Monday, August 2, 2010

Minding the Accounting Gap in Bonn

I am once again in Bonn at a UN Climate Conference, struggling alongside my colleagues to make forests in developed countries part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

The good news is that the issue has been given some good exposure. The International Climate Action Network was invited to present its views at a special session on forest management accounting before the start of this week’s meeting. I gave CAN’s presentation, which clearly laid out the 460 Mt CO2 ‘accounting gap’ resulting from the proposed rules, which would mean that developed countries could increase their emissions relative to historical levels and not have to account or be penalized for it. The presentation also compares this proposal with other accounting options on the table.

With the exception of a proposal from the island state of Tuvalu to account for emissions changes in the future compared with emissions in 2012, none of the formal options on the table will close the accounting gap. If the gap is not closed, forest management accounting will undermine the ambition of developed countries.

This fact was further illustrated today in a presentation made to the Parties by the Stockholm Environment Institute, which described the effect of the various loopholes or ‘alternatives to real mitigation.’ The ‘accounting gap’ was one of the many loopholes that mean developed countries could significantly increase their emissions while still meeting the emission reduction pledges they made in Copenhagen.

Underlying the forest management accounting gap is the troubling fact that developed countries are all forecasting that they will increase logging rates, thereby increasing pressure on forest reservoirs of carbon, and diminishing the forest sink. These actions violate commitments that all countries have made in the UN Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol to protect, conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs.

The challenge for this week is to translate understanding of this problem into politically acceptable solutions. Political acceptability has so far proved elusive, given the strong focus of most developed countries to avoid ‘punishing’ their forest sectors, rather than keeping their eye on ensuring emission reductions in all sectors.

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