REDD+ = Rain Check?

Originally, REDD+ was thought of as a simple voluntary mechanism of emissions reduction. However, after 8 years of creation, most of the projects are in the preparation phase, and there is not consensus about their future. Uncertainty is the queen word, so we only need to wait and see what is going to happen in the second week of the COP. There is some hope, because the second week starts with the REDD+ day, promoting ideas and new investments. For more information please visit:


Is the GCF the salvation?

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the largest and fastest-growing climate fund. It was the largest before Lima (US$9.3 billion, bringing the fund to $9.9b, just shy of the $10b goal for COP20) and now, with the new commitment of Norway, plays an even more protagonist role. However, in the first week at the COP20, experts have expressed their concern about how high the expectations are from the public and private sector in relation to the GCF. Thereby, before celebrating you will need to apply. The accreditation process opens in March 2015, and in June the GCF will start considering proposals. For more information visit:


REDD+ in life post-Warsaw/ in Lima

The results-based finance (RBF) decision from Warsaw not only reaffirms the decision from Durban that finance for REDD+ “may come from a variety of sources,” it also identifies the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as the foremost channel through which finance should flow. The Warsaw decision also seeks to keep the discussion on finance going, with the aim of helping to “scale up and improve the effectiveness” of finance. What has happened until now?


After the fourth day at COP20, many discussions around REDD+ issues have taken place in the Peruvian capital. The agenda items have included: methodological issues on non-carbon benefits (NCBs) and non-market-based approaches (NMBA), the need for further guidance on safeguard information systems (SIS), coordination of support for REDD+, testimonies of experiences and lessons to draw from, and finance debates mostly.

However, while there is international consensus on the need to conserve forests, progress on establishing a global REDD+ mechanism has been slower than many had hoped. This slowness in implementing REDD+ projects is due to several reasons, some of which are: 1) Despite some developments, there is still no assurance that funds will indeed flow into the GCF at the scale needed to compensate countries for their REDD+ results in the near future, or whether such funds will flow with any consistency; 2) although bilateral, multilateral and aid-based arrangements that have been in place in the earlier (readiness) phases of REDD+ continue to thrive, these are limited in scope, raising questions of equity in the distribution of incentives for REDD+, and have a fixed lifespan; 3) in addition, there are problems regarding the adequacy of available data and methods to establish baselines and measure change, and the weak institutional capacity and policy standards in recipient countries.

To move on, we need to keep in mind that REDD+ is an emissions reduction mechanism and not a forest protection measure itself. Truly making forest carbon a viable asset, the sequestration of which can result in tangible benefits for forested developing countries, will depend mainly on more clarity around possible approaches to transfer and receive results-based payments, and successfully encouraging more investment, such as from the private sector.

Popular measures for conservation: Payments in Ecosystem Services

In recent years, payment in ecosystem services (PES) and other market measures for conservation has gained popularity as market measure of pollution prevention and conservation particularly for use in the developing world.  In the industrialized world, financial mechanisms such as carbon tax and emissions cap and trade are used as methods of pollution control to supplement environmental command and control regulation.  However, in the context of the developing world, where environmental regulation may be weak due to weak rule of law, financial mechanisms may function as alternative methods of pollution control while better regulation is developed. Yet, this is challenging to implement as market mechanisms can only properly function with proper regulation.

f0054-01For developing countries, a nationalized PES scheme, has features which may allow it to be the ideal market instrument to pilot better environmental regulation.  It is ideal for environmental policymaking due to its policy and financial benefits.  In financing, PES is beneficial because it is an incentive mechanism with low transaction costs. The services flow directly from the provider to the user thereby reducing transaction costs. The government only acts as an intermediary body role in the market. Second, the development of a comprehensive PES structure allows the government to identify regulatory gaps.  In implementing PES schemes, the government can identify gaps in existing laws, the needs of stakeholders, baseline data and generally see how regulation will play out.

Furthermore, at the second day of the COP’20 was stablished by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) that the user fees in Costa Rica and Vietnam are similar in their design yet different in their regulatory backgrounds.  Costa Rica is experienced in environmental policymaking and using environmental market instruments for conservation while Vietnam is formative on these fronts.  Despite the differences in governance, both countries have relied upon PES to improve regulation.

Incorporation into existing regulatory schemes too could be a solution for when the government is in the process of developing more robust environmental regulation.  Being part of the licensing process may encourage participation and compliance from more firms. Currently, compliance within the voluntary PES schemes are dependent on market demand for sustainable investment and the goodwill of the investor.For instance, the user fees in Costa Rica and Vietnam, similar in their design yet different in their regulatory backgrounds.  Costa Rica is experienced in environmental policymaking and using environmental market instruments for conservation while Vietnam is formative on these fronts.  Despite the differences in governance, both countries have relied upon PES to improve regulation.

The concept of PES to pilot regulation is not new. Developing countries can look to case studies of others who have used PES to implement better environmental safeguards. As in any PES scheme, land tenure and high transaction costs remain to be issues.  These issues need focused attention and through PES, developing countries can pilot better environmental regulation for long term environmental protection.

Climate Finance and Capacity Building

COP15-IPCC-Rajendra-Pacha-002To stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and limit temperatures to no more than 2° C above 1990 global temperature, it is necessary to set clear goals for emissions reduction looking towards 2020. Those goals have been confirmed in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which highlight the need for urgent action. In the first two days at the COP’20, the constraint of capacity building and finance has been repeated over and over.

In the opening speeches of the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and the President of the COP, as well as in special and site events, the issue of enhancing the ability of individuals, organizations and institutions to identify, plan and implement ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, has had special protagonism. It is necessary to generate more funding sources, but as important, is coordinating strategies between mechanisms already created, such as defining criteria for monitoring systems that allow for credible measurement, reporting and verification (MRV). In other words, establishing a legal MRV framework to track compliance guarantees that a “ton is always a ton.”

cop19_cop20_pres_630Discussions on capacity building must motivate rethinking of finance priorities, enhance more efficient uses of resources to reduce emissions and vulnerability, and increase adaptation measures. Capacity building in relation to funding takes place primarily on institutional and systematic levels. In this sense, the process of implementing adaptation and mitigation actions under the UNFCCC must be simultaneously framed in national actions.  Furthermore, countries should undertake “readinness” in the context of the process, which involves the preparation of institutions, legal frameworks and public policies to make better use of financial resources. This will allow more assertive assessments of financial needs, which should have a balance with the budgetary allocation of countries.



Chile: 100% Attitude

1_12082009_6346_presidentabacheletChile has taken the lead in the fight against climate change, uniting its intentions and actions. The Chilean Congress has recently approved a carbon tax program to help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and meet its voluntary target offered at COP16 of cutting these gases 20 percent from 2007 levels by 2020. Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile and former Executive Director of UN Women, supported the new environmental tax legislation, making the country the first in South America to tax carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Part of a broad tax reform, Chile’s carbon tax will target the power sector, particularly generators operating thermal plants with installed capacity equal or larger than 50 megawatts. As of 2010, thermal power accounts for about 65% of total installed capacity in the Chilean electricity sector. These installations will be charged $5 per tonne of CO2 released, except for those fueled by biomass and smaller installations, which will be exempt from the measure. The new tax is meant to force power producers to gradually move to cleaner sources. Since the country supplies only around 30% of its  domestic energy, renewables could put a sizable dent in fuel imports. Chile’s government will start measuring carbon dioxide emissions from thermal power plants in 2017 and the new tax will going into effect in 2018.

In the region, Chile’s greenhouse gas emissions are about 7 percent of Brazil’s, and 22 percent of Argentina’s emissions, according to 2011 data santiagochile1compiled by the World Resources Institute.  Globally, Chile represents only 0.27 percent of GHG emissions, according to the Chilean Environmental Ministry. Even though this means that Chile’s potential GHG decreases due to this tax will be modest on a global scale, it nonetheless represents an important beginning.

Worldwide these are rough times for carbon taxes aimed at mitigating global warming. Countries with more developed economies, such as Korea with a GDP valued at US$ 1.305 trillion, South Africa (US$350.6 billion) and Australia (US$1.561 trillion) have changed their minds about carbon tax programs, setting back the results of the Conference of Parties negotiations under the UNFCCC. Chile, on the other hand, as one of Latin America’s fastest growing economies with a GDP calculated at US$ 277.2 billion in 2013, conducted a major national political discussion and chose to go ahead, challenging those who believe otherwise. Chile’s forward thinking and real courage has developed something that is robust in terms of policies, taking the plunge to meet its international commitments and consolidating its leadership under the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) and the world.

Looking at the sky

gale37885Current news about climate change reveals that outer space offers key tools for addressing global warming. Through the lens of satellites, scientists collect essential data to monitor the Earth’s temperature. In particular, the U.S. National Air and Space Agency (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) use satellite data to fill in the gaps of climate change science.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has recognized the contribution of space science and space applications in the fight against climate change since 1999. Through this technology, scientist are able to analyze sea level, ocean color, land ice and greenhouse gases. The data provided is helping policy-makers, at both the local and state levels, to become better equipped to understand carbon dioxide’s role in climate change. Now that scientists know the importance of space and climate change, we can focus our attention on achieving more mitigation and adaptation measures.

Recently, research presented at the Fifth Annual Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship at Vermont Law School about the development of international space pollution law opened my eyes to the sky. Irene Ekweozoh, from the University of Ottawa, spoke of international environmental space law, specifically the lack of clarity about the precise form and nature of the duties imposed on states for environmentally responsible use of outer space. At the same time that states use satellites as essential tools for climate change analysis, they also produce outer space pollution when these satellites remain in space after serving their mission. Following this logic, when states try to address climate change mitigation and adaptation by using the information captured by satellites, they are also polluting the atmosphere free of responsibility.

At  COP20, we will see the role of international space law as a protagonist in the discussion of climate change’s physical effects, providing a framework for international cooperation in targeting environmental monitoring and disaster management. We may have to wait until long after COP20 to know if states are concerned that while they are looking for solutions to global warming, they may be polluting outer space.