protect the forest with legendary rubber tapper, union leader and environmentalist Chico Mendes.

Environment Secretary Eufran Amaral gave a detailed breakdown of what the state has achieved through the Workers’ Party’s three terms in government (and about to start a fourth).  The state has increased its GDP while decreasing deforestation, and has built the basis for a sustainable forest-based economy that includes:

  • environmental certification programs and incentives for family farmers
  • participatory land-use zoning
  • subsidies and tax incentives for forest protection
  • an ambitious state incentive program for ecosystem services (SISA), which was passed by the state legislature in October and creates the regulatory infrastructure to certify reductions in deforestation and issue marketable carbon credits

State consultant Dr. Gylvan Meira Filho (former head of Brazil’s Space Agency and vice-chair of the IPCC) explained in rigorous detail the state-of-the-art remote sensing analysis Acre is using to establish a baseline and control for leakage and permanence, with seamless, cross-scale coverage from individual properties to the whole state.

Virgilio Gibbon, economist with the prestigious Getúlio Vargas Foundation, addressed financial mechanisms for the state’s REDD and reforestation programs.

But it was Senator Marina Silva, former environment minister and green party candidate for president, who kept everyone in their seats until the end.  Listening to Marina talk, it’s not hard to understand how she got more than 19% of the vote – from nearly 20 million Brazilians – in the last presidential election, despite her being allotted one minute of TV time per day to campaign, compared to the half-hour allotted to her principal opponent.

I won’t try and capture the extensive landscape she covered, but in one of the more moving parts of her speech she recalled that back when Chico Mendes was alive, she thought nobody else in the world (except perhaps me) cared about what was happening in Acre or the social movement’s issues.  But with time she came to see that there were other people outside of Acre who shared their vision – that they were part of a planetary community of thought that is seeking the same ends, a sustainable and equitable future for the planet.

Like most all here in Cancún, Marina thinks industrialized countries need to take more responsibility for climate change.  It’s not, she said, only a question of emissions, but also of omissions (in particular, omissions in making real commitments to deal with the climate change crisis.)  If we reduce omissions, reducing emissions will follow.

Acre is a good example of what’s most needed here in Cancún, and in the world: vision, pragmatism and the conviction and persistence to make change even when it seems impossibly difficult and distant.

When Chico Mendes was murdered in 1988, almost no one thought the social movement would ever amount to much.  But ten years after he was killed, Chico Mendes came to power in Acre. Last night we heard a lot about how far the state got in the following ten years, and where it’s going now.

Last month, Acre and the Mexican state of Chiapas signed an agreement with California through which those states can define the criteria for allowing reduced deforestation to enter California’s carbon market.  This is a major step towards transforming living forests from a problem — and obstacle to development — into a solution for the peoples of the forest and for climate change, as Chico thought they needed to become.

But what’s needed above all in Cancún is to put good ideas into action – as Acre has done, and as Marina did in making Brazil a world leader in emissions reductions.  And while Chico’s home of Xapuri, Acre is a long way from California, I’m sure Chico was there on the stage with Governor Schwarzenegger at the signing of the agreement between their states, and here in Cancún, too.

This is part of a series from EDF’s experts, who are blogging regularly from the U.N. climate conference in Cancún on EDF’s Climate Talks blog.

Also posted in Deforestation, UN negotiations / 1 Response

Indigenous peoples march for rights in Cancún, not against reducing deforestation policies

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post mentioned the indigenous peoples’ march was not in rejection of carbon markets, however the press release issued by the group does have language rejecting carbon markets.  This post reflects the correct information, and we apologize for the error.

One of the more anticipated events at the U.N. climate conferences is the annual civil society protest-march held during the negotiations.  This year’s in Cancún has already received a lot of attention because of the anticipated larger-than-normal participation by indigenous peoples and rural groups.

There have been rumors for weeks now that this year’s march would be to protest policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

However, it was encouraging to see the press release from the official indigenous peoples caucus, which says, instead, the indigenous peoples are marching to request that a future global climate deal:

  1. Respect the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples contained in the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): UNDRIP is actually contained in the annex on safeguards for REDD+ implementation, so they already have this in place in a final agreement.
  2. Respect Their Right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC): Indigenous peoples want the right to say “no” to any REDD+ projects on their land.  FPIC is contained in UNDRIP, so it is technically already in a potential final agreement on REDD+.  However, indigenous peoples would like to see it explicitly included.
  3. Recognition and respect of indigenous peoples traditional knowledge and use of it as a solution for climate change: Indigenous peoples have been conserving the forest since the beginning, and they want some of their knowledge used and recognized.  In a sense, they are saying “Work with us when you are designing REDD+ programs because we can make them better.”  The potential REDD+ final agreement does already require “full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular, indigenous peoples and local communities” in REDD+ programs.

Indigenous peoples, who contribute crucial expertise and traditional knowledge about the forests and are the best-suited to monitor and protect the trees, must play a central role in REDD+. Above: an indigenous community learns how to estimate the amount of carbon is stored in the tree, which they will report for future REDD+ projects.

The Coordinating Organization for the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA), an indigenous peoples group who EDF works with, recently spoke about their organization’s REDD policy.  COICA is not for or against REDD+, but requests certain rights be recognized, such as right to land, resources and self-determination.  Once these rights are ensured, COICA believes, indigenous peoples can make a decision for themselves whether to participate in REDD+ projects or not.  EDF also believes these rights to land, resources and self-determination are the foundation for any REDD+ project or program to be successful.

Back at today’s march, sure there were groups participating with an anti-REDD+ message – but they are not the majority.  To place all indigenous peoples in the category of anti-REDD+ groups is a mistake, especially given the official statement from their caucus saying nothing of the sort.

There are a number of indigenous groups within – and outside – the U.N. climate negotiations, and we’re encouraged to see the focus of the official indigenous peoples’ march is not against REDD+, but instead for recognition of their own rights.

This is part of a series from EDF’s experts, who are blogging regularly from the U.N. climate conference in Cancún on EDF’s Climate Talks blog.

Also posted in Indigenous peoples, News, REDD+, UN negotiations / 8 Responses

Mexico City passes historic climate bill while U.N. climate talks remain sluggish

In another example of local governments taking leadership in combating climate change, Mexico City’s legislature overwhelmingly approved Thursday a climate bill that will regulate greenhouse gas emissions and establish a carbon market.

(photo credit & thanks to Flickr user Threthny)

Mexico's City's new climate bill will regulate greenhouse gas emissions and establish a carbon market in a city whose greater metropolitan area is home to 20 million people. (photo credit & thanks to Flickr user Threthny)

Mexico City’s move comes while Mexico hosts the sluggish U.N. climate negotiations currently underway in Cancun. While the bill’s regulations apply only to Mexico City, the greater metropolitan area’s 20 million people, roughly 20% of Mexico’s population, will likely benefit from the legislation.

Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director of EDF’s International Climate team, said the law’s passage is an historic achievement for the city:

While nearly 200 nations are struggling to move forward within the U.N. process, Mexico City is showing that state and local governments aren’t waiting on the U.N. to take real, concrete actions to reduce global warming pollution and protect their citizens from climate change.

This landmark legislation shows real leadership in curbing global climate change.  Let’s hope it inspires those gathered here on the Yucatan coast to follow their example.

Approved by 50 of the assembly’s 66 representatives, the bill was fast-tracked through the legislature for a vote in time for the U.N. climate conference.

The Law for Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change

  • establishes an inter-agency climate change commission for Mexico City
  • creates a climate change fund that will be used for mitigation and adaptation efforts
  • regulates greenhouse gas emissions
  • authorizes the city government to impose “green taxes” and create financial incentives for environmental benefits
  • creates a domestic carbon market in Mexico City, which will support the climate change fund, the city’s Program for Climate Action, and other activities included in the law

Mexico City’s law is another example of progress being made at the state and local government level in the absence of an international climate agreement. Last month, the Mexican state of Chiapas and the Brazilian state of Acre joined California in an historic achievement to curb climate change through reducing deforestation, agreeing to form a Working Group to promote efforts on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) at the state level.

Read more in EDF’s news release: EDF hails Mexico City’s passage of historic climate bill as major progress.

This is part of a series from EDF’s experts, who are blogging regularly from the U.N. climate conference in Cancún on EDF’s Climate Talks blog.

Also posted in News / 1 Response

Proposals on forest carbon may create more problems than they solve in Cancún talks

Jason Funk, Ph.D. is a Conservation Analyst and expert in forestry and land-use policy. He is writing from the U.N. climate negotiations in Cancún.

The tiny Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu and South Africa at the U.N. climate talks in Cancún this week proposed new forestry climate accounting schemes that would undo three years of tough negotiating to create fair rules for all forestry nations in the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

To be sure, the option that has been on the table for the past year, called “reference levels”, is a little convoluted. It allows Parties to estimate the amount of emissions future forestry-related activities would create, then measure the benefit of their efforts to reduce carbon emissions based on their expectations of what those emissions might have been.

Not exactly a system that inspires trust.

Tuvalu, South Africa proposals would undo recent progress, be too crude to work

But Tuvalu has proposed a plan that takes a step backward, when we need to move forward. Tuvalu would erase any progress made on key issues over the last two or more years: how to deal with catastrophic fires and pest outbreaks, how to account for wood products, and how to manage the ups and downs of harvest cycles in plantation forests. It took hours of deliberation to craft texts on these issues that could preserve environmental integrity while allowing Parties to get a handle on accounting for this sector.  The Tuvalu option would scrap this work and ask a technical group to start over from scratch.

The proposal from South Africa is problematic for a different reason: it partially accepts the reference levels approach, but asks Parties to average their reference levels with their recent forest emissions. The intention is to reduce the potential for gaming the system by tying the reference levels to a some real, quality-controlled data.  But the approach is too crude and arbitrary to work.  It would still allow countries that ARE gaming the system to earn the most rewards, while potentially punishing those that are doing a good job.  Furthermore, it doesn’t have a basis in science – it’s simply a political fix to try to limit the worst damage globally.   It doesn’t get the incentives right for individual countries.

Recommendations to improve forestry accounting

Time is short. The high-level ministers will negotiate this issue next week, and they want to reach a conclusion here in Cancún.  Clearly, the new proposals signal that the reference levels approach is still a problem, at least for a few countries.   If their comfort level doesn’t improve by next week, they could block a decision here, dragging these negotiations into next year.

So what can be done at this point?

If the proponents of the reference level approach want to see it move forward, they need to put pressure on the Annex I parties who are abusing its flexibility– namely, those who are including recent bioenergy mandates in their reference levels, which will lead to increased harvests of wood for fuel.  Also, some parties are selectively using advantageous reference years for their reference levels.

They should work for convergence on reference levels, by agreeing to revise them so that they are anchored in a historical average of net forest emissions of at least 10 years, to balance out random variations.

They could then use models to project the effects of past management on future forest conditions – a procedure that would deal with the fact that forests in many countries are aging and their growth is slowing down.

Most importantly, they should excise the effects of recent policies from their reference levels.   The best way to do this would be to have a policy cut-off date of 2005, the year the Kyoto Protocol came into force, instead of the current date of 2009.

These changes are technically achievable by all the Annex I parties, and they would give reassurance to their non-Annex I peers (as well as environmental NGOs).  The accounting changes would only impact a few hold-outs, who are using the current flexibility to their advantage.

Parties shouldn’t hesitate to put pressure on these hold-outs, because this is an agreement that affects us all.  We can’t afford to waste another year without progress on a climate agreement.

This is part of a series from EDF’s experts, who are blogging regularly from the U.N. climate conference in Cancún on EDF’s Climate Talks blog.

Also posted in Forestry, UN negotiations / Leave a comment