Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Post-Copenhagen Whisperings on Forests

A principle occupation of people working on climate change these days is keeping their ear to the ground for signs of what is to come next. This makes for short blog posts, but I thought it would be worth passing on what I know.

Most forestry negotiators from developed countries seem to expect to pick up where they left off in Copenhagen in 2010, and feel that they are fairly close to a deal on rules for forest management accounting that includes the use of projections (logging loopholes).

Most also expect that these talks will occur at the annual June meeting in Bonn if not sooner.

Keeping my ear to the ground...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UN Climate Game is Back On - With it Rules for Forests

Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Chane Secretariat has given a press conference signalling that he expects the detailed climate negotiations that stalled in Copenhagen will carry on in 2010. Noting that Copenhagen did not produce the final 'cake,' he asserts that it provided all the necessary ingredients for baking it.

He pointed to three main ingredients in the Copenhagen outcome:
  • The climate change challenge was raised to the highest level of governments;
  • The Copenhagen Accord reflects a political consensus on the necessary long-term global goal of limiting average global warming to below 2 degrees C;
  • The detailed negotiations under the UN process, while not wrapping up, did result in a nearly-full set of draft decisions to implement rapid climate change action;
The forest negotiations were part of the detailed negotiations that resulted in draft decisions. While these are not nearly agreed, the basic elements of a negotiated outcome are there: developed countries are demanding the freedom to increase their emissions without accountability and developing countries are demanding a limit on credits from the sector.

Environmental groups will be looking at how to take the time that the stalled Copenhagen talks has provided to change the debate and close the logging loophole.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What happened to forests at Copenhagen??

No one seems quite sure yet what the implications of the Copenhagen Accord will be. It is a three-age political agreement between six Heads of State (U.S., Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Maldives) that is vague on ambition and lacking any legally binding nature.

A big question is what happens to the draft legal agreements that nations of the UN had been working on for the past two years to extend the Kyoto Protocol and bring in the US and support developing countries? The official UN mandate for countries to work on these legally-binding agreements has been extended, but will they ever be finalized now that there is a new, loosey-goosey game in town? Just today news came out that Australia, Canada and Papua New Guinea have chosen to associate themselves with the Accord.

This uncertainty extends to provisions for developed countries to account for emissions from forestry (LULUCF) and the creation of a new mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD). The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the need to establish a REDD mechanism, but does not do so.

The Accord is totally silent on forestry emissions in developed countries - the negotiations on this topic were cut short when Heads of State arrived. In some sense this was a good thing because they were headed in the wrong direction: every developed country would be allowed to increase their forestry emissions without any penalty, as long as emissions didn't increase more than predicted.

Environmental groups staged a good fight against this idea in Copenhagen - in favour of Making Forests Count and against the logging loophole. We also proposed a very fair basis of accounting: account for all changes in forestry emissions relative to a historical average using all existing data that has been provided to the UN(from 1990 - 2007). Some champions emerged, notably France, who challenged the EU to take a position with environmental integrity.

I would say that we can still win this fight except, as I've said, it's not entirely clear there is still a fight to be won - will there be a new Kyoto agreement on forestry accounting rules? Will there be a Kyoto beyond 2012. The answer to both these questions must be yes if we are to have a fair, ambitious and legally-binding global agreement to tack climate change... but the next few months will tell whether that is in the cards.