EDF Talks Global Climate

U.N. report that 2010 in top three hottest years on record foreshadows long term trend

This year, 2010, is almost certain to rank in the top three hottest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today at the U.N. climate negotiations in Cancún.  The WMO also announced that the last decade (2001-2010) is the warmest 10-year period ever recorded.

(photo credit & thanks to Flickr user perfectsnap)

But the record warmth is not surprising, according to EDF Scientist Lisa Moore:

This past year’s record warmth foreshadows the long term trend. On this, the science is very clear: we’re going to keep setting new records for decades to come.

If we want to minimize future warming, and eventually turn this trend around, we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.

EDF’s India Program Manager Richie Ahuja says the implications for the developing world are particularly troubling:

In the rural sector, for example, small-scale farmers who are already struggling to survive are in danger of sinking further into poverty as climate change wreaks havoc on crops and agricultural production.

So while the numbers released today are grim, the impact is magnified in the microclimates across the developing world with severe consequences.

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, UN negotiations / 1 Response

Brazil’s record-low 2010 deforestation more proof U.N. must act on avoiding deforestation

Brazil’s announcement of a record low in Amazon deforestation in the last year is tangible evidence of why negotiators at the U.N. climate conference in Cancún, Mexico can and should move forward on a global plan for preserving forests.

Brazil's deforestation hit a record low in 2010, due largely to successful policies -- including protecting indigenous lands -- being discussed now in the U.N. climate conference in Cancún. Above: deforestation in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

While the U.N. is mired in debate over what negotiating text they should use and whether policies for REDD+ (Reducing in Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) can really work, Brazil has already laid the groundwork for REDD+.

Brazil has slowed deforestation to a record low of about 6,000 square kilometers in 2010 – what amounts to a 14% drop from last year and a whopping 67 percent from the average rate between 1996 and 2005 – and has shown how REDD+ can work in practice.

Critical elements of Brazil’s effort include:

  1. improvements in enforcing laws
  2. using top-of-the-line satellite measurement systems
  3. large-scale creation of new parks and reserves, including extensive indigenous territories, in active agriculture frontiers

Brazil has also created a national baseline from which to start measurements (the average deforestation from 1996–2005), and is developing equitable ways of distributing benefits.

Cancún talks should look to Brazil’s success with avoiding deforestation

In Cancún, U.N. negotiators need to stop quibbling over text and take a closer look at how REDD+ can work in real life.  Brazil is leading the world in preserving its valuable forests, protecting its indigenous people and curbing carbon emissions.

The evidence is in: there is now peer-reviewed science that shows that Brazil’s creation of new protected areas the size of France – which include indigenous lands – contributed very substantially to its historic reductions in national deforestation.  Recognizing indigenous rights and protecting their territories is clearly central to stopping large-scale deforestation, and this is working in Brazil.

Brazil has also done an outstanding job ramping up law enforcement, and creating new protected areas, creating a real impact on reducing deforestation.

But to make these reductions sustainable over time, Brazil needs to create positive incentives for forest conservation — for indigenous and traditional communities and for small and large farmers.

That’s where REDD+, and the carbon markets it would create to help protect forests, can help Brazil and other forested nation on the globe.

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, REDD+, UN negotiations / Leave a comment

Indigenous peoples’ informed voices critical in Cancún

One of the biggest issues expected to be addressed in the U.N. climate summit that started Monday in Cancún, Mexico is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

REDD+ policies provide economic incentives for forest conservation by taking into account the amount of carbon trees store and putting a value on living forests and their ecosystems, but REDD+ also has an important human element to it.

A critical component of making REDD+ policies effective is engaging indigenous peoples who both rely on the rainforests for their survival and have valuable knowledge of the forest lands.  Their livelihoods and cultures are put at risk when forests are destroyed, so they have a great deal to gain from preserving their forests through the REDD+ approach.

Indigenous peoples’ involvement within U.N. climate process increasingly strong

Nearly 250 indigenous leaders from around the world, skilled at lobbying for areas of concern for them, are participating in the U.N. climate negotiations going on now in Cancún. (photo credit: Max Nepstad, WHRC)

Many indigenous leaders from around the world have recently become involved in the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, after years of being cut out of political decision-making processes here and in their home countries.

This year, nearly 250 indigenous leaders from around the world are participating in the negotiations in Cancún.

These indigenous leaders have, through their sustained efforts, become experts in many issues within the negotiations, and represent countries, their own indigenous organizations or other “civil society” organizations.  Through their intensive involvement in the negotiation process over the last few years, they have become very skilled at lobbying for areas of concern for them, such as the reference to the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples in the REDD+ negotiation text.

Indigenous leaders within the U.N. are effective representatives of indigenous issues

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of protests against large institutions like the U.N., but it’s important to remember that the official participation of indigenous peoples within the U.N. process is already making encouraging process.

In a paper by the Foundation for International and Environmental Law and Development earlier this year, Chair of the REDD negotiating group Tony La Vina wrote that when compared to other stakeholders in REDD+ negotiations, indigenous peoples were the most effective at lobbying for their issues (pg. 16).

Various indigenous leaders are now part of their governments’ official delegations and directly involved in formulating policy.   And while leaders who are on their countries’ official delegations do have to follow their government’s line of policy when speaking at the conference, they also have access to and are able to participate in meetings that are closed to civil society organizations.

Many indigenous leaders see the U.N. process as a positive step toward increased human rights through the processes at the national level that the U.N. and other REDD+ processes have delivered, and participation within the U.N. process is a positive step in the development of indigenous peoples’ dialogue with their governments.

EDF is working with indigenous leaders at the Cancún negotiations to ensure that REDD+ policies being negotiated increase both the protection of the human rights of the indigenous peoples who live in the rainforests and the conservation of the world’s forests.

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, REDD+, UN negotiations / Leave a comment

Cancún climate talks: policy issues to watch

EDF’s experts have been closely tracking policy issues at the United Nations climate talks in Cancún, where representatives from nearly 200 countries have come together for two weeks for the annual meeting of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In our opening statement and blog yesterday, we identified avoiding deforestation, increasing transparency and financing climate change mitigation activities as critical issues that the Cancun conference must address to move negotiations forward.

Our team has been following these policy issues and others, and below we highlight some background and recommendations for issues we expect will feature prominently in the negotiations. (Note: due to the nature and complexity of these policies, some of our explanations are more detailed than others.)

Cancún Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP-16)

Historically, the UNFCCC has served as the primary forum for developing consensus-based global agreements to address climate change.  Since last year’s meeting in Copenhagen, where countries fell short of agreeing to a comprehensive new treaty, the best way forward has not been clear.  Going into Cancún, there are encouraging signs that Parties are still invested in coming to an agreement within the U.N. process.

However, reaching consensus will take a long time, and, as Parties continue to work on this overall agreement in the UNFCCC forum, they fortunately are not waiting on an outcome from the U.N. before they start taking actions domestically.  Instead, a parallel process is emerging at countries’ national and sub-national levels, where countries and regions are developing their own paths forward to curbing climate change, including through bilateral and multilateral deals.

No binding treaty is expected to come out of Cancún, but countries can and should develop a work plan and timetable for the coming year leading up to 2011’s conference in South Africa and, if possible, agree on a balanced package of interim decisions in key areas.  Success in Cancún will be defined by enough continued momentum to both reenergize the U.N. negotiating process and put the world back on track to an eventual comprehensive approach to reducing global emissions and achieving climate safety.

Measurement, Reporting & Verification (MRV)

Transparency and accountability are critically important issues with respect to ensuring countries meet both their mitigation commitments and their financing commitments, and devising appropriate rules for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) is a central issue on the table in Cancún.  Experience indicates that nations often are willing to agree to more comprehensive mutual inspection and verification systems on a bilateral basis than they will agree to in a multilateral context.  We look forward to nations launching a process in Cancún to develop an MRV framework in the UNFCCC, while at the same time advancing the MRV issues through bilateral and regional approaches as well.


Key finance issues on the table in Cancún include developing an institutional structure for the Green Fund and mustering the political will to ramp up long-term financial commitments.  It is clear from the U.N. Advisory Group on Finance report that getting to the pledged $100b-per-year funding for climate mitigation activities is possible, but doing so will require serious political will and economic incentives.

The most fundamental such incentive is a price on carbon of around $20-25 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions in key emitters by 2020. Strong policies such as energy efficiency standards are equally important to bend the greenhouse gas trajectory. Policy makers must step up to the plate now.

Direct public finance will be necessary to catalyze private finance. Regardless of the source, there must be transparency and accountability in how the funds are generated, allocated, and spent.  Ultimately the only truly scalable and sustainable source of finance is the private sector, yet governments must take the first step.

Parties also must come to an agreement on institutional structure, which must be transparent, accountable, and efficient, and a framework for action to establish it.

Avoiding Deforestation (REDD+)

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is one of the policy areas in the UNFCCC negotiating texts with the least amount of language still is bracketed (meaning still under discussion), and is among the areas most likely to see progress in Cancún – if countries have the political will to do so.

As written, the REDD+ policy will be implemented in three stages; in Cancún, Parties should agree to a decision on the widely supported first two phases of REDD+, including REDD+ readiness (phase 1) and – if some issues are overcome – REDD+ implementation (phase 2).  REDD+’s 3rd phase, which includes more contentious issues like establishing a market for REDD+ credits and which allows “sub-national accounting”, can be finalized in next year’s meeting in South Africa.

A major consideration in developing REDD+ policies is the role of indigenous peoples, who are the best-suited to monitor and protect their land from deforestation.  Many indigenous peoples support REDD+ activities that protect their rights to their land and resources, and seek recognition of the principles from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The indigenous peoples caucus in the UNFCCC also wants the funds generated from their conservation roles in REDD+ policies to be used to finance a development pathway that they control.

The REDD+ language under consideration could be improved if it strengthened protections for indigenous people, increased the role of stakeholders in negotiating processes, and provided greater clarity on technical issues, such as how a country can set up its baseline (initial level of emissions) and basic elements needed for its national action plan to implement REDD+.  However, if Parties in Cancún can agree on the first two phases of REDD+ and maintain or strengthen the policy’s current language, a strong REDD+ final package should be attainable next year in South Africa.

Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF)

Accounting rules for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) activities should be decided before countries set their emissions reductions targets.  In Cancún, Parties have the opportunity to reach consensus on robust rules with strong environmental integrity that will enhance accuracy, comparability, completeness, consistency, and transparency in the accounting.

Parties need to take the important step of making accounting for forest management activities mandatory for all Parties.  The accounting rules for forest management should reward countries who put in place better management practices, and should penalize Parties who do not.  To achieve this, the process for constructing baselines needs to place stricter limitations on the policies and measures that may be included in the reference level by limiting them to 2005 at the latest.  A cut-off date of 2005 will allow Parties to properly reward additional activities undertaken since the Kyoto Protocol came into force and will prevent perverse incentives for recent and planned increases in emissions.  This step should be coupled with a stronger review process for the baselines, to make it more transparent, consistent, and accurate.

To increase transparency in the review process, party submissions and reviewers’ comments should be made available to stakeholders so that stakeholders are able to evaluate and respond.  To improve consistency, Parties should work to standardize their expectations about global factors that affect forest management decisions.  To improve accuracy, the teams who perform the reviews should be explicitly authorized to recommend potential solutions to any problems identified in the data and methodologies, in the same way review teams are currently enabled under the Kyoto Protocol.  These steps will help establish strong incentives for better forest management practices.

Beyond forests, Parties should also make progress toward expanding accounting to include more land management activities, such as cropland and wetland management.  One step in this direction would be to adopt a broader definition of “wetland management” – one that includes changes to hydrology, ecology, and water chemistry.  Including these land management activities in the accounting and defining “wetland management” will both make accounting for land use more accurate and provide incentives for better management of these.

Kyoto Protocol

Parties in Cancún should continue to strengthen and increase emissions reductions commitments in the Kyoto Protocol framework to establish a strong U.N. backbone for “bottom-up” regional and state-level actions and a robust carbon market.

While the first commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol is scheduled to end in 2012, the framework, including its mechanisms and accounting system, should continue to exist after 2012.  In the event that there is no second commitment period (2013-2020 or 2013-2018) agreed, national-level surplus carbon allowances that are in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol should remain valid after 2012, which will help meet expectations from countries when they enter an international agreement.  Even if no second period is agreed on, to prepare for future commitments Parties should agree to a decision that extends the functioning of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation mechanisms after 2013.

In the long term, if the Parties succeed in devising a comprehensive new agreement, key elements of the Kyoto Protocol architecture – including its accounting system, carbon market, and compliance regulations – should become part of any new global climate agreement.  In the transition to such a new agreement, the Kyoto Protocol can play an important role in areas such as strengthening commitments of Kyoto Protocol Parties and strengthening rules for forestry and land-use policy.

International Shipping & Aviation (Bunkers)

Parties in Cancún need to send a clear message that greenhouse gas emissions from international transport must be regulated immediately.  For nearly two decades, countries party to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — the U.N. agencies for international maritime shipping and aviation affairs — have made minimal progress in devising global, sectoral policies to regulate bunker fuels, the fuel that powers the engines in ships or aircraft.  To catalyze progress in these agencies, Parties in Cancún must reach a decision on bunker fuels that encourages IMO and ICAO to continue working toward global measures to reduce emissions from their respective sectors, while respecting the legal authority of regions and nations to regulate greenhouse gas emissions on their own.

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, Forestry, Indigenous peoples, REDD+, UN negotiations / Leave a comment

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.

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

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.

Also posted in Deforestation, News, REDD+ / 3 Responses