Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You can't keep a carbon man down

It's been a busy time in my office with funding proposals, work planning and meetings leading up to today's federal budget in Canada, but I have been squeezing in some work on forest carbon...

As part of the Climate Action Network International's Working Group on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry, I've been participating in some really interesting discussions on forest accounting under the Kyoto Protocol. We've been talking about how to deal with emissions from natural disturbances, whether emissions credits from forests should be discounted, how to best protect biodiversity, and a number of other topics that would seem esoteric to all but the most engaged, but are nonetheless important to how forest carbon fluxes are measured and accounted for.

I've also been working with some colleagues on what could constitute a list of principles related to forest offsets. It has been a useful experience that Will certainly guide my input to the various processes underway to define offset systems for North America.

One of my colleagues made a very astute observation that I would like to share: the first choice we need to make when conceptualizing an offset framework is whether we want to follow the example of a regulatory model (such as the Clean Development Mechanism) or a voluntary model (such as the various existing voluntary offset systems). This choice is significant and will lead us down a path of more or less rigor. The former path seems undoubtedly to be the better one.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What does 2009 Hold for LULUCF?

Happy New Year everyone!

I would like first to thank-you all for keeping this blog alive during my long post-Poznan / holiday absence! Despite no posts from me for the last month, a steady stream of visitors to the blog has continued. I hope to reward your interest with some interesting material for 2009.

What does 2009 hold in store for forests, carbon and climate?

Within the UN negotiations, countries have been asked to make formal submissions by February 15 on how they want the rules for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry to change. Draft legal text is expected for the first meeting at the end of March. If things go to plan, the rules should more or less be agreed by mid-year in order to allow countries to negotiate new national targets and commitments for emission reductions. It's really hard to say how things will go, but the good money seems to be on a small number of changes that will bring new countries on board for forest accounting but also fix some of the loopholes. My hope is that countries will be made accountable for forest and peatland degradation and that these activities will be discouraged.

I have written before on this blog about the various initiatives to define an offset framework that includes forests. With the Canadian federal government's expressed interest in developing an integrated North American cap-and-trade system with President Obama, it may be that U.S.-based initiatives are now most relevant. In particular the Western Climate Initiative and the voluntary standard setting initiative set-up by the American Forest and Paper Association? Will Canada's embryonic offset system be aborted?

Within these domestic/regional carbon markets, I hope we can look more broadly at using other sources of funds for forest carbon projects, for example revenue from auctioning emissions allowances. This would be better because we wouldn't have to worry about the additionality of emission reduction projects.

Finally, I wager that 2009 will bring big developments in the area of bioenergy. Will forests be used in a big way to generate electricity? Will this approach actually reduce GHG emissions? What will the impact be on biodiversity? The unfortunate path of least resistance appears to be hasty policies that encourage greater forest exploitation, negative biodiversity impacts and doubtful GHG benefits.

It will be a busy year!