Koronivia Joint Work Programme News Feed

One week after the draft conclusions for the the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) were submitted, and the subsidiary bodies concluded their independent negotiations, representatives from Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and France addressed the media about the work done and conclusions made at the completion of KJWA’s work at COP24.

The panel had a lukewarm response to the outcome of the first “Road Map” workshop since the 4/CP.23 mandate.  The representative from Rwanda was very disappointed about the lack of “welcome” for the IPCC 1.5 Report, which he said is a joke to African countries in particular, who are living the harsh realities of climate change now.  Mr. Bassey of Nigeria emphasized the role of small scale farmers moving forward in response to our changing climate.  Agriculture that works with local knowledge, without the extensive chemical inputs commonly associated with industrial agriculture – farming that “can be done on the streets” – is how we need to move forward with farming our fields and feeding our families.

Modalities and procedures for the implementation of the KJWA were the focus of these joint SBI/SBSTA meetings.  But South Africa’s representative noted that developing Parties, particularly the Africa Group, felt that little support for implementation came to fruition, with finance remaining as the primary roadblock moving forward.  Panelists believe guidelines need to reflect a just socioeconomic basis for food security: adaptation, absolute emissions reductions, ecological integrity, and gender responsiveness.

The session concluded with a question posed by an audience member who, like myself, was unable to attend much of last week’s negotiations – “how can other organizations such as Latin American groups participate in the SBI/SBSTA joint meetings next year?”

The French panelist who promoted France’s sustainable Agroecology initiatives responded by emphasizing engagement in the KJWA workshops via the Submissions Portal.  Participation by all parts of the agricultural community, not just Parties, is key.  Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 1.59.02 PMWe need to ask questions, offer solutions, and promote an inclusive, equitable, just future for those feeling the drastic effects of climate change already.  As the Nigerian representative concluded, “we have the wisdom, we have the knowledge. We need to share it.”  Lots of experience from the global South remains to be shared by the farmer-scientists who have the tools and must feed the way!


What’s cooking in the COP24 kitchen?

IMG_2287The Polish Presidency addressed observers this evening about what remains to be negotiated on the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines before their impending deadline.  As the second week of COP24 comes to a close, tensions are high as the remaining items to be hashed out by high level Ministers run late into the evenings. This comes as no surprise, given the existential crises certain Parties are facing as a result of our changing climate.  In the words of the Presidency, “discussions continue to happen in silos, as they try to ‘cook’ a balanced text” that is fair in the eyes of all Parties.

The remaining items to be negotiated include: Financial matters; Modalities, procedures and guidelines under the Paris Agreement (PA); Adaptation; Cooperative instruments under Article 6; Matters relating to technology; Response measures; NDC registries; and the Talanoa Dialogue and IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C.  This is no small feat, given the mounting social, environmental, and economic pressures. A few prominent observer groups felt strongly about these items, and when invited by the Chair of the session did not hesitate to voice their opinions and confront the Presidency about their concerns.

IMG_2281The Environmental Non-Governmental Organization (ENGO) felt that responses in NDCs to the IPCC report remained inadequate, and feared that trading and compromise would not end favorably for “non-PAWP” related items.  The Women and Gender group echoed these concerns, stressing most about the preamble of the pending 1/CP.24, because anything that does not reflect these principles “would be a fraught to humanity.”  The Indigenous Peoples Organization responded to the Presidency by admiring the fact that while the COP is trying to “cook a balanced package,” they are concerned about human rights issues, and the IPCC 1.5 Report.  YOUNGO called attention to the lacking mandate around enhancement of NDCs, and fears that the Talanoa Dialogue will not be preserved in the final process.  Trade Union-NGO (TUNGO) group wanted clear recognition of the IPCC report as well, because “this is why we are here.” The IPCC report is the “why” and the “how” to address our climatic conundrum.

The Presidency responded to everyone’s concerns by reiterating what was said in the plenary earlier that day, and what he outlined in his introduction to this session.  He directed observers to the Talanoa Call for Action that called for a rapid mobilization of a variety of social actors to respond to the climate goals agreed upon in the PA, and expects most of these issues to be preserved in the final text as well.  While the Presidency hoped to console observer’s concerns, we all still wait in anticipation to see what the head chefs in the Convention kitchen have cooked up for the finale of COP24.


Ministerial Declaration on Forests Fails to Deliver on Paris Agreement Ambition

pressA press conference was held on 12 December 2018, just one hour before the release of a Declaration written by the Polish Ministry on Forests for the Climate.  The conference was led by ”Fern,” an EU organization that advocates for forests and the people whose livelihoods depend on them, supported by the Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance (CLARA), a collaboration of non-governmental organizations that echoes Fern’s mission with principles of social justice and agroecology.  Forestry campaigners and experts brought in by Fern shared their reactions to what they believed to be a genuine sneak peek at the declaration that was to be released later that same evening.

The Katowice Press Conference Room was graced with opinions from Christoph T., forest campaigner for Greenpeace Poland; a climate coordinator at the Global Forest Coalition and REDD+ expert from New Delhi; Virginia Young from the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society; and Otto Bruun, Policy Officer for the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.  All of the speakers anticipated a lack of ambition in the Presidency’s declaration, something we cannot afford in our current climate.  These speakers emphasized the need to conserve forests for the sake of biodiversity, soil health, and protection from the effects of extreme natural disasters.  Forest carbon stocks were identified by Young as a complex, integrated system that encompass more than just carbon, and cannot afford to be cut down and burned in our current climate crisis (particularly primary forests).

The foreshadowed lack of ambition was realized in the release of the document.  The Polish Ministry cited Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, whose plain language can be categorized as soft law at best: Parties “should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests,” and “are encouraged to take action to implement…policy incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation…”

Thus, the PA does not bind Parties to any definitive action towards conserving carbon sinks in the form of forest resources.  The Polish Ministry did not add much to this lack of ambition in their declaration by “encouraging” the scientific community toWooden signpost with two opposite arrows over clear blue sky Old Business Way and New Business Way Business change conceptual image achieve a balance between anthropocentric emissions by sources and removals by sinks in the second half of this century, second only to a pledge that will “ensure an accelerated global contribution to forests and forest products.”  This not-so-subtle dedication to industry is certain to undermine forest preservation efforts many global organizations like Fern are urging governments to uphold.

If the IPCC made anything clear in its recent report, we need a rapid and just decarbonization by 2030 if we want to maintain the ambition of the PA.  This will not come to fruition if we do not work with gusto to protect what Al Gore described today as the cheapest and most efficient form of carbon sequestration already on the market – forests.

Continuing business as usual precludes banking on there being plenty more where that came from.


The Rebound of Age-old Agricultural Ecology

A side event at the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion sponsored by France at Tuesday’s installment of COP24 focused on the development of agroecology and scaling-up its performance and potential.  The meat of the session focused on research and development around shifting agricultural norms toward using more local inputs, supporting holistic ecosystem approaches such as integrated pest management, and pursuing a landscape approach that builds habitat for animals while also supporting agriculture.  The session ultimately concluded that ecosystem services are sound, healthy investments for future generations that simultaneously address both mitigation and adaptation needs.

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 8.06.55 PMAs a part of its wider agroecology project, France distributed its plan for development from 2015-2020 of its agroforestry systems.  The publication pairs trees and agricultural production in the same fields, bringing back age-old farming practices that combined mixed crops and livestock that gave us hedgerows and their associated economic and ecological roles.  Some of these roles include shelter for animals, erosion prevention, water regulation, and carbon sequestration.

France’s plan breaks down into 5 main “Axes” and 23 Actions.  Axis 5 deals with “International Advocacy and Spread of Agroforestry,” because France believes that agroecology is a strong solution for farming in France and around the world to meet significant challenges like food security and biodiversity enhancement using pragmatic methods.  Sharing knowledge and receiving feedback on experiences in other countries will enhance the French vision, and help with future preparations by developing partnerships that will lead to higher performance.

In accordance with Decision 4/CP.23, the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) was initiated this year. After initial meetings, Parties agreed on a “Road Map” for how the KJWA will play out in future joint sessions.  Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 6.31.12 PMSBI and SBSTA 49 accepted comments leading up to COP24 on Topic 2(a), “modalities for implementation of the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on issues related to agriculture and other future topics that may arise from this work.”  At the end of the first week of COP24, the subsidiary bodies adopted a draft text, and submissions are being accepted on topics 2(b) and 2(c) of the KJWA “Road Map” that will help move agriculture forward on the SBI/SBSTA 50 agenda next year.

Topic 2(b), “Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience,” and to a greater degree Topic 2(c), “Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems,” offer France the opportunity to significantly contribute to the KJWA.  Although official evaluation of their agroforestry plan will not be conducted until 2020, ongoing monitoring combined with international dialogue has the potential to help transfer ideas and build land use capacities, both within the Convention and in our fields.


Finance Flows For the Future of Forests

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 7.06.20 PMThe Paris Agreement seeks to achieve a balance between mitigation and adaptation activities.  Financial mechanisms are a highly sought out means of addressing this balancing act, both within the FCCC and beyond.  While the forest resource is certainly not unique in its desperation for tapping into potential funding pools, forests are currently undervalued and therefore underfunded yet vital resources for sustaining life on Earth.

All five of the speakers at today’s side event sponsored by Switzerland and the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) alluded to the need for an increase in private financial investments in conjunction with other public funding sources and policy initiatives to help address the pervasive effects of climate change on forests.  Julian Richardson of the Parhelion Underwriting Ltd. credited the lack of financial flows in large part to a deficiency in understanding for how to value ecosystem services.  In their publication distributed at Monday’s afternoon session (Forest Resilience Finance: Helping Forests Adapt to Climate Change), resilient forests are credited with providing: direct subsistence in the form of food and medicinal products; income generation from timber and non-timber-forest-products (NTFP); cultural traditions, rituals and recreation; and protection from natural extreme events and hazards (p. 6).  While the world at large certainly recognizes the existence of these services, the lack of monetary worth on many of them prevents standard ideas and management practices that would help stakeholders feel secure in making investments in forests and receiving timely returns on them as well.

eservices

Ms. Chiara Soletti of the CBI described the development of their Green Climate Bonds as a means of soothing investment concerns in this resource area.  In their “Fair-Trade” like labeling scheme for the green bonds, rigorous scientific criteria help bond investors quickly determine environmental credentials through compliance with the overarching climate bond’s standards (disclosure, i.e. project location and size), mitigation component (type or stage of forestry, i.e. sustainable forest management or NTFP), and adaptation and resilience component (risk assessments and strategies).  Projects must comply with both the mitigation and adaptation criteria in order to be funded, helping to address both investor concerns and those of the PA.

One of the biggest hurdles for overcoming a lack of ambition to invest in the forest resource is the typical short-term, quick return nature of investment opportunities in our current economic paradigm.  moneytreeForests do not provide outrageous capital returns in the same immediate time frame as some other “Wall Street” investment schemes on the market. But this mindset is greedy, unrealistic, and unsustainable, given the widespread value of forests in comparison to the quick and dirty stock market, and the call for a major paradigm shift in the most recent IPCC report. An investment in forests can also accompany an investment in a developing country’s resources, tackling two treaty birds with one stone.

Whether it be through green climate bonds and the private sector, or holistic sustainable forest management through municipalities and community groups, investing in forests is a surefire way to ensure our future is a green, clean, beautiful scene.


The Log-istics of Carbon Dioxide Removal

Trees are the coolest source of CO2 Removal on the planet.

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2012/10/26/conservation-or-carbon-sinks-can-the-un-see-the-forest-for-the-trees/

Trees and vegetation are known to help cool ambient air temperatures through evapotranspiration.  If left undisturbed, forests can also be a vital source of carbon storage.  Estimates from the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 2015) show that the world’s forests and other wooded lands store more than 485 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon: 260 Gt in the biomass, 37 Gt in dead wood and litter, and 189 Gt in the soil.

In the most recent IPCC Special Report Summary for Policymakers (SPM), the world’s leading climate scientists assess the pathways the global community can pursue over the next few decades to prevent overshoot ofScreen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.58.11 PM warming beyond 1.5°C.  The fact that all pathways to limit global warming to 1.5°C require mitigation via some form of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is not to be overlooked. But these removal amounts vary across pathways, as do the relative contributions of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and removals in the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector.  BECCS sequestration is projected to range from 0-1, 0-8, and 0-16 GtCO2/yr, in 2030, 2050, and 2100 respectively; the AFOLU-related measures are projected to remove 0-5, 1-11, and 1-5 GtCO2/yr in these years.  These contributions appear meager, and they are… but every little bit counts in this climate.

A reasonable argument can be made for increased investment in and use of CCS to achieve emissions reductions.  The SPM makes it clear that forests alone won’t be able to make a significant numerical difference in reduction of CO2 from the atmosphere.  And as the New York Times aptly points out, “the world is currently much better at cutting down forests than planting new ones.”

On the surface, CCS seems like a logical outgrowth from the nature of GHG emissions production.  The IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Capture and Storage (SRCCS) describes CCS as a mitigation activity that Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.37.30 PMseparates CO2 from large industrial and energy-related point sources, which has the potential to capture 85-95% of the CO2 processed in a capture plant.  Direct Air Capture (DAC) technologies like ClimeWorks remove CO2 from the air. Proponents argue that DAC is a much less land-intensive process than afforestation: Removal of 8 Gt/CO2 would require 6.4 million km² of forested land and 730 km³ of water, while DAC would directly require only 15,800 km² and no water.

However, as our blog has cautioned readers in the past, CCS requires significant financial investments from industry and government and are only regionally accessible.  Only places that have sufficient infrastructure and political support can pursue this path of technological sequestration, leaving underdeveloped countries at a major disadvantage.  A recent report published in Nature Research further emphasizes that BECCS will have significant negative implications for the Earth’s planetary boundaries, or thresholds that humanity should avoid crossing with respect to Earth and her sensitive biophysical subsystems and processes.  Transgressing these boundaries will increase the risk of irreversible climate change, such as the loss of major ice sheets, accelerated sea level rise, and abrupt shifts in forest and agricultural systems.  Above all else, CCS ultimately supports the continual burning of fossil fuels. CCS technology may capture carbon, but it also has the potential to push us over the edge.

Money tree

Mitigation has historically been the focus of the FCCC and other collaborative climate change efforts.  Global climate change policy experts are familiar with the binding language associated with activities related to mitigation in the multilateral environmental agreements: Article 4(1)(b) of the Convention calls for commitments to formulate, implement, publish and update national programs containing measures to mitigate climate change; and Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) calls for Annex I Parties to account for their emissions reductions in order to promote accountability and activity guided by mindful emissions production.  In the waning hours of the KP, the Paris Agreement has become the new collective rallying document, whose ambitious emissions reduction target has inspired the likes of the IPCC to offer us pathways to get there.

If we are not currently on track towards limiting GHG emissions well-below 2°C in the grand scheme of the FCCC, why not insure some success, however small, buy securing CO2 in forests, not CCS?  Forests are a well-established CDR technology that do not have the associated risks with CCS.  While the most recent UN Forum on Forests report kindly reminds us that forests are also crucial for food, water, wood, health, energy, and biodiversity, the SPM upholds that mitigation contributions from carbon sequestration technology are numerically minuscule in the face of the large-scale change necessary to avoid CO2 overload.  A much more engaged energy overhaul is needed.

The ideal SPM pathScreen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.10.17 PMway states that afforestation can be the only CDR option when social, business, and technological innovations result in lower energy demand and a decarbonized energy system.  A more middle-of-the-road scenario achieves necessary emissions reductions mainly by changing the way in which energy and products are produced, and to a lesser degree by reductions in demand.  This speaks to the need for a broad focus on sustainable development rather than continuing business as usual.  Regardless of the pathway, forests need to be preserved, whether it be for carbon sequestration, their cooling effects, or merely beauty.

Sometimes there is no turning back.


IPCC special report leaves the world in dire straits

In response to an invitation from the Parties of the Paris Agreement (PA), and pursuant to the Article 2 efforts to limit temperature increases well below 2°C, the IPCC prepared a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), released Monday, 8 October, 2018.

Climate scientists sounded the alarm yet again, painting a dire picture of the future without immediate and drastic mitigation and adaptation measures worldwide.  High confidence statements made by the panel include:

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.58.11 PM

  • Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels
  • Current global warming trends reach at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Staying below the 1.5°C threshold will require a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050
  • Pathways to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot will require removal of an additional 100-1000 GtCO2

Pathways of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions submitted under the PA will not limit global warming to 1.5°C.  Current pathways put us on target for 3°C by 2100, with continued warming afterwards.

The ENB Report summarizing SR15 was able to shine a light on the good that can come from responses to this special report (not to mention upholding the ambition intended with the PA).  SR15 shows that most of the 1.5°C pathways to avoid overshoot also help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in critical areas like human health or energy access. Ambitious emission reductions can also prevent meeting critical ecosystem thresholds, such as the projected loss of 70-90% of warmer water coral reefs associated with 2°C.

Groups like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are intensifying their adaptive scientific support through a “fully-integrated, ‘seamless’ Earth-system approach to weather, climate, and water domains,” says Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the WMO.  This “seamless” approach allows leading climate scientists to use their advanced data assimilation and observation capabilities to deliver knowledge in support of human adaptations to regional environmental changes.  By addressing extreme climate and weather events through a holistic Earth-system approach, predictive tools will help enhance early warning systems and promote well being by giving the global community a greater chance to adapt to the inevitable hazardous events related to climate change.

WRI Graph

Success ultimately depends on international cooperation, which will hopefully be encouraged by the IPCC’s grim report and the looming PA Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023.  In the wake of devastating hurricanes, typhoons, and the SR15, it’s hard to ignore both the climate and leading climate scientists urging us to take deliberate, collective action to help create a more equitable and livable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

In Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20 decides to convene a “facilitative dialogue” among the Parties in 2018, to take stock in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4 of the PA.  Later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue, these talks have set preparations into motion and are helping Parties gear up for the formal GST, with the aim of answering three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Discussion about the implications of SR15 will be held at COP24, where round table discussions in the political phase of the dialogue will address the question, “how do we get there?”

It won’t be by continuing business as usual.