Friday, December 18, 2009

Forests Won't Count in Copenhagen - but we will make them count in 2010!

The talks in Copenhagen have been a mess the last few days. The Danish Presidency appears to have been way over its head and seems to have badly handled its role, failing to capitalize on the largest ever gathering of World leaders. The lack of ambition from most of those leaders from rich nations didn't help.

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:
  • Over 3000 people signed the make forests count petition;
  • France took up the rallying cry with passion, rallying other European countries to the cause, and;
  • We found common ground with the G77 and China, who are looking for environemntal integrity in accounting for logging emissions.
Copenhagen may well end up being a failure; but we are in a good position to make forests count in 2010.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

300 is the New Climate Change Number Today

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

Course of LULUCF negotiations unclear

It's still not known how the issues related to greenhouse gas accounting for emissions from forestry and land use in developed countries will be addressed.

In preparation for the liklihood that Ministers will have to take over, the Climate Action Network has prepared these high-level lobby points:


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

Will the logging loophole be closed?

The logging loopholes being proposed in Copenhagen have been getting media coverage around the World: New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Austria, Germany, the U.S.

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

Update on the Logging Loophole in Copenhagen

Not much has happened out in the open the last couple of days in the forestry emissions talks at Copenhagen. The formal discussions have been suspended over a larger dispute about how talks under the Kyoto Protocol should continue.

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

French Government Makes Forests Count!

France jumped way out in front in the campaign to Make Forests Count today!

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.

Logging Loopholes Big Enough To Drive A Logging Truck Through!!

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)!

Copenhagen Make Forests Count Scorecard

Check out the Make Forests Count Scorecard (Henschel Rating)!

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

Forestry Issues Getting Big Focus at Copenhagen - Developed Countries Failing

Whether or not developed countries will account for increased logging emissions in the next climate agreement has become a big focus of these talks. This is the reason I am still sitting up past midnight with watery eyes!

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

Gearing Up to Make Forests Count in Copenhagen

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

Countries are Showing Their Cards on Logging Emissions

Countries have begun to post their proposed reference levels (baselines) for measuring and accounting for emissions from forest management. The following countries' submissions are now up on the UN Climate Change Secretariat's webpage: Norway, Russian Federation, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada.

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.