Monday, June 14, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks: Part 10 - Where from here?

Though the cough I earned with much hand-shaking and long hours of campaigning persists, the Bonn Climate Talks themselves have wrapped up.

The forestry issues were not resolved in Bonn as some had expected/feared, but these talks have clearly set the stage for some kind of resolution at the next round of talks in August.

In fact, it's probably fair to say that the biggest outcome from the last few days of the talks was a proposal to hold a 'pre-sessional' workshop on LULUCF before the next week-long meeting in Bonn officially begins. ENGOs have written a letter to John Ashe, the Chair of the negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol, to request that observers can attend this meeting. His response may well determine whether a logging deal is stitched up behind closed doors.

For my final post from the June Bonn Climate Talks, I have attached this graph that was shown by the EU at a session on the effects of LULUCF rules on countries' overall targets. The graph shows very neatly the effect of different approaches to reference levels being taken by developed countries:
  • Most developed countries have 'conveniently' set their reference levels to exactly equal the emissions they forecast for 2012-2020, thereby hiding net increases in emissions from accounting. These countries show neither credits, nor debits in this graph;
  • Norway and Russia have both chosen 1990 as a base year to account for emissions from forest management. Both countries plan to increase net emissions from today but will earn credits because current emissions are lower than they were in 1990;
  • Japan is manufacturing credits for itself by arbitrarily choosing a zero sink as a reference level. That means it will get credits as long as its national forest is a net sink, even though it plans to increase net emissions during 2012-2020;
  • The most striking feature of this graph to me is Switzerland: it is the only country whose proposed reference level would deliver debits. Like the other countries, its forest will remain a net sink; Like the other countries, it plans to increase net emissions. Very much unlike the other countries, it has acknowledged some accountability for this increase in emissions and proposed a reference level that is between the historical average the forecast increase in emissions. The result will be a carbon price signal to do better carbon management in forests... enough to crown a hero in these negotiations.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks: Part 9 The Games Continue

I am back home in Canada, but the work continues in Bonn to close the logging loophole!

The campaign got two major boosts yesterday. The first was an article covering this scandal by John Vidal of The Guardian. Even better, the youth organized an inspired demonstration of the logging loophole (check out the video!)!

Meanwhile, the talks themselves took a few twists and turns in the last couple of days. Tension grew in Tuesday's informal negotiations when developed countries began to push back even on G77 and China's modest demand for transparency behind the 'projected reference levels' for forestry emissions (the source of the logging loophole). It seems the discussion on reference levels will continue at the next session in August, and the focus will be on 'packages' of approaches... we're not quite sure what that means yet...but it doesn't sound like simple, transparent environmental integrity.

The discussion yesterday and for the remainder of the session then turned to how to deal with carbon in harvested wood products and from natural disturbances. If you're following the spirit of these negotiations, you can guess that developed countries want to include in accounting carbon stored in wood products (because they can get a credit) and exclude from accounting emissions from natural disturbances (because they would get a debit).

In case you're getting confused, take a look at a glossary that appeared in the ECO newsletter yesterday. That should clear everything up.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks Part 8: The Chorus Grows

On Day 7 of the talks, the chorus is steadily growing to transform the forestry accounting framework with a goal to reduce emissions. The following countries have now all made public statements in supporting this goal:
  • The African Group (53 countries);
  • COMIFAC - the Central African Forest Commission (10 Central African countries);
  • The Coalition of Rainforest Nations (13 countries in Africa, Caribbean, Central America and South America);
  • India.
By contrast, developed countries continue to obfuscate with talk of 'proper incentives' and 'business-as-usual' management.

It becomes more and more clear each day that the "projection of forest management activities" in a country's baseline is absolutely foolhardy:
  • it hides increased net emissions;
  • it is based on unverifiable assumptions;
  • it leads to wild inconsistency in baselines between countries.
In a negotiating session today on 'the numbers' - i.e. countries' overall targets to reduce emissions, several developed countries made it clear that they will only move to the upper end of the range of emission reductions they have offered if they get the LULUCF loopholes they seek. In this context, moving to the upper range becomes totally meaningless.

Closed-door negotiations resume again tomorrow and there will be three sessions in total this week.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks Part 7: Continuing to Fight for the Forests

The forestry negotiations came back into the open on Saturday in a public session. Two main events occurred: The Group of 77 (G77) and China (a negotiating bloc of developing countries and China) delivered a proposal designed to limit the damage of the weak forestry rules being contemplated here. The second is that Russia delivered a proposal to hide increased net emissions and maximize credits.

The G77 and China's proposal has two main elements:
  • A rigorous, independent, expert review of a county's proposed reference level for forest management emissions; the reference level would be adjusted if they are shown to be either fraudulent or flawed.
  • A cap on the credits that a country can get from forest management;
The approach is pointed in the right direction, but unfortunately does not get the job done.

The review will increase transparency and take care of methodological problems. And the Group clearly hopes that the review can also get at substantive problems with the reference level as well: they propose that it can be used to adjust reference levels if they do not meet a set of guidelines still to be established. I think it makes sense to develop these guidelines, but also that the criteria for setting a reference level must be improved. In particular, countries should not be allowed to build new policies into their baseline (e.g. higher harvest rates).

The cap and the review is the best that G77 and China seem to think they can get in the face of an unwilling dance partner that is focused on hiding emissions and protecting its forest sector from the negative side of carbon prices. We should and could do much better if developed countries were willing to step forward to help the climate.

This limitation was illustrated by a two-part proposal made by Russia in the same session:
  • a country should get no penalty for increased net emissions until its entire forest sink is wiped out;
  • there should be no limit to the credits a country can claim for its forest sink if it uses a historical baseline (this was clever because Russia is using a historical baseline and most of the concern so far has been expressed about the projected reference levels).
These two things proposals combined mean that Russia could get credits for increased emissions and virtually never receive debits.

The Island of Tuvalu, clearly concerned with the direction things are going, asked the Chair of the negotiations to hear what civil society had to say about the proposals. The Chair agreed to hear from us. After a few hurried conversations with my colleagues in the room, I delivered the following points:
  • We want to see emissions from logging reduced and none of the proposals on the table do that;
  • We acknowledge that the proposal from G77 and China is pointed in the right direction, and especially appreciate the focus placed on the importance of historical emissions in assessing the countries' projections;
  • The adjustment of the reference levels must not erase the effect of new policies that have been implemented (e.g. increased harvest rates);
  • We agree that a cap needs to be considered, but for all circumstances, not just projections;
  • We completely disagree with Russia's proposal because it completely avoids accounting for increased net emissions;
Some final points on what must be done to turn this thing around:
  • The goal of forest management accounting must be to reduce emissions, and not allow them to increase;
  • Make forest management accounting mandatory (it's incredible that some countries still want it to be voluntary after making the rules so convenient for themselves);
  • If there is a cap, it should only be on credits - there is no need to cap debits after the great lengths developed countries have gone to remove debits from the equation (e.g. through the reference level, excluding natural disturbance emissions, accounting for carbon stored in wood products);
  • Make the reference levels permanent so they can't always be revised;
  • Further constrain the criteria for setting reference levels, and do not allow countries to build new policies and increased harvest levels into their reference levels.
Here is the text of G77 and China's proposal (note they say the footnote is not complete):

11 ter. [For the second commitment period, additions to [and subtractions from] the assigned amount of a Party resulting from forest management under Article 3, paragraph 4, and from forest management project activities undertaken under Article 6 shall not exceed X percent of its assigned amount pursuant to Article 3, paragraphs 7 and 8.] 11 quarter. [ REFERENCE LEVEL DEFINED Immediately after a decision is adopted on LULUCF under the KP for the second commitment period, the reference levels inscribed in the appendix shall be registered by the UNFCCC Secretariat. INFORMATION PROVIDED ON REFERENCE LEVEL CALCULATION No later than six months after the COP/MOP adopts a Decision on the treatment of LULUCF for the next commitment period, Parties shall submit to the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP) information on its reference level for accounting of emissions and removals from [forest management] [forest land]. The submission shall contain a transparent information and comprehensive description of all the elements used to calculate the reference level in a transparent, complete, consistent, comparable and accurate way, thus conforming to good practice in LULUCF, and including, inter alia, the assumptions, model, and data, including data on harvesting, age structure dynamics and consumption of domestic wood, and of how the items contained in footnote 2 of paragraph 11 have been taken into account. PROVISION FOR REVISION OF THE REFERENCE LEVEL Before the start of the commitment period reporting, if an inconsistency between historical data on [forest management][forest land] and the registered data applied for estimating the reference level is demonstrated by a Party, an Annex I Party that is Party to the Kyoto Protocol shall submit a revised reference level along with the revised information on elements used to calculate the reference level and justification for the new, revised value. FIRST REVIEW As part of the review process of Annex I Parties annual inventory report in 2012, a review of the reference levels and information contained in the registry shall be carried out, following guidelines on reference levels to be developed and adopted by the COP/MOP no later than its eighth session, in accordance with relevant decision related to Article 8 of the Kyoto Protocol. REPORTING BY ANNEX I PARTIES START FOLLOWED BY ANNUAL REVIEW Upon reporting for the commitment period to which the reference level refers, as part of the national inventory report to the Kyoto Protocol, Annex I Parties shall submit information regarding the reference level which allows to verify consistency between data and methodologies used to calculate the reference level and those used for the purposes of accounting, including, inter alia, consumption of domestic wood. Review of that information and of information contained in the registry shall be carried out, following guidelines on reference levels to be developed and adopted by the COP/MOP no later than its eighth session, in accordance with relevant decision related to Article 8 of the Kyoto Protocol. If an inconsistency between the elements used to calculate the reference level and those used for the purposes of accounting is identified, the accounted quantity shall be recalculated, in order to remove the effect of the inconsistency on the amount of RMUs to be issued.] -- 1. When applying the reference level upon accounting, an adjustment shall be applied in order not to credit, among other inconsistencies: i. Reduction in consumption of domestic [wood] [HWP] for production of energy during the commitment period compared to the reference level; ii. Substitution of consumption of domestic [wood] [HWP] with imported wood during the commitment period compared to the reference level;

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks Part 6: Shake-up in LULUCF Negotiations

Today was a dramatic and busy day in the forestry negotiations. We spent much of the day talking to delegates about the proposal to review developed countries' emissions reference levels (the source of the logging loophole). We are concerned that while the review offers increased transparency, this increased transparency will not reduce emissions. We are still pushing developed countries that they must abandon their emissions loophole. So far, none among them have stepped up to take a leadership role here.

The negotiations got a shake up when the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) made a formal statement saying that all the LULUCF loopholes must be closed. It is likely that the statement could have some significant political ramifications and it will take a few days to see how this unfolds.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks Part 5: LULU Chefs Decry Logging Loopholes

Participants in the climate change negotiations were greeted this morning by the "LULU Chefs," who were demanding that the logging loophole be closed in the negotiations on LULUCF (Land use, land-use change and forestry).

The fun demonstration by tcktcktck was put on to keep attention on the issue as governments met for a closed-door session today, discussing the emission accounting rules for forestry. Our campaign is having a visible effect on the negotiations as countries are paying much more attention and seem to be taking our concerns more seriously than in the past.

This is the most active and volatile area of the negotiations here. From hour to hour we hear different accounts of what's going on and the deals that may be made. It's frustrating to have to fish for information and get partial accounts of what's going on. It's easy to make hasty judgments so it's important to be careful to have all the information. Today were learned that developing countries proposed a review process to make sure that the choice of forestry emission baselines by industrialized countries is transparent.

We continue to insist that emissions must be reduced from forestry and land use. Nothing else makes sense in the context of a climate agreement. Some countries definitely support this goal but how this support is translated into action in the broader political context is always uncertain. We will meet with many countries tomorrow to continue making our case.

There will be another round of closed negotiations tomorrow followed by an open session on Saturday where developments from the week will be aired in public.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bonn Climate Talks Part 4: Chorus to close loophole grows

Everything seemed to change today. Whereas yesterday it felt very unclear whether we would have the chance to close the logging loophole, today I feel much more confident.

A number of important things happened:
  • The Chairs of the negotiations have confirmed that there will be an opportunity for substantive negotiations here;
  • The coalition of African countries (the Africa Group) formally spoke out in their official intervention in favour of reducing emissions from forestry in developed countries;
  • The Central African Nations pointed out in their formal intervention the many flaws in the proposed forestry rules for developed countries and highlighted the discrepency between the rigor that is expected of developing countries wanting support to reduce deforestation and the free-for-all approach being proposed by wealthy nations for themselves;
I take all these things as signs that there will be a chance to address our serious concerns with the draft forestry rules. We are not alone.

It is also clear from speaking to people that our message about the 400 Mt loophole for forestry is getting out and reaching high places. Hopefully we will see that translate into pressure to solve the problem within the technical negotiations.

You can watch my friend and colleague Sean Cadman make the case at the Climate Action Network media conference today.

(You can also watch him laughing at me while filming my video blog)