Showing posts with label land use land-use change and forestry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label land use land-use change and forestry. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Last Chance: The Road to Cancun

I am back home in beautiful Ottawa looking out my window at the colours that make autumn so special in Canada. This beauty is in sharp relief to the thick smog the bus drove through on the way to the Beijingairport on Sunday.

The closing plenary in Tianjin showed that there is still hope for a better outcome to the forestry negotiations. Both the Africa Group (all African countries) and the Association of Small Island States spoke out strongly against the logging loophole: they both rejected the approach of using "projected reference levels" from the future to account for forestry emissions. This resistance and insistence on environmental integrity is important. Although developed countries may not want to take heed of this, we will do our best to make sure they do.

In the next seven weeks before the decision-making meeting in Cancun, I will be working with my colleagues to continue pushing for a strong outcome: campaigning, public outreach, communications and exploring compromises that have environmental integrity. We are in the final stretch.

In the meantime, I will be working to ensure that domestic policies and meausures for forests and climate change are up to snuff!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Forestry Negotiations in Tianjin China: Rolling towards the abyss!

Day 3 of the Tianjin Climate Talks has already past and the Great Fire Wall of China has kept me from posting before now. This post is being made through a friend back in Canada who kindly offered to help me get the word out.

The proposal to allow developed countries to use 'reference levels' from the future to measure their emissions compliance for logging continues to move forward. As one developing country negotiator described it to me: this thing now has wheels.

Unfortunately this proposal is taking us off a cliff from which environmental integrity in this process may never recover. It still amazes me that government representatives from developed countries that have caused climate change and have made commitments to fix it can say with a straight face that it is good policy to allow them to increase their logging emissions without penalty.

There have been two interesting developments in the last 24 hours. The first is that developed countries put forward a process to have expert technical teams review the proposed reference levels. It looks okay as far as technical review goes but all it will really demonstrate is whether countries have done a good job proposing bad reference levels.

The other development was that there was an open session today to discuss an alternative to the reference level approach. The island nation of Tuvalu described its proposal to use emissions/removals from forest management in the first commitment period (2008-2012) as the basis for measuring increases or decreases in the second commitment period. Tuvalu and Belarus both made clear and compelling arguments for why a historical baseline is the only reliable basis for demonstrating whether we are actually moving towards our target of emission reductions. The European Union, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were the principle defenders of the flawed 'projected reference level' approach.

At the request of Tuvalu, the co-chairs of the session opened the floor to comments from civil society and I was able to make an intervention. I recorded it low-tech style on my iPhone. Picture me in a room full of negotiators in a conference centre that looks like it was designed for giants!

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, May 27, 2010

Campaign Kicks Off to Close the Logging Loophole

I am off to the Bonn Climate Change Talks to help lead a campaign effort to close the logging loophole.

Developed countries have proposed to allow themselves to increase annual logging emissions by 400 Mt CO2 (roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of the entire country of Spain) without penalty or even acknowledgement. They want to hide this emissions increase by using a baseline for forest management emissions equal to what they plan their emissions to be between 2013 and 2020!

At this round of talks we are bringing our campaign to the highest level - the heads of delegations, Ministers, heads of state and heads of government. This problem needs to be fixed.

I can't imagine a worse start to climate talks in 2010 than solidifying a deal to let developed countries increase their forestry emissions when they are trying to focus on reducing greenhouse gases globally.

I will be chronicling the effort with frequent video posts. Looking forward to your comments and engagement!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will Emissions Loophole be Finalized at June Climate Talks?

The up-coming UN climate talks in Bonn this June could determine whether the World is prepared to allow developed countries increase forestry emissions as part of a global climate deal.

The Chair of negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol has stated in his 'scenario note (para 15a)' (a kind of blueprint for the talks) that he wants to see forestry rules finalized at this meeting.

A call to finalize the talks in Bonn could create significant pressure to simply approve the draft decision that is on the table, which includes the logging loophole. The result is an increase of nearly 400 Megatons of CO2 every year that would be hidden and without penalty (see figure).

Climate Action Network International held a side event at the April 2010 Climate Talks discussing the problematic state of the draft LULUCF decision. You can watch the webcast of this side event including questions and comments from the audience.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Countries forget about forests in their pledges

The UN Climate Change Secretariat reports that 55 countries, representing 78 % of global emissions have made their pledges under the Copenhagen Accord.

The pledges give no indication of the effect that accounting for sinks will have on targets for developed countries. Only Belarus and New Zealand mention that targets are premised on clear (Belarus) and effective (New Zealand) accounting rules for Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).

The uncertainty of forest accounting rules creates much uncertainty for what these pledges actually mean. It also creates the same dynamic that existed when countries negotiated the current flawed rules: countries are now making pledges before finalizing the rules. This creates an incentive for weak rules that make it easier to reach overall targets.

So much for learning from our mistakes!

There is still no clarity on how negotiations will unfold this year. The Secretariat has just formally invited views from countries on 'the need' for additional meeting time and the timing, duration and number of such meetings. Submissions are requested by February 16.

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...

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.

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, November 5, 2009

From Bad to Worse

There was a major development today at the UN Barcelona Climate Change Talks on land use, land-use change and forestry: developed countries are being invited to bring whatever reference level they like to Copenhagen for consideration.

This is a major failing of the process and of the developed countries that should have been showing leadership. The current draft rules for setting reference levels include several loopholes tailored to the national circumstances of many developed countries and designed to allow the hiding of emissions.

Rather than fixing the text, the UN process has now invited the same Parties to use any of these loopholes they like. As a result, we will have to try to win environmental integrity through a dissection and fight over the reference levels of over 30 countries.

Unless things change quickly tomorrow, our hopes for a system with environmental integrity will lie in a staggering analytical capacity, hard campaigning, and deft negotiating from developing countries to push the genie back into the bottle in Copenhagen after seeing the numbers and strike a deal for a system with integrity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This is what happens when you stick people in a corner to talk to themselves

I was having a conversation today with an industrialized country delegate who was apologizing for not being a forester and therefore not really getting all of the intricacies and complexities and rationales of forest management carbon accounting.

I replied, "So, if you're not a forester, doesn't it seem strange to you that the rules have to be designed to ensure there is no negative impact on the forest sector for cutting trees? Why should the forest sector be the only one who should choose whether or not to reduce emissions rather than be forced to?"

The answer was telling and was something that I have often lamented: it's a structural problem resulting from the special status that this sector has - from the beginning it was an add-on with its own set of rules. What that has meant in practice is most decision-makers don't get it or try to, so it is delegated to the technical experts. What do you expect to happen when you ask a bunch of foresters to come up with rules for the forest sector? Or as this person put it, "If you stick a bunch of people in the corner of the room to talk to each other they will come up with funny ideas."

The ideas in this case are shameful: a set of draft rules that openly excuses all responsibility for emissions. Of all other sectors in this process we are demanding transformative change. In the forest sector we are demanding nothing. In fact we are doing worse than this - we are telling countries that if they like they can make things worse.

We are demanding emission reductions of 40% or more from industrialized countries. What are we demanding of the forest sectors in these countries? At most we are asking them to continue business-as-usual. If they do better we give them credits.

The only hope at this point is that developing countries negotiate hard on this. They are currently asking for the same thing we are: accountability for changes in emissions from 1990. I'm hoping we will see a new statement from them in the next couple of days.

Friday, October 23, 2009

EU Solidifying Role as Bad Guy in UN Forest Climate Talks

For those of us trying to make sure countries have to account for emissions from cutting forests in the Copenhagen climate agreement, the European Union has been the cause of quite a bit of concern and consternation over the past year. There is a split between those countries who think any change in emissions should be counted for (e.g. France, Germany, U.K.) and those that don't (e.g. Finland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Austria). Thus, the EU has been divided and unable to take a strong position.

Earlier this week the EU Council met to define its position for the Copenhagen Climate Talks. Bad news. Those hoping that the EU could still be a progressive voice on this issue have to redouble their efforts. The EU has decided it must be conscious that some countries may need flexibility in determining the baseline against which emissions in the commitment period will be determined - translation: the EU is opening the door for countries who want to increase their emissions but erase them from the books through creative accounting.

The offending text is pasted below:
33. RECOGNIZES that future accounting rules for forest management should provide an adequate balance between further incentives for sequestration, for use of wood products and for biomass energy; STRESSES the need for future accounting rules to secure that the environmental integrity of a Copenhagen agreement is preserved; ACKNOWLEDGES that there are still difficulties associated with methodologies for measuring and predicting LULUCF GHG flows with a high degree of accuracy; WELCOMES further discussions with other Parties on accounting rules for forest management where the EU is open to discuss schemes based on the use of a reference level (bar), which includes an environmentally robust interval (band) while being CONSCIOUS that national circumstances, such as age class legacy effects, may require some flexibility for countries regarding the choice of reference level including allowing for historic data or robust and transparent projections open to independent review and verification; the use of gross-net accounting with a discount could also be considered in these discussions; CONSIDERS that accounting rules need to deal with emissions and removals associated with extreme events (force majeure) to reduce the risk that Parties cannot comply with their mitigation objectives because of such events. CONSIDERS that subject to such flexibility being provided for, accounting for forest management should become mandatory for all Parties taking on quantified commitments in a Copenhagen agreement.

Monday, August 3, 2009

One Year Anniversary of the Forests and Climate Change Blog!

July 30 was the first anniverary of the Forests and Climate Change Blog! I hope to post again in the next few days, but until I do, I thought I would give a list of the three most visited posts over the past year:

No. 1: Defining Crazy LULUCF Terms: Gross-net and Net-net

No. 2: This is How Land Use Land-use Change and Forestry fit into Kyoto and the Global Climate Change Negotiations

No. 3: This is Why I Think We Shouldn't Count Carbon Stored in Harvested Wood Products

Any thoughts on what you found most interesting on this blog or in this field over the last year would be welcome as comments!