Understanding the Complex Organized Chaos of UNFCCC Negotiations

FractalA fractal is a never-ending mathematical pattern that is self-similar across different scales. Every time you look closer, you see another layer.

 

The UNFCCC negotiations have a similar pattern. Every time you look closer, you see another layer. The news reports coming out of Paris are using a confusing array of terms: ADP contact groups, spin-off groups, and informal informals. What looks like a bewildering arrangement of groups has a structure and purpose as countries move towards a final agreement on a post-2020 climate regime.

 

COP 21 negotiations take place in layers. Each layer reduces the number of participants and increases the intimacy. The negotiations start at the ADP, the body tasked with producing the negotiating text for Draft Agreement and a Draft Decision that will be presented to the Conference of the Parties on Saturday December 6. The COP will then be responsible for finalizing the climate agreement.

 

The ADP process has 196 Party participants and it is shepherded by two Co-Chairs who oversee the ADP contact group. The ADP contact group serves as the organizational heart of the negotiation process. The ADP contact group has spent three years of painstaking negotiations trying to build consensus on the shape, scope, and content of a post-2020 climate agreement.

 

With only a few days left to find a consensus, the Co-Chairs are using more focused discussion to spur movement from the Parties. The Co-Chairs are creating spin-off groups to discuss specific portions of the Draft Agreement and Draft Text. Spin-off groups discuss specific Articles and related portions of the Decision text. The spin-off groups are lead by a facilitator selected from the Party delegates. The facilitators are tasked with focusing the discussion and seeking areas of common agreement. The spin-off groups break their work load into clusters or themes. The clusters are made up of related paragraphs and sections. For example, the Article 9 spin-off group has created five clusters that will be discussed individually on topics such as Principles and the post-Paris Work Programme.

 

When spin-off groups bog down on a discussion of a specific portion of the text, the facilitators are creating a smaller discussion group known as an informal informal. The informal informals bring together interested parties from the spin-off group to draft text that can resolve the dispute.

 

While the negotiating proceedings get smaller and more focused, the reporting structure works in the opposite direction. Informal informals report their work back to the spin-off group. The spin-off groups can accept the work done by the informal informal. If the spin-off group accepts the new text, then they report their work back to the ADP contact group.

 

The reporting structure ensures transparency and equality between the Parties. The ADP process has 196 Parties with vastly different capacities. Developing countries can staff and participate in all of the spin-off groups. Least developed countries can struggle to cover all of the meetings and follow the discussion. Requiring the spin-off groups to report back to the ADP contact group ensures that information is presented in an open and transparent forum.

 

As you peer into the ADP negotiation process, the layers reveal themselves. What looks confusing has a purpose and a goal. What appears chaotic has a structure. What appears disorganized has a plan. Move the world closer to a post-2020 climate agreement. Make sure that Week 2 of COP 21 can complete the task set out three years ago.


COP21 Begins in 24 Hours: Will a Paris Agreement [Decrease] [Solve] [Do Nothing On] Climate Change?

imagesIf all politics are local, but greenhouse gases find their way into the atmosphere’s international space, how can the global community act collectively on climate change? In 1992, the solution was to adopt an international treaty. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) declared climate change a “common concern of mankind,” and committed 166 countries to tackling it. Most UNFCCC parties were developing countries, who had contributed relatively few emissions given their pre-industrial poverty but were nonetheless already experiencing the irreversible, negative effects of climate change. Under the convention’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities” (CBDRRC), developed countries and top greenhouse gas emitters like the European Union and the United States agreed to take the lead.

Yet, progress has been slow. In 2007, this leadership took the form of the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which placed clear greenhouse gas emission limits on developed countries while imposing none on developing countries. When the United States refused to ratify, its emissions, along with those of rapidly industrializing developing countries like China, India, and Brazil, escaped international regulation. Consequently, when negotiations for continuing the protocol beyond its first 2008-2012 period faltered at COP15 in Copenhagen, a new approach to international limits on greenhouse gas emissions began to CO2take shape. It gained momentum at the two subsequent conferences of parties (COPs) held in Cancun and Durban. Now, almost six years on, there is emerging agreement that all parties—developed and developing countries—should make individual, international climate change mitigation pledges determined by each party’s national government.

At COP21 in December, the current 196 UNFCCC parties will decide if they can sign on to this new paradigm of international climate change regulation. The Durban Mandate requires the parties to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” by the end of 2015. In Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015, the parties will have their last opportunity to shape the international climate change law that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020.

copDuring four negotiation sessions this year, the parties drafted a “Paris Package” that consists of a core legal agreement based on a system of nationally determined contributions and several COP decisions addressing implementation and political issues. The current 31-page draft agreement outlines how parties’ individual contributions will be internationally measured, reviewed, and verified. These pledges no longer focus solely on mitigation. Consistent with appeals from the developing world, the draft agreement pays almost equal attention to adaptation and finance actions. Likewise, it sets out conditions for transparent international reporting. Under it, parties take responsibility for determining whether their national efforts collectively keep global temperature rise below the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recommended upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius.

This new system of national pledges that are internationally made and scrutinized for sufficiency had a World Resources Institutetrial run this year. By Oct. 1, 2015, 147 parties had submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), covering approximately 86 percent of total global emissions. While each INDC derives from national priorities, overall they tend to include substantive contributions on mitigation, adaptation, and finance, as well as important process pledges on reporting and verification, technology transfer, and capacity building. Developed countries have pledged absolute mitigation targets and resources for vulnerable developing countries. Higher-income developing countries like Brazil, China, and Mexico have made concrete greenhouse gas mitigation pledges. Other developing countries have described their mitigation and adaptation efforts and goals, but made them conditional on receiving financial assistance. Transparency in this pledging process has been prioritized: INDCs are publicly available at the UNFCCC website and have been reviewed closely by the UNFCCC secretariat, non-governmental organization (NGOs), and the press.

CAT_thermometer_20141207That’s the good news. The bad news is that, at least in the short term, these intended contributions do not add up to keeping atmospheric warming below the 2-degree Celsius goal. A Nov. 1, 2015, UNFCCC report concluded that while the INDC pledges—if fulfilled—would slow down the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions, they will not maintain the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. Likewise NGOs like Climate Action Tracker (CAT) and Climate Interactive reach the same conclusion. CAT calculates that achieving the unconditional INDC pledges would still likely lead to a 2.7-degree Celsius increase. Climate Interactive’s math adds up to a predicted 3.5-degree Celsius increase.

So how could COP21’s Paris Package address this shortfall and result in a new international agreement that leads parties to bend the global emissions curve to a 2-degree Celsius or lower pathway?

  • First, it would use these INDCs as a starting point only and include provisions in the new agreement that require all parties to increase their contributions in regular, transparent cycles. In this way, COP21 serves as “a way station in this fight, not a terminus,” as Bill McKibben recently wrote.
  • Second, it would emphasize the need for all parties to adapt to changes already locked in by historical emissions, and recognize the permanent loss and damage experienced by the most vulnerable developing countries.
  • Third, to achieve these first two, it would show agreement on the amount and kind of financing available for developing countries to achieve their pledges. COP15’s promise of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation activities is still on the table. A recent OECD report indicates that climate finance reached $62 billion in 2014. But many note that mobilizing private finance is not the same as pledging public funds, and call for developed country governments to do more.
  • Fourth, it would include a COP decision that ramps up the INDC pledges before the new agreement takes effect in 2020. From now until then, non-state actors like cities, states, and provinces, as well as businesses and consumer groups, have focused their subnational powers on renewable energy and energy efficiency actions intended to narrow the emissions gap.
  • Fifth, it would reflect a new understanding of CBDRRC. While this core principle no longer translates into developing countries getting a bye on greenhouse gas emissions limits, it also does not exempt developed countries from their historical responsibility for climate change and their capacity to provide finance and technology for low- or no-carbon development. The deep tension over how to fairly bring all parties into a common framework that recognizes different starting points permeates the draft text through heavily [bracketed] language.

The UNFCCC requires consensus to lift these brackets. The negotiations thus far have produced little of it. Instead, despite its fractured international politics, the G77+China has flexed its negotiation muscle IMG_0920through disciplined coordination of member countries that otherwise align with the diverse agendas of the Africa Group, Arab Group, and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs). AOSIS, which represents low-lying countries whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, works with the least developed countries group (LDCs) to press for strong adaptation and loss and damage provisions. The E.U. and U.S. are committed to market mechanisms for achieving mitigation reductions and private climate financing along with government contributions. Two negotiating groups, the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG) and AILAC, seek to find common ground. The EIG is the only group that includes both developed and developing countries. AILAC’s members are middle-income Central and South American countries that are growing rapidly yet can still reorient toward low-carbon pathways. But these national negotiators can go only so far: While they are masters of the technical details and crafting precise legal language, it appears that the true power to compromise resides in their national capitals.

Leading up to COP21, weekly meetings of heads of state and their environmental, foreign affairs, and finance ministers have taken place. In this way, local politics are actively engaged on the international problem of climate change. All parties preparing for Paris have said clearly what they want to avoid—no repeat of COP15, no “ghosts of Copenhagen” haunting COP21. It will be a day-by-day proposition with some bumpy rides along the way. Follow the journey here till its finish!

 


Steering the ADP Decision Ship

You don’t turn a ship around quickly. A-U.S.-naval-ship-in-the--007Kishan Kumarsingh and Artur Runge-Metzger, Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) have had the Captain’s task of steering global negotiations on 1) defining Elements for a draft negotiating text for a 2015 Agreement and 2) drafting a COP Decision that is to be finalized in Lima to define the implementation of all the elements of Decision 1/CP.17.

Despite this slow-moving process, new draft texts were provided first thing this morning by the Co-Chairs – which were synthesized from last week’s negotiations – and were the focus of the morning discussion.

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Immediate reactions by Parties were mixed. Some developing countries, including Bolivia, Nicaragua, China and others were very concerned about the nature of the new text documents, and in particular the draft COP decision.

In addition, many felt the new title on the Elements document indicated a shift from a more neutral Non-Paper format as was previously provided, and questioned the legal status of this new version. They also felt there was a bias, where some concepts discussed last week were brought forward in the new text, and some were not adequately reflected. Nicaragua stated that the new approach appears to be a “very well refined Copenhagen.” The bottom line was that all parties should be privy to drafting text, with opportunities provided for a line-by-line negotiating approach.

Norway, taking a bit of a different view, proposed in order to have a “fruitful discussion on a textual basis, it would be impossible to start with a compilation document.” Instead they proposed working with the current draft to identify where convergence lies. Japan also strongly relayed reservations with the new texts. But realizing that there is only a very short time left in this COP Japan suggested that steps must be taken on the basis of the new text presented.

Addressing the obvious wake of reactions by Parties to the new ADP texts, the Co-Chairs affirmed that there is NO legal status to these documents, and it is the Parties that must decide on the legal principles. The drafts presented by the Co-Chairs were self-described as a “synthesis in the true sense”. As Captains of the ship, they brought together different proposals presented from last week, to “let cook and boil”, but understanding that it does not necessarily reflect consensus by all. This is instead the challenge ahead for Parties to navigate.


Undermining the Prospects for a Ambitious U.N. Climate Deal

At the close of the first week of the United Nation’s (UN) climate negotiations, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) reached $9.95 billion with Norway’s most recent pledge.  At the same time, the Oil Change International and Overseas Development Institute (OCI) released a new report. The report calls for a short stopped applaud on the GCF announcement, as the analysis shines a new light on the disparity between finance pledged and support for the exploration of new fossil fuel extraction.

The briefing finds that while these “climate finance pledges have been met with some enthusiasm” developed countries are still providing nearly three times more money for fossil fuel exploration alone. Supporting the search for more oil, gas, and coal, then they have pledged for the GCF. As the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) synthesis report reiterates that the majority of the proven fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, G-20 governments’ are spending tens of billions of tax dollars each year on subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and development.

ff financingThe report shows support for fossil fuel exploration by Annex II governments totals $26.6 billion per year, nearly three times the current amount that these countries have pledged in climate finance to the GCF. For example, the United States (U.S.), whose $3 billion pledge is the largest commitment of the GCF thus far, provides more than twice the amount—$6.5 billion—in annual government support for fossil fuel exploration. A 45 percent increase in U.S. fossil subsidies since 2009, with President Obama’s “All the Above” energy policy alone.

Recognizing this deficiency, Parties are contemplating a firm decision to scale down fossil fuel subsidies and high-carbon investments. The option appears in the finance section Article 34.1(d) of the draft text complied by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. “So it’s in there, but it’s [only] an option—we need to make it a decision. Unless we defend it very strongly, there’s a high chance it may be left out,” said Climate Action International policy officer Alix Mazounie.

A provision to phase out fossil fuel subsides and investments should form a key part of the Paris agreement, Mozounie said. Especially, given that fossil fuel subsidies completely undermine climate action and contradict the UN climate negotiations aims, said Mozounie.


ADP Workstream 2: The most pressing and immediate of needs shuffled to end of queue

Under the ADP, two ‘workstreams’ were created to meet climate change goals. Workstream 1 was created to identify Individual Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) that will be signed at the Paris 2015 COP; Workstream 2 was created to fill the ‘gap’ between present and the 2020 date of implementation of the Paris 2015 agreement.

Since the experts agree with the urgency indicated by the IPCC, it is logical to think that the more quickly action is taken, the better the chances are for keeping climate change at bay. So why is the period between now and 2020 being neglected? It may be because the industrialized nations are not yet feeling the ‘heat’ or drowning in the effects of climate change yet. There has been very little talk of this “low hanging fruit” in negotiations this week.Exhibit in Lima, Peru

Talk has turned solely to the INDCs. This is worrisome to the developing nations where change is needed now.  One aspect of the ADP that is under fire from all sides right now is the timing of the 2020 agreement. The EU and other developed nations are pushing for a longer period than 5 years. In a press conference yesterday, the EU said that an 8-year or longer period would signal Parties’ commitments. Developing nations do not see it this way. Developing nations do not welcome the push for longer timeframes, inclusion of private sector funding and references to markets in the text.

With the conversations focused on the INDCs and the post-2020 period, it is likely that the second week will begin with nothing formally on the negotiating table for Workstream 2 and the most pressing issues that face the vulnerable Parties over the next five years. The EU stated that they do not envision anything binding on mitigation over the next 5 years, but perhaps this will be a sticking point for LCDs and AOSIS that have been feeling the effects of climate change for years now.

Bangladesh. Photo by G. Braasch

Bangladesh. Photo by G. Braasch

China suggested perambulatory text for the draft of the ADP decision that states “grave concern” over the gap between now and 2020 while the EU and the US struck text about adaptation and whole paragraphs aimed at pre-2020 ambition through finance and adaptation support. Party submissions are available online but sadly not much is being said about the interim period before the year 2020.


The Fossils of the Day

photo 1Today Australia and the European Union (EU) took home the Fossil of the Day Award presented by Climate Action Network (CAN). Australia received the gold medal after stating in an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) session that loss and damage should be an element of adaptation, not a stand alone part of the Paris Agreement.  This stands in direct contrast to the positions of the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts. Developing countries, including those from Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Africa Group, and Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), want to see the agreement feature loss and damage as a separate issue, not bundled into adaptation. Developing countries argue that it is not possible to adapt to losing your land due to rising sea levels, nor is it possible to adapt to farmland lost to desertification.

The EU won the silver Fossil of the Day Award, calling for a ten-year commitment period. Critics claim this is a sure fire way to lock in low ambition in the future climate deal. The length of the current five-year commitment period for climate action is key to an effective 2015 climate agreement in Paris. Proponents of a five-year commitment period say a shorter commitment period avoids locking in low ambition, incentivizes early action, avoids delay tactics, and maintains political accountability. Those calling for progressive climate action urge Parties to decide on a common five-year period here and now in Lima.


The road from Bonn to Lima (by way of Copenhagen this week)

Looking back on last week’s ADP2-6 special session, it would be easy to echo the notes of pessimism that pervaded Saturday’s press reports.  RTCC (Responding to Climate Change) commented after last Thursday’s stocktaking session that “much work remains” in the session’s last two daysIMG_4368 and noted the frustrated ADP Co-Chairs “offering government negotiators a stern reality check.”   Artur Runge-Metzger acknowledged that the “ambition to finalize the two decisions is no longer possible in Bonn” because State Parties had “not touched on many important things.”  Kishan Kumarsingh put it more bluntly, calling on delegates to “look yourselves in the eye; ask yourself if we are on track.”

adp in bonnSaturday’s Business Insider opened with these words:  “Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact. The six-day meeting of senior officials in the former West German capital was meant to lay the groundwork for the annual round of ministerial-level UN talks in Lima in December. In turn, the Lima forum must pave the way to a historic pact which nations have agreed must be signed in Paris next year, to curb planet-altering climate change. But some negotiators and observers expressed concern that the Bonn talks focused too much on restating well-known country positions on how responsibility for climate action must be shared.”  BI quotes David Waskow of the World Resources Institute (WRI) saying that while the ADP2-6 talks had been constructive, “there is nervousness that the pace is somewhat slow” and  Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) echoing this concern more pithily: “People are starting to panic a little.”

EU dealEven some good news from individual countries – foreshadowing their INDCs or intended nationally determined commitments/contributions, the content of which was under negotiation all week in Bonn – did not appear to hearten negotiators.  For example, the AFP (L’Agence France-Presse) announced on Thursday that “a European deal on curbing carbon emissions yielded a rare concrete input Friday to UN climate talks, but did little to ease frustration among negotiators demanding progress on a global pact in Bonn.”  The EU-28’s agreement to cut GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030 over 1990 levels (building on the EU’s current projected 20% decrease from 1990 to 2020), along with 27% renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, was hailed in Brussels but downplayed by some developing country negotiators in Bonn.

Claudia Salerno of Venezuela talking with a U.S. counterpart in a COP19 ADP huddle.Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead negotiator at the ADP (pictured at right facing the camera), spoke on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) negotiation bloc when she called the EU goals “too little and too late.”    Likewise Sweden’s pledge of $550 million to the Green Climate Fund barely took the edge off developing countries concern about the slow progress of all developed countries in meeting their COP15 pledge of mobilizing $100 billion per year of climate finance by 2020.  Even though the Swedish government’s press release announced that it is “now choosing to take greater responsibility for Sweden’s climate impact and is making a commitment ahead of Paris 2015 by increasing Green Climate Fund (GCF) financing by approximately USD 550 million (SEK 4 billion) and allocating an additional SEK 500 million to international climate action,” Bloomberg News led its Friday report on ADP2-6 with  “a dispute about how to link greenhouse-gas emissions cuts to a promise from the wealthiest nations for $100 billion a year in climate aid emerged as a major stumbling block at UN talks on global warming.”  As UCS’s Meyer observed, “there has to be some collective signal from the developed countries that the direction of climate finance will be upwards and not fall off a cliff. You need more clarity on post-2020 finance if you want to get an agreement in Paris.”

Finally, a Greenpeace report  noted by the GCCA (Global Call for Climate Action) last week that China — now the world’s largest GHG emitter — had decreased its coal usage this year gained little traction in the Bonn talks.  Because China burns almost china factorshalf of the coal used worldwide each year, the fact that it decreased its coal consumption by about 2% while also growing its economy 7.4% and increasing its energy consumption by 4% indicates that the country is on track to meet the mitigation goals it announced at last month’s UN Climate Summit.  This change looks to have resulted from a combination of several “bottom up” initiatives within China, including its National Energy Agency’s proposals to limit coal consumption growth to 2% (by more than doubling wind power capacity and increasing solar capacity fivefold between 2013 and 2020) and regional pledges in 12 of China’s 44 provinces (representing 44% of national coal usage) to limit their coal consumption and the launch of 8 regional carbon markets that prepares China to meet its national emissions trading scheme targeted for 2016.

At the ADP’s closing plenary, State Party delegates spoke out about the road from Bonn to Lima, ignoring the Co-Chairs’ request to end ADP2-6 without individual country interventions.  A general theme was G77 birthdaysounded by Bolivia speaking on behalf of the G77+China that was echoed by most parties: feeling the political pressure from civil society and wanting to avoid a “take it or leave it” situation in COP20’s final moments, the G77 urged the co-chairs to reorient the ADP’s work in Lima by starting with a clear working text and formal groups that focus negotiation on all core elements of agreement.  Ecuador, representing the LMDCs, drew a very clear picture of what it wanted to avoid:  “We represent sovereign states.  We expect to negotiate with dignity,” not in huddles resulting from a mismanaged process.  South Africa, concluding that “the latest version does not reflect the bridges that we’ve built,” additionally called for appointing facilitators to lead these focused groups and working specifically from an updated and reorganized version of the current non-paper.  While directing her remarks to the Co-Chairs, the SA lead ADP negotiator reminded everyone in the room – State Party delegates, UNFCCC staff, civil society organizations –  that “time is not on our side.” Picking up on this last point, the Swiss ADP lead negotiator, speaking for the EIG (Environmental Integrity Group, the only UNFCCC negotiating bloc to include both developing and developed country members), redirected negotiators’ frustration from the ADP leadership to its membership:  “Slow motion this week due to speed limits imposed by parties on themselves, not by co-chairs.”  He observed that the week’s focused work on mitigation commitments had been productive, permitting the parties to delve into more detail and nuance, and commended the Co-Chairs for “creating this space.”

Next stop on the road to Lima is this week’s 40th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-40), which began meeting this morning at the Tivoli Conference Center in Copenhagen, AR5Denmark.  Its goal: to consider and finalize the IPCC’s Synthesis Report (SYR), which integrates and synthesizes the findings from the three Working Group (WG) reports already published. Taken together, the three WG reports and the SYR will make up the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that the 196 UNFCCC parties will rely on in Lima. From today until the final gavel on Friday, the IPCC will approve, line by line, the SYR’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and adopt the draft SYR – no mean feat, given that more than 800 authors and review editors from 85 countries have had a hand in preparing AR5 during the past six years.  Maybe the IPCC’s process could suggest some conflict resolution techniques for the UNFCCC parties?


Legal enough?

In the run up to next week’s special meeting of the ADP, the United States is publicly setting out its negotiation agenda.

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Todd Stern making an announcement at last year’s COP19/CMP9.

In a speech on Monday at Yale University, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern indicated the country’s position on the meaning of “legal” in the ADP’s mandate to produce “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” to take the place of the Kyoto Protocol after its second commitment period ends in 2020.

The Obama Administration is in a tough spot.  It wants to be a player in developing a 2015 agreement (popularly called the Paris agreement, for it is due to be opened for signature at COP21 in the City of Light).  It knows that this new agreement will contain legal elements.  It also knows that if the entire package takes the form of a treaty, it would have to bring it to the Senate for ratification — a highly unlikely proposition even if the Democrats maintain control after this fall’s midterm elections.

In his formal remarks, Stern pointed to New Zealand’s proposal for all countries to submit an emissions reduction schedule that would be legally binding and subject to mandatory accounting, reporting and review rules, but that stops short of taking the form of an internationally binding treaty.

Late night ADP negotiations in Warsaw.

Mexico and Singapore await their turns to speak at a late night session of the ADP in Warsaw.

As reported by Reuters, Stern commented that “some are sure to disapprove of the New Zealand idea, since the mitigation commitment itself is not legally binding, but we would counsel against that kind of orthodoxy.”   In the National Journal he argued that the flip side of this approach may be “increased ambition” in these nationally determined commitments: “Many countries, if forced to put forward legally binding commitments at the international level, are inevitably going to lowball their commitment out of fear—anxiety about what it means for their commitment to be internationally legally binding.”  Stern suggested at his Yale talk that countries might include description of the legally binding measures it will take domestically to meet its internationally stated goal, to reinforce the heft of its submission:  “it’s important for countries to make clear which specific policies will be used to meet their emissions targets.”

While this stance will indeed disappoint global partners in the UNFCCC’s ADP negotiations, officials inside the U.S. point out that it doesn’t weaken the country’s domestic approach to mitigating climate change.  Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said that the U.S. is aware that its own target will have a major impact on the outcome of a global deal.  “The more that we do, the more our ability to push other countries to make bold commitments as well, particularly China. It is something we are very focused on in terms of what targets we are able to get to.”  Stern also observed that the President’s Climate Action Plan and the EPA’s recent Clean Power Plan rulemaking “give us a level of credibility, and it give us a level of leverage that we have not had in the time I have been here.”

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UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres at the bully pulpit.

Any points of common ground as we move from Bonn’s special ADP meeting next week to Lima’s COP20/CMP10 in December?

“We should agree on an angle of the [Paris] conference this year in Lima, Peru,” Stern opined to The Hill.  To that end, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that given the lessons learned from COP15 in Copenhagen, she will push state parties gathered in Lima to have “cleanest possible draft text” available for governments by April 15, 2015.


“A foundation COP” of nuts and bolts

A presidential stocktaking during COP19's final days.

A presidential stocktaking during COP19’s final days.

“Stocktaking” is a now a new word in my vocabulary.  While I regularly do it, I don’t normally make the time to name it as such.  In the polyglot system of the United Nations, awkwardly-formal-but-descriptive terms like this one (and “functions and modalities,” “institutional mechanisms,”  “work programmes”) are essential to the process of moving a group forward to action.

So now, speaking of “moving forward” (a common phrase at COP19), let’s take stock of how the media is portraying the outcome of COP19.

Today’s NYT focuses on the ADP and L&M final deals, explaining more IMG_4323about the latter than the former.  It led off with the idea that COP19 is “keeping alive the hope” of globally dealing with climate change, but ends on a bummer note: “Treaty members remain far from any serious, concerted action to cut emissions. And developing nations complained that promises of financial help remain unmet.”  Both valid points, and the second is a true accounting of what I witnessed in the ADP sessions.  But the first one misses the mark on this “foundation COP’s” mission, which the co-chairs stressed during the wee hours of Friday/Saturday’s marathon negotiation session: the ADP’s mandate for COP19 was to establish the elements and timetable for making the legal agreement that will bind countries to emissions reductions, not negotiating the agreement itself.

The NYT also chronicled how the U.S. called out China’s intransigence on future GHG emissions being “applicable to all” and how developed countries recognized their historical responsibility for creating global warming even though they resist being held “liable” for it.

IMG_4316China’s Xinhua news service focused on the glass half full, leading with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s positive view of COP19:  “The decisions adopted in Warsaw serve as an important stepping stone toward a universal legal agreement in 2015.”  Using the carefully negotiated language of “contributions” (rather than commitments), the article closed by observing that the ADP agreement “was seen as a key step paving the way for all countries to reach an ambitious global climate pact in 2015, and a sign of their desire to avert a breakdown of the climate talks.” It also gave a nod to a next stepping stone, the climate summit hosted by Ban Ki-Moon in September 2014 (on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly meeting):  “He has asked world leaders, as well as leaders from business, finance, local government and civil society, to bring bold announcements and actions that will lead to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and strengthened adaptation and resilience efforts.”

The head Chinese negotiator for ADP, center background.

The head Chinese negotiator for ADP, center background.

Continuing with the stepping stone “path” metaphor for summing up the Warsaw meeting, but offering more “real politick” talk in a separate (but linked) news article, the Chinese delegation noted its disappointments. “There are many issues that we are not actually satisfied with but we can accept,” Xie Zhenhua, head of China’s COP19 delegation and also deputy chief of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.  According to him, “to make the meeting a success and the multi-lateral mechanism effective, China has shown the biggest flexibility and made concessions on some issues.”

Interestingly, BusinessGreen provides the more detailed and accurate accounting of COP19 specifics (as I witnessed them), as well as the most nuanced analysis. (I am not familiar with the publication but the comments indicate a very different readership than my regular reading list!)  It directly reports that “the eventual agreement resulted in a draft text that requires countries ‘who are ready’ to make ‘contributions, without prejudice to the legal nature,’ ideally by early 2015 at the latest” and acknowledges that this wording represents “significant watering down” of the penultimate draft’s use of “for those in a position” to deliver a climate “commitment” by early 2015.IMG_4282Nonetheless, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey views this as a sufficient outcome for “all nations have now agreed to start their homework to prepare for a global climate change deal in 2015” (reprising the homework theme of his HLM opening plenary remarks). “While the long negotiations in Poland showed there are many tough talks ahead of us, the determined diplomacy of the UK and EU achieved our aims, building alliances with our friends across the world.”

Jonathan Grant, Director at PwC’s sustainability and climate change IMG_4357team, joins the chorus using sports analogies to characterize the outcome achieved yesterday inside the National Stadium. “By taking us to the brink of collapse, looking over the edge and then pulling back, we come away feeling delighted that any progress has been made at all,” he said. “A victory was always expected, but like the England football team, the COP made this a lot more dramatic than it needed to be. The ‘talks about talks’ phase is now over, as countries agreed to the agenda for the negotiations and the timeline for coming up with some numbers.”

BusinessGreen closes with Nicholas Stern’s dose of reality therapy.  The author of the famous Stern Report, who now chairs an institute at the London School of Economics, views COP19’s output as IMG_4152“simply inadequate” compared to the scale and urgency of the risks of climate change: “If the world is to have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming, which it is generally agreed would occur if there is a rise in global average temperature by more than two centigrade degrees compared with the late 19th century, annual emissions of greenhouse gases will need to be cut at a much faster rate than is currently planned by countries.”

That, folks, reminds the process-oriented “policy” types that their nuts and bolts are still out of step with the science types’ brass tacks.


COP 19 still going… we’re still in extra time: penalty-shoot out or a nil-nil draw?

The UNFCCC COP 19 is still going and going, much like the Energizer bunny or a cricket match. At this point in the game, the negotiations have produced two draft text on ADP (Agenda item 3) and long-term finance (LTF), but an updated draft on loss and damage remains in the locker room with some ailment (UPDATE: the coach, COP 19 president Mr. Marcin Korolec just said a new draft text on loss and damage will be available for selection!). However, the clock approaches 120 minutes. Will the negotiations end in a nil-nil draw, go to penalty kicks or will the COP19 Presidency manage to score a goal, in the name of a package deal. Will Christiana Figures draw a red card or blow the final whistle on the UNFCCC negotiations?

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Poland’s National Stadium has hosted a number of international football (soccer) matches.

So, why am I using sports terms and analogies? The COP 19 is being held in Poland’s National Stadium (Stadio Narodowy), which is the home of the Polish national soccer team. Throughout the two weeks, the delegations have used sports analogies to describe or encourage a resolution to the COP negotiations.

The Guardian Eco blog captured some of the best sports analogies spoken by delegates at the COP/CMP:

Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland: 

“The match is won by the team. In order to win, players have to collaborate.” 

Christiana Figueres, UN’s top climate official:

“There are no two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”  

Ed Davey, chairing a meeting and calling a new speaker to the podium:

“Peter is now warming up on the touchline.”

And an extended riff from Rachel Kyte of the World Bank:

“The UK’s football teams are sometimes accused of punting the ball down the field in the hope someone tall will pick it up. [In the climate talks] we should play tiki-taka [the preferred elegant, passing style of World Cup champions Spain]. This should be the World Cup of climate change.”

To which Davey responded:

“The World Bank is trying to take over FIFA.”

And finally, a startling admission from the US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern. Seated in the EU’s main meeting room, which sports the football jerseys of all the member states across one wall (the UK is represented by a Team GB shirt from the Olympics, rather than the national sides), he could not resist commenting that his three soccer-mad sons would love it. But as for Stern himself: “I’m a fan of the Spanish team.”

The Spanish National Team's Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

The Spanish National Team’s Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

Who doesn’t love the Spanish National Team and their tiki-taka style of fútbol, where they pass-pass-pass-pass the ball, holding possession for the majority of the game, perhaps score a goal or two and win a World Cup? In this spirit, winning teams have to deliver results and play as a team. Selfish actions only hurt the collective, especially if one person (or negotiator) has the opportunity to score points (such as political points), yet drags the shot wide of the net. As the Spanish National team will find out (or has already found out), the successful tiki-taka style will lose its cutting edge, its invincibility, as other teams figure out their weaknesses. Teams have to evolve and change strategies in order to be successful. The same tactics will not always win.

As State Parties to the COP19 enter into extra time, the 120 minute marks looms. They are furiously negotiation resolutions on the final three issues on ADP, LTF and loss and damage to produce some kind of Warsaw package. Hopefully, the late nights and long days will not be in vain. The President’s Stocktaking has finished and the ADP talks has resumed. The UNFCCC process has to evolve and not rely on zero-sum-game tactics to get results. Yes, tiki-taka is a pretty way to play football/fútbol/soccer, but these players still get red cards and they lose matches. In other words, no player is immune from the rules of the game. Sometimes long-ball tactics win the game. The trophy here, at the UNFCCC, is not a shiny gold object but is a healthy planet.

I cannot speak to the physical state of the negotiators, but I hoped they stretched before embarking on this marathon. I think I tweaked my hamstring (metaphorically speaking) as I hobbled back to the venue this morning. In other words, I admire the stamina of these negotiators who are working around the clock to produce some kind of results. The planet and future generations depend on COP 19 finding the back of the net.


COP 19 is the never-ending story… ADP, Loss and Damage and Finance still unresolved

The clock has passed 1:30 am and the COP is still going… Negotiators and the High Level Ministers are still hard at work tweaking draft texts for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), Finance, and Loss and Damage, respectively.The UNFCCC COP19/CMP was supposed to end on November 22nd, ideally with much pomp and circumstance, glasses of champagne, and a new climate agreement probably with some catchy name (the Warsaw Miracle?).

Where's the Finance? #WTF

Where’s the Finance? #WTFThe COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

The COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

This afternoon, COP 19 President Mr. Marcin Korolec held a closing Plenary session to officially end several agenda items under the COP, CMP, SBI and SBSTA tracks. At about 9 pm, the president suspended the closing plenary to give the negotiators more time to resolve the bracketed and crossed out lines of text for the remaining three issue areas. The co-chairs from South Africa and Sweden lead the informals on Loss and Damage produced a draft text around 13:50, but the negotiations transitioned to bilateral meetings and then onwards to the High-Level Ministerial consultations. The majority of these meetings take place behind closed doors, with the exception of ADP that has let limited NGO observers into the meeting.

IMG_0808Throughout the day and into the evening, the Loss and Damage negotiators discussed the options of creating an international arrangement, a work programme or an international mechanism to address the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries. Based on the latest draft text, loss and damage might become an international mechanism under the UNFCCC, supported by SBSTA and SBI, which would be a huge plus for developing countries. This means that the developing countries might have traded on another issue, such as ambition or the timeline to report emissions in the ADP.

“The developing nations are looking for a new institution with legal and executive powers that would compensate people for loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, exacerbated by global warming. Richer countries want it to be dealt with within the existing institutions…We’re trying now to bridge those two and really see if there can be a two-step approach starting with co-ordinating the already existing framework and seeing how we can enhance that in a second phase but that needs to be captured in a decision,” said Mr Nafo [Seyni Nafo from Mali, the spokesman for the Africa Group of countries].”

Into the night, the loss and damage consultations focused on footnote 2 of the draft text, which references “Section II: enhanced action on adaptation.” More specifically, the “Warsaw Mechanism” to address loss and damage, in paragraph 1, states that the COP19 “establishes the Warsaw mechanism to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change (hereinafter referred to as the Warsaw mechanism), consistent with paragraph 14 of decision 1/CP.16…” In turn, paragraph 14 of the Cancun Agreements refers to common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and then several sub-paragraphs referencing enhanced adaptation.

The United State's seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The United State’s seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The CBDR principle causes some political divisions between developed and developing countries. In particular, developed countries, such as the United States, do not want Loss and Damage to become a “blame and liability mechanism” and make developed countries financially and legally liable for the damage caused by historical carbon emissions. Loss and damage is supposed to help the victims of the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries, not just financially but also address non-economic losses.

For COP 19 to be a success, all parties will have to make convergences on loss and damage, ADP, and climate finance. Without some sense of obligation to work together for the common good, these climate talks will fail. Loss and damage will be the norm, not the exception, because the other avenues will fail to provide the pathways for a sustainable and equitable future. Let’s hope that COP 19 (Warsaw Communique?) does not become the next Copenhagen Agreement…


Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

“The only people with the power to actually change anything are the local elected officials.”
– the Environmental Minister of Ghent, Belgium

No matter what happens in the international climate change negotiations, there is one thing everyone can agree on: the impacts of climate change, and the actions taken to address it, will ultimately happen on a local level.

This was recognized by the United Nations during the first-ever “Cities Day” on Thursday (full title: “COP Presidency Cities and Sub-national Dialogue of the Cities Day”), which would have been a real milestone if not for what Christiana Figueres called “the elephant in the room”: the delegates negotiating the ADP had cut the provisions that many in the room had worked so hard to get in.

“I know you were delighted to see the original text [proposed] by the chairs… and know you must be disappointed by the version this morning,” the Executive Secretary stated.

It’s been a bit of a ride this week for organizations like ICLEI, and C40, groups representing coalitions of cities or mayors working on climate change. They’re more or less in the same role as the rest of the ENGOs hanging around the COP, as cities cannot be Parties to the UNFCCC. Although I do hope that a mayor would have a little bit more luck getting a meeting with a negotiator.  Regardless, they are in the same place as everyone else right now; waiting to see what final product the ADP negotiators’ late-night last-day quarterbacking will produce.

Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change (Sept. 2013, adopted by 50 cities and over 20 regional or intergovernmental coalitions of local governments), the ADP hosted a workshop on Thursday, November 14.  The ADP workshop on pre-2020 ambition: urbanization and the role of governments in facilitating climate action in cities directly informed the draft text that was on the negotiating table as of Monday this week.

Monday’s draft included a vague “activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions”, and a sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014.

4(f) Welcoming and encouraging activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions, including through cooperative initiatives, at the national and multilateral levels and by subnational and local governments and non-State actors;

5(b) The organization of a forum to identify key priority areas for collaborative work on mitigation and adaptation at the sub-national level, to be convened in conjunction with the session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action that is held concurrently with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies (June 2014);

In Thursday morning’s draft, that language disappears, replaced by a plan for a new –something- to facilitate sharing of best practices by cities in order to enhance mitigation ambition, under an entirely new number. The ADP negotiators have a funny way of saying “Happy Cities Day”.

7. Resolves to enhance mitigation ambition, as a matter of urgency and guided by the principles of the Convention, by accelerating the full implementation of the decisions constituting the agreed outcome pursuant to decision 1/CP.13 (Bali Action Plan)1 and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol2 and by launching the [X] to ensure the highest possible mitigation efforts under the Convention by:

As of Friday morning, the text looked much better. ICLEI President David Cadman encouraged people in the morning Cities Day events to talk to negotiators to get the original language back in, and seems to have succeeded. Cities and subnational governments are included in plans for technical meetings in conjunction with the next ADP session in June; the sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014 returns (4d); and facilitation of exchange of info between cities included.  What it means practically is more meetings and reports and business as usual for the UNFCCC, but it may mean more resources for the people actually doing the work on the ground in the future.

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.195:

(b) In relation to paragraph 4 of that decision, enhance the visibility on the UNFCCC website of quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets, quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments and nationally appropriate mitigation actions;

                      (i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, including those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,6 with the participation of Parties, cities and other subnational authorities, civil society and the private sector;

(d)In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.

5. Decides to accelerate activities under the workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition in accordance with decision 1/CP.17, paragraphs 7 and 8, by

(b) Facilitating the sharing among Parties of experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in identifying and implementing opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, with a view to promoting the exchange of information and voluntary cooperation;

The Final Conclusion
Late on Saturday afternoon, COP19 adopted a final text on ADP.

“Facilitating the sharing among Parties” seems to have hit the cutting room floor, but it appears that cities will in fact have a place at the expert meetings and the forum during the next ADP meeting

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.19:3

(c) In relation to paragraph 5(a) of that decision:

(i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, taking note of those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,4 with the participation of Parties, civil society, the private sector and cities and other subnational authorities, where appropriate;

(d) In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.

 


More on the High Level Panel Event on the Land Use Sector and Forests

This post adds a bit more detail to Chris Knowles’ earlier post. The President of the Conference of Parties convened a “High-level panel event on the land use sector and forests” on Monday 18 November at COP19 . The President himself was in attendance, but his representative opened the meeting emphasizing the importance of the land use sector in both sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.

“It is clear we need to continue to include the land use in future agreements,” a representative read on behalf of the President. “This week we have the opportunity to have an open dialog on the land sector. We can send a strong signal that the land sector is important to all parties of the conference… The outcomes of this meeting will be shared with the COP President and ADP co-chairs.”

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Co-chairing the meeting were the Minister of Environment of Finland and the Special Envoy for Climate Change in Indonesia. It was made clear that the point of the meeting was not to interfere with ongoing negotiations on other tracks (such as the REDD+ draft decision language that was recommended by SBSTA to COP for consideration), but rather to share ideas.  It appeared to be a boundary-less discussion of all three distinct land-use issues before the COP in Warsaw.

“Humankind is dependent on productive land resources,” the delegate from Finland explained. “Without the ability of trees and other vegetation, we would have already missed out ability to meet our 2° goal. This sector is too significant to be ignored.”

The Indonesian co-chair emphasized the importance of rural livelihoods to the economies and sustainability of many nations and protecting the rights of forest-dwelling and indigenous peoples.

What are we talking about?
Many countries stated that REDD+ is an important mechanism (Mozambique, Slovenia, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Uganda, Brazil, and Gabon). There were nuances in the statements made regarding mechanisms for the land use sector in the future. Many emphasized the need for a REDD+ agreement with an established measurement, reporting, and verification system in the upcoming 2015 agreement, recommending that it be incorporated in the ADP negotiations (Namibia, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, and France).

Russia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, talked about a “post-2020 new agreement”. In some ways, you might think that they are saying the same thing; the agreement to be made in 2015 is expected to go into effect in 2020. However, the United States’ statement gives you more of an impression of “kicking the can down the road”: “Formal negotiations on land sector should start after the framework of the 2015 agreement is clear.” This seems ominous.
This group of countries, all part of “The Umbrella Group”, also all mentioned the need to include all parties, or “include new parties”, a nod to the post-Durban agenda of moving away from the Annex I / developed vs non-Annex I / developing country split which has caused such strife with the Kyoto Protocol, as China, India, and other major economies were not considered “developed” at the time. The U.S., Canada, and Australia also all mentioned that the focus should be on man-made (“anthropogenic”) changes in land use. I suspect this is due to the large forest fires that the US and Australia are prone to, and the large quantity of permafrost in Canada which, when it melts, will emit huge amounts of methane, which has 34x the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Quite a few common themes emerged from the statements given by the various countries regarding any new land sector mechanism:
  • The need for technical and financial support, and calling on Annex I countries to meet their commitments in this realm (Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, Slovenia, Norway)
  • Simplicity (USA, Russia, Canada, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Slovenia, Japan)
  • Flexibility (USA, Norway, Japan, and Gabon)

Themes that reflected some of the wisdom from the Global Landscapes Conference included:

  • Include both mitigation and adaptation; land sector projects have a strong synergy with both (Philippines, Portugal, Lithuania, Bolivia, Ireland, Austria, Gabon)
  • Take a holistic approach (Lithuania, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, New Zealand, Austria)
  • Use local methods, connect the grassroots to national policies, support for Traditional Ecological Knowledge for adaptation and mitigation (Philippines, Brazil, Kenya, Namibia)

Indonesia, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Philippines all spoke to the need to protect indigenous rights. Indonesia in particular sees REDD+ as an opportunity to benefit indigenous peoples. Canada spoke of “aboriginal involvement” but stopped short of mentioning rights or protecting indigenous lands.

Some very unique statements included Belarus’s emphasis that soils, and wetland/peatland rewetting, needed to be included; Sweden’s desire to link the land sector with energy sector, particularly in terms of biofuels; New Zealand and Ireland’s concerns that inclusion of agriculture not be detrimental to their agriculture-based economies; and Bolivia’s criticism of market-based approaches as “further commodification of Mother Earth”. More on this later.


What’s Next For the Land-Use Sector?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, let me fill you in on a little secret: I am a land-use geek. I am obsessed with anything to do with the intersection of forests, croplands, grasslands, and/or wetlands with climate change adaptation and mitigation. So when rumors began to fly earlier this year that Parties to the UNFCCC were beginning to seriously consider how to treat the land-use sector in the “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” to be agreed under the Durban Platform, I was instantly intrigued. Today was an especially exciting day for me because it was the first time I heard Parties speak in concrete terms about a way forward for post-2020 treatment of the land-use sector under the UNFCCC. And guess what? What I heard was actually GOOD!!

Before you take me for an absolute lunatic (too, late, right?), let me explain. Annex I Parties to the Kyoto EPSON DSC pictureProtocol currently account for greenhouse gas emissions from their land-use sectors under Articles 3.3 and 3.4 to the Protocol and the rules laid out in the Marrakesh Accords. The rules for land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) were designed with an “anything goes” attitude stemming from the sector’s exclusion from Parties’ emission reduction targets. In a nutshell, the LULUCF mechanism under the KP is not necessarily environmentally robust. (Disclaimer: This is a generalization. There are some Parties that do a relatively good job with LULUCF. There are also Parties that take advantage of the system to the detriment of both the land and climate system).

congo-host-international-tropical-forest-summit_184

In contrast, development of the REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries) mechanism under the UNFCCC started with basic principles that include equity, environmental integrity, safeguarding and promoting the traditional knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and contributing to the ultimate objective of the Convention. Although REDD+ will certainly not be perfect, it is shaping up to be significantly more environmentally robust than LULUCF.

The big question in my mind has been what happens when LULUCF and REDD+ come together in a post-2020 agreement. Does treatment of the land-use sector rise to the level of REDD+, or does it sink to the level of LULUCF? The indication I got today was that at least some Parties are willing to aim high and to push for a mechanism that is beneficial to the land, the people who live with and on the land, and the climate. Although this is certainly no guarantee, it certainly gives me the hope and impetus I need to head to the National Stadium tomorrow to continue pushing for the best land-use mechanism possible under the UNFCCC.