Monday, March 30, 2009

China and the Group of 77 Nations Play Hard Ball on Emission Reduction Targets at UN

It was unexpected, but it made sense. Speaking on behalf of China and the Group of 77 Nations today at the UN Climate Change Talks in Bonn, the representative from South Africa asked that Land use, land-use change and forestry in industrialized nations be removed from the official agenda of the talks, along with another agenda item.

It was unexpected because this issue is in the approved work plan. It made sense because at its core, this seemed to be an expression of the frustration that developing countries have with the lack of progress Industrialized Nations have made on adopting a new target for emission reductions in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, beginning in 2012.

In a sense, this target is the lynch pin of these negotiations: how strong a commitment will industrialized nations take on? This should have been accomplished in Poznan last December but wasn't; instead, the final decision just regurgitated the weak language produced in Bali a year before. The move by China and the G77 seemed focused on trying to clear the formal agenda of any distractions from this central question - a play to force a focus and an outcome on this fundamental issue. The move also seemed to reflect the cynicism that the current LULUCF system is mostly about meeting emission reduction targets through 'magic paperwork.'

Eventually, a compromise by the Chair was adopted that allowed the greatest focus on targets while still making space on the official agenda for land use, land-use change and forestry. And in the end, I think this is a good thing. Because if there isn't formal progress made on this issue, it can't be resolved in time for the wrap-up conference in Copenhagen. And if you ask me, there's no deal without a deal on LULUCF.

Check out the article on LULUCF in today's Eco ("Show's Over"), the daily newsletter put out by Climate Action Network International.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Environmentalists Gear Up for the Negotiations

Hundreds of activists have again descended upon these UN Climate Change Talks as part of their tireless effort to produce a global commitment that will help us keep global warming as far below 2 degrees as possible and help prevent the most dangerous impacts on climate change.

The International Climate Action Network has its 20th birthday this year. In that time it has been the primary vehicle for environmental and development organizations to coordinate their work on climate change.

CAN had its strategy session today where it identified its priorities and planned its work for these Climate Change Talks in Bonn. In addition to the big picture, it planned the activities of its major working groups that cover most of the issues within the negotiations:
  • Adaptation (primarily of developing countries to the impacts of climate change)
  • Bunkers (ensuring emissions from aviation and maritime transport are reduced)
  • Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry for industrialized countries
  • Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation in developing countries
  • Mitigation
  • Financing (of mitigation in developing countries)
  • Technology transfer (to developing countries to aid in mitigation)
If the calibre and commitment of this group are any indication, we should get a good climate change agreement in Copenhagen this year!

Monday, March 23, 2009

First Climate Change Negotiations of 2009 About to Begin

I'm off today by air to Germany for the first official negotiations of this year. These negotiations should culminate in a new global climate change agreement by December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

As always, I will be focusing my attention on how emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry are included in the international agreement. I will be following the positions taken by Parties (countries), meeting with negotiators, and working with other environmental reps there to plan our activities and communications. Watch for my posts!

I now have a pretty good idea of what I think needs to come out of this process - what we need on the land use and forestry file. So I will be assessing progress towards reaching this eventual outcome in Copenhagen:

· Emissions resulting from industrial activities in natural/wild ecosystems are accounted for under the new global climate change agreement:

Þ Add mandatory peatland management’ activity

Þ Add mandatory ‘forestry in primary forests’ and ‘forest conversion to plantations’ activities or account for forest management

· Emissions from natural disturbances are addressed using approaches that reduce compliance risk but do not exclude emissions from accounting

· There is a built-in expectation of climate change mitigation from this sector through such means as a minimum ‘bar’ or threshold of emissions/removals.

· National emission reduction targets and LULUCF rules are designed to ensure that credits generated by this sector do not substitute for emission reductions in the fossil fuel sector, either through increased national emission reduction commitments, or through limits on the use of LULUCF credits for compliance.

· Domestic policies, markets and incentives for mitigation in the forest sector should be appropriate to the forest landscape context:

Þ Largely intact forested landscapes: Avoiding emissions by protecting carbon stocks

Þ Landscapes in which forests have already been largely cleared and degraded: Growing new carbon stocks

Þ Forested landscapes subject to ongoing clearing and degradation: reducing emissions from deforestation, degradation and land-use change, including through sustainable forest management

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Party Submissions on LULUCF Revealed

Think of this post as a public service announcement: the submissions from Parties on land use, land-use change and forestry are up on the Climate Change Secretariat's website: Australia, Belarus, Canada, Chile, China, EU, Iceland, Japan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland. I have not yet read these submissions so I cannot yet offer any perspective or response.

The Chair of the negotiations has also released a note on possible text related to these negotiations. See page 6 and pages 14-15.

And post your comments here!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Protection of peat soils - a crucial part of the solution

Check out this story about a recent EU report that describes the great significance of carbon stored in soils and concludes that the best way to guard against emissions that could swamp other mitigation efforts is to protect these soils.

The inclusion of emissions from peatland degradation and peatland restoration within the accounting framework of the new UN global climate change deal to be finalized this year would create a strong incentive for domestic action to protect soil carbon and peatlands. "Wetland management, restoration and degradation" are all being considered for inclusion as new activities that would contribute toward compliance in the new deal.

This was one of the major recommendations of a submission made last month by Climate Action Network International.

What do countries participating within the negotiations think of this idea? So far, Iceland has really been the only country pushing this idea. We will probably know more where other countries stand after their submissions are posted shortly on the UN Climate Change Secretariat's website.

If you want to learn more about climate and peatlands, I suggest you visit the website of Wetlands International. The video about peatland restoration below is from their site.

Can anyone share the original EU report behind this story with readers of this blog?

Photo credit