Friday, December 18, 2009
The leaders held talks late into the night that President Lula from Brazil described as an experience that leaders shouldn't be subjected to. He expressed his frustration and said an Angel needed to descend to give them the intelligence that they are missing.
It was one of a series of speeches given by leaders to try to breathe some momentum back into the process. But Lula was followed by what must be the worst speech of Obama's life. It lacked ambition and broadcast a willingness to move from their current inadequate position.
The focus now is on agreeing to a three-page political declaration; the legal texts that have been worked on for the past two years apparently tossed aside, or at least to the side. It's not clear what if any status they will have.
The declaration has an appropriate long-term global emission reduction target (50% by 2050) but developed countries' short-term emission reduction target by 2020 (from 1990 levels) is X.
The meaning of X will largely determine whether this conference is a success or a failure.
The casting aside of the legal texts means that the rules for forestry emissions accounting will not be settled here. There will be no decision to make forests count in Copenhagen, not in developed countries anyway. On the positive side, this means that we have more time to get the loopholes out. Climate Action Network proposed a very reasonable basis for accounting here - account for all changes in emissions from a historical level, defined as the average level of emissions from 1990 - 2007.
The current forestry accounting rules have a shelf-life. They must be replaced or reaffirmed for the second commitment period. So it is reasonable to assume that we will pick up where we left off next year...
...and there is good news too: many people have stepped up to make forests count:
Thursday, December 17, 2009
350 is the key climate change number - the maximum global atmospheric concentration that the planet can sustain without catastrophic effects from global warming.
The number of today and tomorrow is 300. This is the number of the 17,000 or so observers that were accredited to attend the Copenhagen conference that are allowed to come into the conference today and tomorrow. They were here to bear witness to this effort, bringing honesty, transparency and ambition to this crucial enterprise. The number of environmentalists is 54. The number of Canadian environmentalists is 3.
I am privileged to be among this small number, but am not comfortable with it with so many others excluded.
I was chosen by the International Climate Action Network to be one of the few that still gets access to this globally important conference because I chair its working group on forestry and land use. I see my job in the next couple of days to deliver a strong outcome not only for the forests and the millions that care about this issue, but also for the hundreds of forest campaigners and thousands of climate campaigners who are being explicitly denied access to this same opportunity.
However, the extent of my possible influence is unclear. Negotiators sit in a closed door meeting right now trying to resolve issues that have been unresolved for years. In a way I feel we've exerted most of our influence already - by bringing international public attention to the logging loophole that most developed countries brought to the table here.
Hopefully I've created a space for a better outcome. And I will look for any opportunity to use my presence here to do more.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In preparation for the liklihood that Ministers will have to take over, the Climate Action Network has prepared these high-level lobby points:
URGENT HIGH-LEVEL LOBBY POINTS ON LULUCF
1. To facilitate conclusion of LULUCF negotiations, Option B should be removed from the draft KP text (comprehensive accounting).
2. Overall targets will be undermined if Parties are allowed to 'reconsider' the accounting rules or reference levels after agreement in Copenhagen; only changes to increase certainty and accuracy should be allowed (pg. 19 LULUCF para 11 quater);
3. The forest management reference levels proposed by Parties must be replaced with reference levels based on historical data (an annual average value based on 1990-2007); a historical reference level accounts for actual changes in emissions rather than excusing increased or emissions from business-as-usual forest management (pg. 18-19; Option 2 (reference levels) para 11 and footnote and Appendix ("Option 2, paragraphs 11-11bis);
4. Accounting for forest management must be mandatory. (17-18; LULUCF para 6, 6bis);
5. Stronger environmental safeguards are needed if emissions from natural disturbances will be excluded from accounting, including the use of the highest standard of data and methodologies; this standard should also apply to all of accounting for land use, land-use change and forestry; [There was text in a previous decision that was deleted (proposed by Australia): "Robust estimation methods [will] be used to ensure confidence in the emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry. Parties should be transitioning toward higher level (tier 2 and tier 3) accounting methodologies."]
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The logging loopholes being proposed in Copenhagen have been getting media coverage around the World: New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Austria, Germany, the U.S.
They've been getting a lot of attention here to, with France trying to shut it tight within the EU and the block of developing countries proposing a limit on forest credits to address the appalling lack of transparency in the numbers developed countries have put forward.
Yesterday, the Climate Action Network released a simple, objective, transparent plan for closing the loopholes: account for all changes in emissions in the future based on the average emissions level from 1990 - 2007 - the total period for which we have historical data. It's so simple it's boring!
This graph for New Zealand depicts the problem quite well. The black line shows New Zeeland’s' emissions from forest management over time. The dotted grey line shows our suggested baseline, based on this data. The upper dotted line shows their forecast emissions in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and also their proposed reference level. This means New Zealand would be allowed to increase its logging emissions by 188% and not account for this at all!!
So...what's the state of play? We don't know. The Ministers are here, but the draft agreement on forestry and land use is not nearly ready for them. We believe that the technical negotiators will meet tonight (over night?), probably locked in a room until they can agree to something.
Will it be a calculated deal that fails the climate? Or a framework with environmental integrity?
Saturday, December 12, 2009
But this does result in the opportunity to talk to delegates. I spoke to a number of government delegates today to get their sense of where things are going. And we (the ENGOs) are working on ideas to turn things around next week.
We did hear that the issue of the logging loophole was not specifically discussed at the EU summit yesterday; it was deemed to be too complicated and too late to put on the agenda. But France's position remains clear and they continue to forge ahead.
Their position of using a historical baseline to account for emissions from forest management for all of the EU is right in line with the demands of the environmental community. Watch for an update to the Make Forests Count Scorecard (Henschel Rating)!
- you will see France break apart from the EU's thumbs down!
Tomorrow is a day of rest for the negotiations, but of course the enviros take the whole day to plan their strategy! No rest for the green!!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In a very bold environmental move, the French climate Ambassador Brice Lalonde served notice to the rest of the European Union that it would be opposing the EU's current position in support of a logging loophole in the Copenhagen Climate Agreement that would allow countries to hide increased emissions from logging, thereby weakening their targets.
France's proposal is for the EU to agree to collectively account for all changes in emissions in its forests since 1990 - the year for which all other sectors are measured. The EU member states that have argued this would result in too many emissions on their books would be helped by sharing the 'burden' of these impacts across all EU countries. France has specifically stepped up to shoulder some of the burden from emissions in other countries.
France made the proposal formally tonight at an EU heads of state meeting in Brussels. If France succeeds in turning the EU's position, it would be a *huge* boost to making forests count in the Copenhagen climate agreement and remove one of the irritant loopholes that undermine real action on climate change.
I had the pleasure to sit in the conference room of the French delegation's office while Ambassador Lalonde made the statement to the press. It was very exciting because, as a colleague put it, "This is a really green move by France in an area usually filled with unrelenting cheating and gloom." This really was the most positive development in the last three years on this issue. I was even moved to congratulate the Ambassador in a French that I can only assume was considered cute rather than convincing.
The move earned France the Ray of the Day award, a new award started by the Climate Action Network at the Copenhagen Climate Conference to honour truly exceptional acts of green that push the negotiations forward.
Here's a story from AFP.
The Logging Loophole: Developed countries want to be able to increase their logging emissions and not account for it. This weakens their overall emission reduction target - whatever countries say their targets are, they will actually be smaller because they are hiding these logging emissions from the accounts. A team of analysists working with me within the Working Group of the Climate Action Network estimate that this loophole is about the size of the total emission reduction targets of the current Kyoto Protocol! It's big (so are logging trucks)!
I've used the Henschel Rating (Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down) to assess proposals from developed countries on accounting for emissions from forest management. Unfortunately the assessment is: a logging loophole for almost everyone!
Only Switzerland received a passing grade. Thumbs down for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Japan, Russia, and the EU.
Who else will step up to make forests count?!?
CPAWS Press Release: Developed countries cheating on their targets to reduce forest emissions, according to score card results
Summary of Country submissions
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The issue exploded when the European Union surprised everyone with the submission on forest management. They spurned the idea of accounting for actual changes in emissions from a historical level. People expect more of these climate change leaders.
Sweden, Finland and Austria have taken much of the heat so far because they are perceived to be the driving forces behind the bad position. But other countries like Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan are being very bad too.
Whether or not this gets snatched from the coals of the fire depends almost entirely on the political pressure gets applied in the next couple of days.
Stay posted for updates and analysis.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I arrived in Copenhagen yesterday. Although my Danish friends tell me that Denmark is no angel on the climate file, it felt like flying into a climate fairytale land - windmills everywhere as the plane descended - even in the Sea! And there are very ordinary-looking people riding very ordinary-looking bikes everywhere (biking is a mode of transportation here, not a sport or an adventure challenge); and lots of cargo bikes too (often with kids in the wagons)!
I went to an all-day strategy session of the international Climate Action Network (CAN-I) today and was impressed as always by the large number and diversity of environmentalitsts working together from all around the World to get a Fair, Ambitions and Binding (FAB) outcome here.
On the forest file, I have set up an expert analysis team to look at the proposals from developed countries on how they will account (or not) for changes in emissions from logging forests - the ultimate question of whether forests will count in this deal.
Stay tuned for the outcome of this analysis...doesn't look good!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
These reference levels will fundamentally determine whether industrialized countries are held accountable for changes in emissions from logging.
Check back here for an assessment of these reference levels.
My initial assessment is that leadership and environmental integrity is largely lacking and that real emissions from logging will be hidden in many of these reference levels.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The following is a guest blog post from Jamie Simpson, Ecology Action Centre
Forest biomass is being touted as a renewable and green energy source in Nova Scotia. It's also being championed by some as a way to help meet the province's renewable energy target of 25% by 2015.
But how green is it? I recently toured a biomass harvest carried out by Northern Pulp in central Nova Scotia. It was the worst 'harvesting' I've seen in my time as a forester, and a blatant transgression of the NS Watercourse and Wildlife Habitat Protection Regulations. Is this the future of "green" energy in Nova Scotia?
I have posted photos of the harvest site so you can see for yourself.
Northern Pulp is an affiliate of Atlas Holdings LLC and Blue Wolf Capital Management LLC. (Atlas Holdings LLC • One Sound Shore Drive, Suite 203 • Greenwich, CT, USA 06830; Phone: (203) 622-9138 • Fax: (203) 622-0151). The Chief Operating Officer for Northern Pulp is Mr. Wayne Gosse, tel: 902 752 9167. On March 26th, 2009, the NS Government loaned Northern Pulp $15 million, and called it a good investment.
Northern Pulp has a license to 80,000 hectares of Nova Scotia's Crown land, and has an agreement to manage Neenah Paper's 195,000 hectares of private land. The harvest in these photos was carried out on Neenah's private land.
This operation by Northern Pulp is certified as "green" by SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative). The 2008 SFI audit report stated that "The audit found that Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation’s SFM system: (1) was in full conformance with the requirements of the ISO 14001 and SFI standards included within the scope of the audit, except where noted otherwise in this report...". The minor issues the audit team had with Northern Pulp had nothing to do with poor harvesting practices. The report does note, however, that "Northern Pulp has significantly increased the amount of on-site chipping that it undertakes."
Please feel free to pass these photos on; they are an embarrassment to Nova Scotia, but need to be widely seen.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The environmental community is challenging developed countries to make forests count in Copenhagen. I brought a Make Forests Count pledge to the recent UN Climate Talks in Barcelona. I approached many delegates from developed countries asking to put their name to this statement:
"I support environmental integrity in Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) accounting and believe that industrialized countries need to show leadership to make this happen. In particular, I support the use of a historical reference level to measure actual changes in emissions/removals from forest management."
The countries I approached were, in no particular order: Portugal, UK, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Ireland, France, USA, Norway. Although some countries expressed their sympathy with the cause, only one county's delegates would stick their necks out and sign the pledge: France.
Starting this Friday, everyone will have to come clean. Developed countries have been asked to bring their proposed reference levels forward for negotiation by November 27. Although many countries probably won't make the deadline, you will be able to see them start to trickle in on this day. They will be posted on the UN Climate Change Secretariat's webpage on LULUCF.
Which countries will make forests count by proposing a historical reference level that would measure actual changes in emissions? Which countries will inflate their reference levels to cover up plans to increase forest harvest and emissions? Which countries will try to sweep emissions from logging in primary forests under the rug by seeking to avoid accountability for 'business as usual practices? We should know in about a week's time.
Watch here for updates.
Monday, November 9, 2009
The UN Barcelona Climate Talks have changed the whole game of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) for the worse - in particular the rules on whether and how developed countries will have to account for emissions from forest management.
The session started with a draft text from Bangkok that is very far from agreement. I think it is fair to say that there are four major areas that are most central to a new set of rules:
- The basic form of accounting: it seems almost certain now to be going towards the use of some kind of reference level to measure changes in emissions - this is one of the two biggest issues: how do you set the reference level?
- A limit on the amount of credits (from reducing emissions / increasing removals) that can be used towards meeting a country's national target - this is the other big issue;
- Whether and how emissions from natural disturbances can be excluded from accounting - this is a prerequisite to several countries agreeing to account for forest management, principally Canada, Australia, and Russia;
- Whether 'activities' such as 'forest management,' 'deforestation,' and 'cropland management' remain the basis for accounting or whether there is a switch to account for emissions/removals from all managed lands - this is seen as all as the proper goal of accounting but seems to still be largely on the table at this point as a negotiating tool (most believe it is too early to make this transition due to data limitations);
The details can be found on page 9 of the new draft text (paragraph 11). Whether the reference level is based on just historical data, or also on a suite of other considerations (including 'projected forest management activities,' which everyone understands can mean an increase in harvest levels). Also an option is creating a big 'band' of non-accounting where countries can hide emissions (paragraph 11 ter). Also an option is jigging the reference level so it delivers the same amount of credits as the existing rules, which all regard as flawed. It's a mess.
The bigger mess is still to come in Copenhagen when every developed country brings a reference level based on any combination of these considerations, using different methodologies and providing whatever data they like to support them. The negotiation has now deteriorated from a discussion of principles to a haggling over opaque numbers.
Step two of this process will likely be negotiating country-specific limits to accompany each reference level. The talk from both developed and developing countries seems to be converging on the idea that developed countries tell the world how many credits they hope to get from forest management and get capped there - that way there are no surprises.
Let me translate that for you in a scary way: Each developed country tells you what its baseline will be; and each developed country tells you how many credits it's going to get. You should see that defining both of these things makes whatever outcome you desire a certainty. No debits and credits for everyone!! The fears of developing countries are assuaged because they know exactly what to expect and can adjust their demands for overall reduction targets accordingly.
...but environmental integrity in accounting for emissions from forest management will have been lost.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
This is a major failing of the process and of the developed countries that should have been showing leadership. The current draft rules for setting reference levels include several loopholes tailored to the national circumstances of many developed countries and designed to allow the hiding of emissions.
Rather than fixing the text, the UN process has now invited the same Parties to use any of these loopholes they like. As a result, we will have to try to win environmental integrity through a dissection and fight over the reference levels of over 30 countries.
Unless things change quickly tomorrow, our hopes for a system with environmental integrity will lie in a staggering analytical capacity, hard campaigning, and deft negotiating from developing countries to push the genie back into the bottle in Copenhagen after seeing the numbers and strike a deal for a system with integrity.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I replied, "So, if you're not a forester, doesn't it seem strange to you that the rules have to be designed to ensure there is no negative impact on the forest sector for cutting trees? Why should the forest sector be the only one who should choose whether or not to reduce emissions rather than be forced to?"
The answer was telling and was something that I have often lamented: it's a structural problem resulting from the special status that this sector has - from the beginning it was an add-on with its own set of rules. What that has meant in practice is most decision-makers don't get it or try to, so it is delegated to the technical experts. What do you expect to happen when you ask a bunch of foresters to come up with rules for the forest sector? Or as this person put it, "If you stick a bunch of people in the corner of the room to talk to each other they will come up with funny ideas."
The ideas in this case are shameful: a set of draft rules that openly excuses all responsibility for emissions. Of all other sectors in this process we are demanding transformative change. In the forest sector we are demanding nothing. In fact we are doing worse than this - we are telling countries that if they like they can make things worse.
We are demanding emission reductions of 40% or more from industrialized countries. What are we demanding of the forest sectors in these countries? At most we are asking them to continue business-as-usual. If they do better we give them credits.
The only hope at this point is that developing countries negotiate hard on this. They are currently asking for the same thing we are: accountability for changes in emissions from 1990. I'm hoping we will see a new statement from them in the next couple of days.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I spent the day with pledges in the inside pocket of my suit, ever ready to take the name and signature of a country representative that was ready to commit to making forests count: agree that we should account for actual changes in emissions resulting from logging. Coming across people willing to commit to this idea was the exception, finding people to explain their preferred method for avoiding this full accounting was the norm.
I contributed to an article (LULUCF Follies)in the Climate Action Network's daily newsletter, ECO, describing the cancer that is taking over the negotiations; here's an excerpt: "It’s a little hard to believe, but the positions taken by many Annex 1 negotiators [industrialized countries] effectively define their preferred management choices as carbon-neutral, regardless of what emissions actually are. In this fantasy world, you incur no debits for a ‘business-as-usual’ policy of cutting forests at age 50 even if most of the national forest estate is now 49 years old and you’re about to cut it all down. Nor do you receive debits for stepping up forest harvest to produce bioenergy. But the atmosphere sees increased emissions from both these changes!”
I'm not sure what is more troubling: the number of these alarming proposals or the number of people that don't seem alarmed by them. One negotiator observed that this is perfectly okay as long as you set the national emission reduction target with the knowledge that you are excluding these emissions. Another hopefully offered that I should consider which of the many proposed loopholes being brought forward is the smallest, and side with that one.
With champions from industrialized countries increasingly hard to find, could it be that the developing world could save the day here? They are now engaging in negotiations and presenting a concern for environmental integrity and there is certainly a limit to their patience for the indulgences of industrialized countries. But where will that limit be found? It seems likely that a Barcelona outcome will be the presentation of a choice to be made in Copenhagen at the political level.
...that is if there is an outcome from Barcelona on forests: today's talks were cancelled because the Africa Group has apparently said that it would boycott all further sessions until progress is made on an emission reduction target for industrialized countries.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Earlier this week the EU Council met to define its position for the Copenhagen Climate Talks. Bad news. Those hoping that the EU could still be a progressive voice on this issue have to redouble their efforts. The EU has decided it must be conscious that some countries may need flexibility in determining the baseline against which emissions in the commitment period will be determined - translation: the EU is opening the door for countries who want to increase their emissions but erase them from the books through creative accounting.
The offending text is pasted below:
33. RECOGNIZES that future accounting rules for forest management should provide an adequate balance between further incentives for sequestration, for use of wood products and for biomass energy; STRESSES the need for future accounting rules to secure that the environmental integrity of a Copenhagen agreement is preserved; ACKNOWLEDGES that there are still difficulties associated with methodologies for measuring and predicting LULUCF GHG flows with a high degree of accuracy; WELCOMES further discussions with other Parties on accounting rules for forest management where the EU is open to discuss schemes based on the use of a reference level (bar), which includes an environmentally robust interval (band) while being CONSCIOUS that national circumstances, such as age class legacy effects, may require some flexibility for countries regarding the choice of reference level including allowing for historic data or robust and transparent projections open to independent review and verification; the use of gross-net accounting with a discount could also be considered in these discussions; CONSIDERS that accounting rules need to deal with emissions and removals associated with extreme events (force majeure) to reduce the risk that Parties cannot comply with their mitigation objectives because of such events. CONSIDERS that subject to such flexibility being provided for, accounting for forest management should become mandatory for all Parties taking on quantified commitments in a Copenhagen agreement.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
It's not pretty.
On the main issue of how to measure performance, the text is still overflowing with the pet loopholes of each country, engineered to erase any emissions that the atmosphere sees from logging.
It appears that there are special LULUCF glasses that negotiators wear to make this distorted stuff seem reasonable. Here is an example of the kind of things you hear in the hallways to rationalize it:
- But if we account for the emissions from logging, there will be no incentive for bioenergy (because countries like to falsely assume that it is carbon neutral);
- We shouldn't account for emissions from logging because we do sustainable forest management (and that's relevant how?)!;
- We can't account for changes in emissions because we plan on increasing logging levels!;\
- Developed countries have mostly agreed how they would account for carbon stored in wood products. I've never felt this was a good idea, but the text does have some reasonable safeguards in it - but not yet good enough!
- Australia, the EU and Canada have come up with a combined proposal for how to remove emissions from fires and other natural disturbances from the accounts. They are still in disagreement about whether to exclude all emissions or only the biggest, extraordinary events -- significantly there is still a huge loophole in this idea: there is no accountability for countries if they salvage log these areas - a significant extra source of emissions!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
After nearly two years of developed countries discussing different options for rule changes for this sector, and not getting much farther than more clearly articulating the options that suit each country best, G77 and China said enough is enough and drew a line in the sand:
- Negotiations on this must be done by Barcelona (the next session in November);
- All accounting should be mandatory;
- All developed countries should use the same simple rules to account for forest; management: compare emissions in the commitment period with emissions in 1990;
- Put a cap on credits from the entire sector (cropland management, grazing land management, revegetation, forest management, afforestation, reforestation, deforestation);
If I were to change the proposal I'd say that a base period could be used, rather than a hard base year that could create strange and unfair results due to the annual variability in the forest management sector. I'd also try to do something to fix the problem of extraordinary natural disturbances that create a compliance risk for countries. But all in all, this statement was exactly what the negotiations needed!
You can check out my live tweets as the meeting unfolded by following biocarbonman on twitter!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The biggest and most troubling news is that they are compiling a new option on how to account for changes in forest management emissions. From what I hear it sounds like all the loopholes any country could want cooked up into a couple of paragraphs. It will be interesting to see how China and other developing countries respond to this game.
You can read an article I wrote about one of these loopholes in Climate Action Network's ECO Newsletter yesterday; it's called Show Us the Emissions!
You can also watch today's media conference by CAN. From 10:10 - 15:50, Jeff Fiedler of The Nature Conservancy talks about this issue as well.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Parties continue behind closed doors to come up with the next version. We've been hearing that there is convergence around a number of the key issues but the most important question remains: what are the baselines against which performance is judged. Some developed countries are still trying to create what I think amounts to a meaningless accounting framework: they will tell the world what they expect their emissions to be from forest management in the future and only be punished if they perform worse than this. Countries should take responsibility for any increase in emissions from past levels. What is this whole process about if not about reducing emissions from the past?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
We just had a briefing with the Chair and vice-Chair of the negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol and the co-chairs of the negotiations on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).
The formal work on LULUCF is focusing on two tasks:
- Trying to reduce the number of options in the draft text of the agreement on accounting rules;
- Countries are presenting forest data to explain their national circumstances and why they are interested in the options they are supporting.
The big problem for those trying to observe and hold this process accountable is that ALL of these negotiations are being held behind closed doors.
Rather than behind closed doors, some were making their case very clearly out front of the main entrance of the conference centre: Protect Forests and Indigenous Peoples' Rights! The protest was organized by the International Youth Delegation.
Photo credit: Joshua Kahn Russell, Rainforest Action Network
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
CPAWS launched its Make Forests Count campaign yesterday (makeforestscount.org). The purpose is to build some public momentum behind a global climate agreement in Copenhagen that commits countries to protect forests and close loopholes in accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from forest and land use. Check it out, and make forests count by signing on!
At the opening session yesterday, the Chair of the negotiating process under the Kyoto Protocol cited three main issues of consequence:
- How emissions from natural disturbances are dealt with;
- The overall accounting approach for forest management and whether limits need to be placed on what countries can claim;
- How carbon stored in harvested wood products are dealt with.
A few parties have started posting their submissions for this session (Canada, Japan and New Zealand so far). These submissions are starting to be heavier on data, so people can see the possible implications of rule changes.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The report is a handy resource that summarizes the carbon capture and storage capacity of various natural and human-dominated ecosystems. The report is the latest publication to support and call for protection of carbon stores in natural ecosystems as a key climate change strategy.
It also contains a good summary of the current treatment of terrestrial carbon within the Kyoto Protocol and of the trajectory of the current climate negotiations. Quite rightly, the report concludes that it is not yet at all certain that negotiations will lead to the comprehensive treatment that is required to seize the climate change mitigation opportunities presented by ecosystems.
The necessary elements of a solution are becoming increasingly clear to me:
- An effective REDD mechanism must be put in place;
- Countries need to affirm their commitment to protect reservoirs of greenhouse gases by agreeing to report their goals and progress to protect natural forests, wetlands and grasslands;
- Developed countries need to accept accountability for greenhouse gas emissions from forest management and wetland management;
- Changes in greenhouse gas emissions from forest management and wetland management must be measured against historic levels;
Monday, August 3, 2009
No. 1: Defining Crazy LULUCF Terms: Gross-net and Net-net
No. 2: This is How Land Use Land-use Change and Forestry fit into Kyoto and the Global Climate Change Negotiations
No. 3: This is Why I Think We Shouldn't Count Carbon Stored in Harvested Wood Products
Any thoughts on what you found most interesting on this blog or in this field over the last year would be welcome as comments!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Plan includes strategies for reducing emissions from agriculture and waste as well a strategy for "protecting, managing and growing our forests." This latter strategy is actually focused solely on an initiative to support the creation of new woodlands. Here is an excerpt:
Protecting, managing, and growing our forests
In 2007, forests in England removed a net total of about 2.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This removal rate is declining, as forests planted in the 1950s to 1980s reach maturity. If woodland creation and removal continue at their 2007 rates, it will drop to around half a million tonnes per year by 2020, and if woodland creation stops entirely it will fall to only a hundred thousand tonnes.
Woodland creation is a very cost-effective way of fighting climate change over the long term, but it requires an upfront investment. The Government is already doing this: woodland creation represents 60% of the grant aid administered by the Forestry Commission. But to realise the potential for 2050, we need to see a big increase in woodland creation – and we need to plant sooner rather than later.
The Government will support a new drive to encourage private funding for woodland creation. If we could create an additional 10,000 hectares of woodland per year for 15 years, those growing trees could remove up to 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2050. Well-targeted woodland creation can also bring other benefits, including a recreational resource, employment opportunities, flood alleviation, improvements in water quality, and helping to adapt our landscapes to climate change by linking habitats to support wildlife. The Government will ensure that woodland creation policies continue to respect the benefits and demands of landscape, biodiversity and food security.
This will allow businesses and individuals to help the UK meet its carbon budgets, whilst delivering the other benefits that woodlands can bring. A number of informal schemes already exist, and the Government will work with them and with the private sector to consider how it can build on and complement existing initiatives. The Government is already laying the groundwork: including through the consultation on a Code of Good Practice for Forest Carbon Projects led by the Forestry Commission, and the Government consultation on corporate carbon reporting guidelines, which sets out how funding for domestic emissions reduction projects can be reported in company accounts.
Reference: The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: National strategy for climate and energy. Chapter 7: Transforming farming and managing our land and waste sustainably. Page 160-161.
It's interesting that there is nothing in the plan for forest protection or management... perhaps this reflects the fact that only 7% of England is forested? (ref)
Thursday, July 9, 2009
It seems a rather broad list designed to encompass all activities. Rules are to be set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Section 503. List of Eligible Domestic Agricultural and Forestry Offset Practice Types.
“…(b) INITIAL LIST.—At a minimum, the list prepared under this section shall include those practices that avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester greenhouse gases, such as—
- agricultural, grassland, and rangeland sequestration and management practices, including
a) altered tillage practices;
b) winter cover cropping, continuous cropping, and other means to increase biomass returned to soil in lieu of planting followed by fallowing;
c) reduction of nitrogen fertilizer use or increase in nitrogen use efficiency;
d) reduction in the frequency and duration of flooding of rice paddies;
e) reduction in carbon emissions from organic soils;
f) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from manure and effluent; and
g) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions due to changes in animal management practices, including dietary modifications;
- (2) changes in carbon stocks attributed to land-use change and forestry activities, including—
a) afforestation or reforestation of acreage that is not forested;
b) forest management resulting in an increase in forest carbon stores including but not limited to harvested wood products;
c) management of peatland or wetland;
d) conservation of grassland and forested land;
e) improved forest management, including accounting for carbon stored in wood products;
f) reduced deforestation or avoided forest conversion;
g) urban tree-planting and maintenance;
h) agroforestry; and
i) adaptation of plant traits or new technologies that increase sequestration by forests; and
- (3) manure management and disposal, including—
a) waste aeration;
b) biogas capture and combustion; and
c) application to fields as a substitute for commercial fertilizer.”
American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009. AMENDMENT TO H.R. 2454, AS REPORTED OFFERED BY MR. PETERSON OF
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
- Afforestation: increasing the size and number of BC forests by planting land that has not been forested since December 31, 1989;
- Select Seed Use: planting seedlings selected for specific traits to promote faster growth, increased timber volume and carbon content, and resistance to insects and disease; and
- Fertilization: adding nutrients to increase tree growth on sites deficient in one or more soil nutrients.
Also conspicuously absent is any test of the impact of projects on other environmental social values.
This protocol is out for comment until July 10. Please send in your comments!
Friday, June 26, 2009
"Biological sink projects carry a risk of carbon reversals, in which the sequestered carbon is released back into the atmosphere; for example, through forest fires or intentionally changing farm management practices. Since an offset credit must represent a permanent removal of carbon from the atmosphere, there must be a mechanism in place to address this risk of reversals.
The permanence of biological sink offset credits is ensured in the Offset System by requiring the replacement of credits in the event of a reversal anytime throughout the project’s registration periods and for a further 25-year liability period after the project’s final reporting period in its final registration period.
Furthermore, to address the risk that a Project Proponent may not be able to replace the credits when a reversal occurs, the Project Proponent is required to apply a discount factor to offset credits claimed for biological sink projects. The discount factor will be specified in the Offset System Quantification Protocol and will reflect the risk of defaulting on a replacement obligation for different project types. The Project Proponent will be required to replace credits if a reversal occurs any time during a 25-year liability period. Project Proponents are required to provide evidence to the Minister on a regular basis during the liability period and provide a certification statement that the sink has been maintained. However, verifications will not be necessary during the liability period." Page 27My understanding is that the current draft of the Waxman-Markey Bill in the U.S. proposes instead to deal with impermanence through a 'buffer reserve' approach, which would set aside a percentage of each forest carbon offset...if the carbon is reversal is unintentionally, 50% could be covered by this reserve. I'm not sure what the liability period is.
Both these approaches differ from that used for afforestation projects within the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which only issues temporary credits for forest projects. This seems the most robust approach, but it doesn't appear to be taken very seriously in any of the offset regimes that are under development... apparently because people doubt the market demand for temporary offsets.
Anybody know of any other approaches being considered out there?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
What are other jurisdictions thinking about this? I'm reminded that the Western Climate Initiative Partners actually made a very concrete recommendation about using auction revenue set asides for 'forestry':
8.2. The WCI Partner jurisdictions agree that a portion of the value represented by each WCI Partner jurisdiction’s allowance budget (for example, through set-asides of allowances, a distribution of revenues from the auctioning of allowances, or other means) will be dedicated to one or more of the following public purposes which are expected to provide benefits region wide:
- Energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives and achievement;
- Research, development, demonstrations, and deployment (RDD&D) with particular reference to carbon capture & sequestration (CCS); renewable energy generation, transmission and storage; and energy efficiency;
- Promoting emission reductions and sequestration in agriculture, forestry and other uncapped sources; and
- Human and natural community adaptation to climate change impacts.
- The Province of Ontario's discussion paper on cap-and-trade references WCI's recommendation to use set asides to reduce emissions in uncapped sectors.
- The EU Emission Trading Directive very strongly supports the use of at least 50% of auction revenues (and they intend auctioning to be the rule for distribution of allowances) for various uses aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change and funding adaptation. It also specifically mentions reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries, but does not specifically mention domestic forest programs.
- The sector is not covered by the cap;
- There are adaptation benefits as well as mitigation benefits (helping communities and biodiversity adapt to climate change through ecosystem protection);
- Forest offsets present problems, like permanence, that other sectors don't present - so it should be a priority to get at this mitigation in another way.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Funds would be delivered through climate mitigation contracts for activities that:
- "measurably increase carbon sequestration and storage over a designated contract period through management activities on eligible lands; and
- maintain carbon sequestration and storage and avoid future emissions through permanent avoided conversion agreements on eligible lands."
Any thoughts on this? Has this kind of thing been proposed in any other jurisdictions? I certainly think it would be a great policy option for Canada's federal and provincial governments: finance forest carbon protection through the use of auction revenue set asides from cap-and-trade systems.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Bloomberg published this article on the use of forests and land use to help meet national climate change mitigation commitments. Jeremy van Loon interviewed a number of delegates to the recent climate change talks in Bonn.
I think the article is helpful because it raises alarm about using false reductions in emissions from forests to undermine real action on climate change. I'd like to add some depth to the story by pointing out that this spectre is not created by land use accounting per se, but by the bad ideas dominating these talks. You can view a Climate Action Network presentation about this on the UN Climate Change Convention's website. Search for "Climate Action Network Canada" on Tuesday June 2 to find the presentation link.
For some thoughts on how the accounting for land use, land use change and forestry should be done, you can check out the CPAWS Kyoto Resources list. Most recent submissions/publications are at the bottom of the list.
Photo: This picture shows carbon emissions from both fossil fuels and deforestation!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The current LULUCF negotiations cause ECO to reflect on a question asked by some Parties with all seriousness: should a country be excused from accounting LULUCF debits from its national forest as long as it remains a sink? Isn’t it wrong to penalize a country as long as its forest is still removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and therefore helping to mitigate climate change? Should we only assign LULUCF debits from forest management after the value of the forests sink becomes zero and it becomes a net source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere?’ The answer to these questions must be no.
The issue is not whether a national forest is removing CO2 from the atmosphere, but how much. Forests currently represent a large global sink, helping reduce the impact of fossil fuel emissions. A decline in the size of that sink would be of great concern.Eco did an analysis: what would be the effect if all Annex 1 Parties were allowed to reduce their forest sink to zero without accruing any LULUCF debits? The result speaks for itself: 2.4 billion tons of CO2e in lost sequestration without even a blip in any Party’s account; 2.4 billion tons of CO2e that represent a net emission if not compensated by greater emission reductions elsewhere; 2.4 billion tons of CO2e in lost sequestration that would be hidden behind a newly proposed LULUCF accounting rule called “the band from zero to the bar.”
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
An article in the daily newsletter, ECO explains the dynamic well ("Just Imagine").
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The most lively discussion was a debate about whether countries should be excused from accounting any emissions from their forests as long as they remain net sinks. My view was, though these forests may still be helping with climate change as long as they remove carbon from the air, the governments owning these forests are not helping with climate change if their actions reduce the size of this sink (e.g. through accelerated harvest).
The presentation can be viewed online. Look for the June 2 event by Climate Action Network Canada.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Coming into these meetings, several Parties expressed their views on the treatment of land use, land-use change and forestry. You can find these submissions online in two parts (part 1; part 2).
I have pulled out what I feel are the main points of the submissions. This is rough (especially the formatting), but I thought you might find it a useful summary/guide. But don't quote me, read them yourselves! (Please note that part 2 is not included in this summary (submission from Chile)).
- Full factoring out of all non-anthropogenic emissions
- Land-based planning in 3 CP
- Account for forest management in national totals (Annex A)
- Using rolling averages for LULUCF accounting
- Include wetland restoration
- Also include wetland conservation
- Forward-looking baseline to project business-as-usual emissions and remove all natural disturbance emissions
- Set emissions to zero for carbon-saturated croplands
- Include HWP
- Consider no limits on use of LULUCF CDM
Coalition of Rainforest Nations
- Mandatory land-based accounting
- Debit rule for carrying over debits to future commitment periods
- Any standard of methodology as long as you can demonstrate you aren’t over-estimating credits
- Use production method for HWP
- Use current rules
- No new activities
- Keep 1990 base year
- LULUCF rules do not need to be completed before targets discussion
- Bar including country-specific bars
- Band (including band to zero)
- Land-based accounting option (still includes discounts, limits, bar)
- HWP: production approach option; stock approach option; restricted stock approach option (only accounting HWP of domestic origin)
- Factoring out focused on Force Majeure
- Wetland restoration
- Devegetation as part of revegetation
- Limit on LULUCF (preferably same limit for all activities)
- No Kyoto amendments
- No new activities unless they plug loopholes
- Force Majeure could be applied in a restricted way
- No to land-based accounting
- Don’t link directly to targets
- Add devegetation to revegetation
- Forest management definition should include forest degradation
- Wetland restoration and degradation unless for food production
- Support planted production forest definition
- Supports limited force majeure definition, consistent with Tuvalu
- Supports introducing SFM certification
- Strict activities-based accounting approach to deal with factoring out
- Mandatory accounting and continued accounting in subsequent CPs must be reviewed based on changes in rules
- HWP only products from forest accounting under 3.4 (but this also excludes existing stocks)
- Country-specific bar based on a number of factors including ‘continuation of national forest policies’
- Criteria for factoring out (prefer restricted approach)
- No to land-based accounting
- No loopholes
- Alternatives to temporary credits
- Credit/debit rule; planted production forests
- Factoring out should relate to extraordinary disturbances…could be based on threshold percentage of total AAUs
- Support bar as best articulation of business as usual
o ‘Emissions to atmosphere approach’
o Factor out but keep HWP credits!!
o Not support instant oxidation of exports
o Not support instant oxidation of short-lived products
o Include in CDM
- No to land-based accounting
- CDM: A-1 Parties could take on the responsibility for impermanence as an alternative to temporary credits
- Support split between forests and planted production forests
- Restricted forest definition (larger areas, 30-50 percent canopy cover)
- ARD area threshold changed (from 1 ha to 100,000 ha)
- Support bar
- Support band (including band to zero)
- Forward-looking baseline as a bar option
- Use full LULUCF mitigation potential
- AR should be eligible on wetlands
- Peat fires should be treated as anthropogenic
- Broad definition of HWP to include other products (e.g. resins)
- Support option 2 (land-based) with phased approach
- Support addition of wetland management with minor variation
- Compulsory 3.4 accounting
- Discount rate to all LULUCF credits/debits
o Don’t accounting existing pools
o Don’t account imported non-A1 pools
o Can claim exported if importer doesn’t
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
On offsets, the supporting discussion paper states "The experts indicated strong support for project types in agriculture, forestry and waste management and priority be given to landfill gas, wastewater treatment, manure management, including anaerobic digestion, and afforestation/reforestation project types. "
Of greater interest to me, is the suggestion that auction revenues could be used to achieve emission reductions through such activities. I've been thinking for some time that this type of approach would be preferable to offsets because it would avoid the additionality problem:
Monday, May 4, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The Canadian government released a science report last week that identified the critical habitat of the boreal woodland caribou, confirming the need to protect at least half of Canada's entire boreal region in order to prevent the extinction of any additional herds of this threatened species.
Of the 57 herds assessed, the report concludes that 21 are in need of active habitat restoration efforts, 25 require active habitat conservation and 11 are healthy enough that they could tolerate some additional development in their habitat.
If the boreal woodland caribou's habitat were protected, this would also protect much of one of the World's biggest carbon stores - the intact boreal forests and peatlands of Canada. This is because these carbon rich ecosystems are the primary habitat of this threatened species.
For more information, visit www.caribouandyou.ca
Friday, April 17, 2009
A report was released yesterday predicting serious impacts of climate change on forests and discussing management strategies to help forests adapt.
A report was released yesterday predicting serious impacts of climate change on forests and discussing management strategies to help forests adapt.
Although by no means highlighted by the authors or the accompanying media release, one of the most interesting findings to me is that 'protecting primary forests' and 'reducing forest degradation and deforestation' stand out among the management strategies as having the highest scientific support and agreement for conserving biodiversity and to prevent future emissions from forests that would otherwise accelerate climate change. Check out Appendices 6.2 and 6.7 on pages 172 and 181 of the main report.
Here are some Canadian media stories that have resulted from the report:Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Coalition Launches New Website to Support Implementation of One of the World's Greatest Conservation Announcements
There's been a great new website launched by the Ontario Boreal Futures Coalition in an effort to secure protective legislation for Ontario's far north. This legislation would be the implementation of Premier McGuinty's major conservation announcement last Summer written about in one of my previous blog posts. On the main site you can read about and support this important initiative.
The site also contains a fantastic virtual tour of the region. The Aboriginal narrator is from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), located in the heart of this region. There is also a boreal scrap book where you can post stories and pictures from your adventures in Ontario's boreal north.
Map source: http://borealopportunity.ca/maps.php
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
At the Bonn Climate Change Talks last week, Johnathon Pershing, the White House's new Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change gave a briefing to non-governmental organizations.
One of his comments was discreet but thought provoking. In response to a comment from Greenpeace International expressing concern over inclusion of deforestation credits within a fully fungible carbon market, Pershing offered this (I'm paraphrasing): it may make sense to include some kinds of forest credits in the market, and not others.
What might this mean for forest offsets in Canada and the United States? Would forest management contribute offsets to the 2 billion tons of offsets available to capped sectors under congressman Waxman's draft American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009?
It's an important and provocative question: what kinds of forest credits should be included, and under what conditions?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Here is the text of the statement:
An idea put forward by the European Union (EU) at the Bonn Climate Change Talks could introduce a loophole that would result in countries not being accountable for some of their emissions from forest management. The EU introduced the concept of “The Bar,” which would be a reference against which countries would measure their forestry emissions. The potential loophole results from the option that countries could negotiate their own “bar”. This could be like getting to start a football match with your team four-nil up. So far, no details have been released about how this loophole might be constrained.
Climate Action Network released an initial calculation today illustrating a potentially significant impact of this flexibility on the emission accounts of industrialized countries. In order to calculate the impact this flexibility would have on the scale of forest carbon credits for industrialized countries, CAN looked at sixteen years of historic emissions (1990 – 2006) for thirty-six industrialized nations (not including USA), using the last five years as a hypothetical commitment period.
In measuring the size of the potential loophole, CAN considered the relative impact of setting a weak and an strong bar. The strong bar was set as the lowest level of historic emissions, meaning countries would be expected to do even better than this. The weak bar was the highest level of historic emissions, creating little expectation for improvement. We also compared the accounting impact of these two scenarios to the current accounting rules for forest management.
The accounting difference between the strong bar and the weak bar was roughly seven billion tons of CO2. This range corresponds to roughly twelve percent of total emission allowances for the first commitment period. The weak bar produced 2.8 billion tons of CO2 credits more than would be created with the current rules for forest management. This 2.8 billion ton increase corresponds to roughly five percent of total emission allowances for the first commitment period. Our calculation did not consider other improvements in the forest accounting rules that might be made. In all scenarios, the actual emissions to the atmosphere were the same, but the method would make a massive difference in the level of accountability of countries.
Creating a disconnect between accounting and real changes in emissions would not provide the proper signals for governments to unlock the mitigation potential from forest management. These numbers also illustrate the very significant impact that this potential accounting loophole could have on a Party’s overall emission reduction target.
This potential loophole could be most effectively closed by removing the ability of Parties to negotiate their own ‘bar’.
 The strong bar resulted in 820 Mt of carbon debits. The weak bar resulted in 1113 Mt credits of carbon. Application of the current rules for forest management, which include gross-net accounting with a cap would result in a credit of approximately 349 Mt of carbon if all countries included in the Appendix of Decision 16/CMP.1elected to account for forest management. Application of net-net accounting with a 1990 base year would result in a credit of 189 Mt of carbon.