The Sustainable Development Mechanism AKA The New Carbon Market Mechanism

 

climate-change-shutterstock-210114

Photo Source: IBNLive

The Sustainable Development Mechanism is a new mitigation mechanism established in Art. 3 ter of the draft Paris Agreement. The purpose of this mechanism is to “promote the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions [in developing country Parties] while fostering sustainable development….” In order to achieve its goals, the mechanism provides incentives for successfully mitigating GHG emissions. Under this mechanism, Parties that contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions in a host country Party can benefit from their mitigation activities by using the resulting emission reductions to fulfill their own mitigation ambition requirements.

Overall, the structure of the Sustainable Development Mechanism closely resembles the Clean Development Mechanism, which is the carbon market mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon markets and offsets were created under Art. 6 of the Kyoto Protocol, which states that “…any Party included in Annex I may transfer to, or acquire from, any other such Party emission reduction units resulting from projects aimed at reducing anthropogenic emissions by sources or enhancing anthropogenic removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in any sector of the economy….” Additionally, the Clean Development Mechanism was established under Art. 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, which provides a process for handling all of the carbon credits created under Art. 6.

sustainability2

Photo Source: YaleNews

Ultimately, the major difference between the new Sustainable Development Mechanism from the Clean Development Mechanism is that carbon markets will no longer be limited to developed country Parties. Instead, all Parties will be able to participate in this mechanism. Expanding the scope of a carbon market mechanism to allow all types of Parties to participate in transferring mitigation GHG reductions is unprecedented. We don’t know how all Parties will use this mechanism or how successfully it will address sustainable development issues. Therefore, a  s a successful Paris Outcome appears to be on the horizon, this new carbon market mechanism is one more aspect of the Agreement that will be worth watching develop.

 

 


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.”

image

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.


The Secret Life of Bogs

Wetlands are the unloved carbon sink. They’re smelly, muddy and awkward to walk in. They make for mediocre farmland and worse development.

I wouldn't build a summer home here

I wouldn’t build a summer home here

 

Still, wetlands are huge carbon sinks. Half of all wetlands are peatlands.  A prominent peat scientist remarks that “Peatland is 95 percent water. This means that peat is wetter than milk but you can walk over it. It’s the closest you can get to Jesus Christ.” Peatlands collectively store two times the carbon stored by the world’s forests. Degraded peatlands release carbon. The stored high carbon soils react to oxygen exposure by decomposing suddenly. This sudden decomposition releases most of the carbon that was in the soil in the form of carbon dioxide.

 

Peatlands are plagued by several factors, both targeted and incidental. Climate change and the resulting temperature rise (already affecting the Arctic) reduces peatlands incidentally. Permafrost, which can extend several meters underground thaws. Ice takes up more volume than water, so the thawed peatland is not as deep. All of the structures built on the surface (houses, roads) sink into the ground.

Depending on the land

Depending on the land

Peatlands are targeted for small drainage agriculture. Even though they don’t work well as farmland, there is an assumption that it is better to be useful farmland than “useless” wetland. Drainage of peatlands for palm oil is why tiny Indonesia was the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007. Most emissions from peatlands are not reported.

Not an improvement

Not an improvement

 

Peat fires make peatlands carbon emission timebombs. Once a fire starts in peatland, it is very hard to stop. The fire can smolder for years under the surface. Peeling back the top of the layer in order to expose the fire simply feeds the flame by providing more oxygen.

 

This is the fire that never ends

This is the fire that never ends

Peatland can be reclaimed by the process of “rewetting”. There are only a few projects running. Russia started a project to re-wet the wetlands around Moscow. The summer of 2010 brought many peat fires around Moscow. The resulting smog killed many people. The rewetting project was an emergency measure to protect Moscow.

Currently the UNFCCC does nothing about peatlands. Forests are also carbon sinks, but they are explicitly protected under REDD+. Restoring peatland does not have the high profile of reducing deforestation, increasing renewable energy or implementing adaptation. Conserving the remaining peatlands and restoring the others is necessary to keep a huge volume of carbon out of the atmosphere. It is time to begin the unglamorous work of restoring the peatland.

 

 


Gearing up for COP19

I am eager to go back to a COP. My first and only COP was COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. I went as the Policy Director for the Cascade Climate Network which is a regional super organization of youth activists from environmental groups in Oregon and Washington. It did not go well. I was thrown out along with the other NGOs into the cold of a Danish winter. Luckily, some Danish anarchists let my delegation stay in their concrete bunker for the rest of the COP. Our whole strategy was dependent on us being in the venue. We overhauled our approach and focused on building awareness and political pressure in real time from supporters in the US. The whole experience was jarring to me and caused me to refocus on local environmental issues for a while.

 

I am currently a second year JD/Master of Environmental Law and Policy candidate at Vermont Law School. I also am a Research Associate at the Institute for Energy and the Environment, focusing on how environmental data is used during permitting for Arctic oil drilling.

Gearing up for COP19

My hobby is boxing

 

I will be working with the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) on safeguarding forests and forest livelihoods. My role is to flit from meeting to meeting and take notes so that CIEL is aware of all of the developments regarding safeguards in results-based finance. Currently, forest protection under the UNFCCC is based on the REDD+ (link) mechanism. There is a debate about how much of the finance should be tied to results, how strict the safeguards should be, when they should kick in, and how they will be monitored. Non-carbon benefits aren’t included now, but may be added into the REDD+ mechanism. Indigenous groups are pushing for more participation as equal partners, stewards and monitors.

 

I am looking forward to having a real (indoors!) COP experience.


Countdown to COP19/CMP9

CC clockAmbition.  Annex B targets.  Second commitment period.  Flexible mechanisms.  State parties.  Green Climate Fund.  Loss and damage.  Reforestation, deforestation, and afforestation.  Joint implementation.  Annex I.  Annex II.  Monitoring, review, and verification.  Adaptation funding.  Common but differentiated responsibilities.  Clean development mechanism.  Carbon emissions trading.  IPCC.  SBI.  SBSTA.  ADP.  AAU.  CER.  ERU.

These are some of the concepts our student observer delegation is mastering as we prepare to witness the next step in international climate change law making at the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol – a.k.a. COP19/CMP9 – that will kick off in Warsaw, Poland in just 10 days.cop19 logo

From the Berlin Mandate to the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Road Map and Cancun Agreements to the Durban Outcomes and the Doha Gateway, all eyes turn to Warsaw to watch how countries will commit themselves to mitigating the human drivers of climate change.

A month ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most recent report on the physical science, Climate Change 2013, stating in a press release that warming in the climate system is “unequivocal” and that it is “extremely likely” that human influence has been the dominant cause of it.

WG1 2013According to Qin Dahe, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, “observations of changes in the climate system are based on multiple lines of independent evidence.  Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

As a result, his Co-Chair Thomas Stocker adds that “heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer.  As the Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions.”

What kind of “substantial and sustained” actions should we look for at COP19/CMP9 that will help UNFCCC parties progress toward a new comprehensive climate change agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015?

Here’s what Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of thechristiana figueres UNFCCC, highlighted in her October 21 speech in London :

  1. ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. implement the finance and technology agreements already negotiated to support developing countries;
  3. operationalize the Green Climate Fund;
  4. create mechanism for asserting loss and damage claims; and
  5. clarify the elements of the envisioned Paris 2015 agreement that will create an “ambitious and clear” draft for review in Peru in 2014.