Tackling Global Deforestation Emissions

47574086_322370901704236_7711810644088979456_nThe Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) organized a side event on Insights from REDD+ MRV process.  REDD+ involves the implementation of five activities and MRV stands for measuring, reporting, and verification. The event also included a panel of two countries, Malaysia and Ghana, and a LULUCF expert on their experiences with REDD+.

REDD+ MRV procedurally came from COP19 under the Warsaw Framework on REDD+. The full history on REDD+ can be found here.  Decision 13/CP.19 provided the guidelines and procedures for the technical assessment of submissions from Parties on proposed forest reference emission levels for forest reference levels. Decision 14/CP. 19 provided modalities for MRV. There are 4 steps of REDD+ MRV process which include: submission of FREL/RFL, technical assessment of FREL/FRL, submission of results as a technical annex to a BUR, and technical analysis of results.

Elizabeth Philips from Malaysia facilitated the REDD+ program in her country.  It has a system where forests are at a subnational jurisdiction.  They have a bottom-up apprREDDoach for REDD+. What they learned from this process was to have their regional experts improve the data by fixing soil carbon and looking into dead wood and dead matter. The technical assessment helped to bridge the gaps. “This was not just a system on paper, but one that has been implemented.”

Roselyn Fosuah Adjei from Ghana talked about her country’s draft submission to the UNFCCC. There are three areas that Ghana looked into: deforestation, forest degradation, and carbon stocks enhancement. One of the challenges they dealt with was illegality. Ghana’s IP based their data and maps on indigenous knowledge that is generationally passed down. Illegality was a concern because this knowledge was not recorded or stored anywhere. Ghana’s IP based their data and maps on indigenous knowledge that is generationally passed down. Due  They had some, but not all. Ghana does hope to submit a modification to its initial draft before going into the results based demonstration of REDD+.

Jason Funk, a LULUCF expert, spoke about his experience as an expert in this field. Due to the REDD+ MRV process as being more facilitative and constructive in nature, it is a collaboration with the country to work on their forest reference emissions level. His position is more of a peer review process that helps the country feel more confident about the work because of having someone else review the material.


Money doesn’t grow on trees

moneytreeWalking into the COP, observer and party delegations alike are given a bar of chocolate. And while the candy bar does not give its holder a Golden Ticket, it does draw chocolate-lovers’ attention to an important message for the Trillion Tree Campaign. That campaign is spearheaded by Plant-for-the-Planet, an NGO launched in 2007 by a nine-year-old boy to plant a trillion trees on the world’s degraded forest land. Such efforts are priceless when it comes to climate change: trees are the only “machines” on earth that can store carbon. Plus, they provide invaluable resources (like cacao for the COP’s beloved chocolate).

The Paris Agreement highlights the importance of forests, as well. Article 5 of the Agreement calls for parties to take action in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and to conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases. Programs like REDD+ aim to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Working under the UNFCCC, REDD+ provides technical and financial support for developing countries to reduce emissions and enhance the removal of greenhouse gases.

The biggest challenge for REDD+ is now moving to implementation. At the COP, parties are discussing–and will soon decide–what implementation should look like in terms of governance: should the UNFCCC create a new body or structure to govern REDD+ implementation, or do the existing structures suffice? Should parties continue to meet in voluntary meetings that support implementation of activities that contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector, or have these meetings already served their purpose?

One argument put forth by many developed countries–who are against future voluntary meetings–is the Green Climate Fund’s (GCF) recent decision to allocate $500 million to results-based financing for REDD+ activities. This decision, as the argument goes, shows that the financial landscape for REDD+ implementation is now in place, and that parties and entities have taken the Paris Agreement (particularly Article 5) quite seriously.

Under the program, the GCF pays at most $5 per ton of CO2eq of emissions reduced. The pilot program applies to projects showing results between 2013-2018, and thus is still open for developing countries.

The decision is a result of multilateral negotiations, which were not–and are never–perfect or easy. But the decision took into account a large spectrum of national interests. Many countries do not want to compromise this decision by reaching alternative conclusions in future voluntary meetings for REDD+.

With a scorecard indicating the highest standard for REDD+ activities, developing countries now have a gold standard for the program that sets the bar high for financing. For the sake of REDD+ and the Paris Agreement, it is important that results-based financing has become a part of GCF’s portfolio: this provides GCF with the opportunity to test the waters of this approach while also inspiring a race to the top in implementing REDD+.


Climate Change and Indigenous Governance

CMARI Reservation, the location of the pilot project of RIA in Colombia. Photo by Rodrigo Durán Bahamón

CMARI Reservation, the location of the pilot project of RIA in Colombia. Photo by Rodrigo Durán Bahamón

COP23 commenced its series of Thematic Days with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which included a series of side events on the protection of traditional indigenous knowledge and how this knowledge is being used in climate change action. Indigenous people are directly connected with the land and therefore feel the effects of climate change on the ground very acutely, although they are not typically involved in the climate change policymaking process. As indigenous communities are uprooted and impacted by climate change, these cultures and their traditional knowledge are threatened.

Loss of cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge has been classified as a noneconomic form of Loss and Damage (L&D). L&D is broadly defined as the unavoidable and irreversible effects of climate change and encompasses both extreme weather and slow onset events. Examples of slow onset events include sea level rise, desertification, ocean acidification, and loss of ecosystem services. L&D is also categorized by economic losses – such as loss of property, infrastructure, and agricultural production – and noneconomic losses. Some noneconomic losses are loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, human displacement, and the loss of heritage, culture, and indigenous knowledge. However, far from being entirely about loss, Indigenous Peoples’ Day highlighted the protection of traditional knowledge currently undertaken by indigenous communities around the world.  

The side event “Traditional Knowledge, Paris Agreement and Indigenous Territorial Organizations” featured Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA), an indigenous organization that works for the protection and security of indigenous territories within the Amazon Basin. Indigenous peoples have revered and relied on the Amazon for hundreds of years. Research through Rede Amazônica de Informação Socioambiental Georreferenciada (RAISG) found that indigenous territories only contribute to 8% of all deforestation in the Amazon, and 90% of deforestation takes place in unprotected areas in the remaining 48% of land. Initiatives, like REDD+ Indigenous Amazonian (RIA), promote shared management between indigenous peoples and governments where indigenous land protection knowledge is implemented utilizing government capacity.

The side event “Protecting and promoting indigenous territories and knowledge” highlighted indigenous practices in Africa that are working on climate change adaptation. Here, too, speakers highlighted that good governance must be based on the integration of local indigenous values and management systems with resources from the state. A speaker from the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) highlighted several examples of traditional knowledge for adaptation. One example is a traditional grazing practice in Morocco called Agdal, which seeks to create a balance of biodiversity by closing off areas to grazing during certain times of year.

A request that IPACC had for COP23 was the creation of a list of indigenous practices on climate change action. The hope is that this list would be shared internationally and eventually included in school books so the knowledge could be passed on through generations. RIA and other governance initiatives also serve as a model for governments and indigenous communities around the world. These efforts, from just two parts of the world, highlight the incredible emerging role for indigenous involvement in climate change governance.


Bonn Challenge Takes First Steps

rainforestThe Bonn Challenge is a global initiative to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020, and 350 million by 2030. So far, 38 countries have pledged to restore 124.32 million hectares in order to achieve this goal. The challenge now is holding these nations to their commitments and ensuring the necessary financing mechanisms are in place to support their efforts.

A partnership of several organizations, including the Global Canopy Programme and Unlocking Forest Finance, has initiated three pilot programs in South America to test a landscape-focused approach. A landscape restoration project focuses on the drivers of deforestation – generally, agriculture and poverty – and works with local communities to manage land uses in a way that meets the needs of the community and the needs of the ecosystem as a whole.

The pilots focus on finding private investors to build disneypermanent markets for premium crops, rather than securing government and NGO grants, because these partnerships will be more permanent and sustainable than a government-sponsored program. For example, Walt Disney has partnered with local coffee farmers in San Martin, Peru to grow sustainably harvested coffee at a fair price for exclusive sale at Disney World. This guarantees the farmers a premium market that ensures their continued participation in the program.

In addition, today the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the launching of its new website for tracking news, analysis, resources, and updates on forest landscape restoration projects around the world. The website so far provides detailed analysis on policies, successes, and failures in 42 different nations. It will also soon offer a “Bonn Challenge Barometer,” which will quantifiably track forest landscape restoration successes in support of the Bonn Challenge and provide resources to help address obstacles to progress.


Land Use and Methane

As the COP negotiations increasingly look to agriculture, forestry, and other land uses as tools to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate, methanogenesis – the biological production of methane by single-celled organisms – must be taken into account. This methane production is very similar to fermentation, the process used to produce alcohol. In fermentation, when yeast is denied access to oxygen, the yeast produces alcohol as a waste product. Humans do this too when exercising, producing lactic acid (this is why your muscles burn when you are out of breath). In methanogenesis, when a certain type of bacteria is denied access to oxygen, the bacteria will produce methane as a waste product.

 

This is a serious concern to land use managers. Rice production is one of the largest human sources of methane because of the low-oxygen content of the water in submerged rice paddies. To make matters worse, as the climate warms the bacteria in rice paddies produce higher levels of methane.

Another land use concern is the construction of hydroelectric dams. Hydroelectric dams are often viewed as a viable renewable energy alternative to fossil fuels, but because of the low-oxygen content of the water of the reservoir, organic material that gets caught at the dam decomposes to produce methane. Some even argue that hydroelectric dams are a net cause, not a solution to, climate change.

Deputy Head of The University of Queensland's Australian Centre for Ecogenomics Professor Gene Tyson

Deputy Head of The University of Queensland’s Australian Centre for Ecogenomics Professor Gene Tyson

On top of all this, a recent study discovered a new methane-producing group of organisms that live in wetlands, lake and river estuary sediments, mud volcanoes, and deep-sea vents. This discovery revealed that humans still have much to learn about the carbon cycle. And this is not to mention all of the other sources of methane, both human (e.g. energy and waste production, livestock) and natural (e.g. wetlands, oceans, termites).

 

Fortunately, there are ways to manage these concerns. Rice paddies can be drained mid-season to kill off the methane-producers, and alternative fertilizers have been shown to reduce methane emissions. Hydroelectric dams can be managed to reduce organic matter in reservoirs, both by harvesting trees and other plant matter before the reservoir is flooded and by capturing organic matter farther upstream before it reaches the reservoir. Finally, researchers have also discovered methane-consuming bacteria that could play an important role in the reduction of methane emissions. Land use managers must consider these methane-control techniques as we move to address climate change.

 


Will it Be a REDD+ Letter Day for Our Forests?

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Yesterday, the Parties received a “clean” version of the draft Paris Agreement, and at 8PM the Parties convened to share their first impressions on this draft Agreement. One hot topic repeatedly discussed was the status of our forests. Many Parties are advocating that the Paris Agreement establish a mechanism that incentivizes the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and promotes the conservation and sustainable management of forests and enhances forest carbon stocks in developing countries, while also enhancing the non-carbon benefits (REDD+). Currently, a formal REDD+ mechanism is missing from the draft text, and many Parties are not happy.

In the ADP 2-12 Draft Paris Agreement, Article 3 bis established a formal mechanism on REDD+, but this mechanism was removed from the most recent draft Agreement. Instead, Article 3 bis in the most recent Draft Agreement simply encourages the Parties to conserve and enhance forests, and encourages them to incentive REDD+ actions without ever directly referencing the REDD+ acronym. The language of encouragement has received a variety of reactions from the Parties and from interested NGOs.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, and The Nature Conservancy all issued a joint statement on Article 3 bis in the latest draft, saying:

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Photo Source: Shields Energy Services

“This new text includes a specific provision that   would send a strong political signal to support better protections for forests in developing countries and encourage developed nations to provide the financial incentives to do so.”

Additionally, the joint statement declared:

“The new draft of the Paris Agreement makes it clear that countries can increase their ambition to address climate change by using the approach of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), as an enduring tool for reducing emissions and incentivizing countries to scale up their efforts to protect forests.”

While these NGOs support the language used in the most recent Article 3 bis, many developing country Parties raised objections over the language during the Comité de Paris meeting last night.

Panama, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, explained that the Paris Agreement needs to demonstrate a collective, serious implementation of REDD+ through reinsertion of a REDD+ mechanism in Article 3 bis. Furthermore, Panama argued that no valid reason has been provided by other Parties explaining why a formal REDD+ mechanism cannot be launched in the agreement here in Paris. As a result, Panama submitted an edited version of the draft Agreement reinserting the formal REDD+ mechanism into the text to the COP Presidency. Panama closed its comments saying there must be a formal REDD+ mechanism in the Paris Agreement if the agreement is
going to truly be ambitious.

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Photo Source: Coalition for Rainforest Nations

Many developing countries supported Panama’s position on REDD+. These countries include: the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Tanzania, and many others commonly associated with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. As Parties continue to meet and develop the draft Paris Agreement today and tomorrow it will be important to watch Article 3 bis to note if the language promoting REDD+ remains voluntary expressed through the term “encouragement” or becomes a formalized mechanism under the UNFCCC expressed in the terms “establishing a REDD+ mechanism.” In the end, this debate over language will determine the level of commitment the Parties agree to concerning the protection of forests under the UNFCCC.

 

 

 


From Lima to Paris: The Road Ahead to COP21/CMP11

This post was written by Vermont Law School COP20/CMP10 Observer Delegation members Archer Christian, Catherine Craig, Rebecca Davidson, Carla Santos, Cynthia Sirois, and Professor Tracy Bach.

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From left to right: Cynthia Sirois, Tracy Bach, Catherine Craig, Archer Christian, Rebecca Davidson, and Carla Santos.

As the action in Lima comes to a close, the question becomes: What has COP20/CMP10 set into play for the negotiations in Paris next year? This COP was styled as an action-oriented one that would build on the “nuts and bolts” program of COP19 in Warsaw. In Lima, the Warsaw mandate tasked parties with further defining the elements of the new international agreement that would be codified in the Paris Agreement at COP21 and then take effect in 2020, as the Kyoto Protocol sunsetted. In doing so, Lima would mark the significant transition from the 1997 Protocol’s “binary approach” of internationally imposed greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mitigation commitments on developed countries only, to an all-in, “bottom up” approach of nationally determined contributions that, when tallied, would achieve the internationally agreed climate stabilization goal set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

The Vermont Law School COP20/CMP10 Observer Delegation chronicled four critical parts of the Lima discussions, namely the next steps under the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM); preserving forest “sinks” by building on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+; refinements to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the Kyoto Protocol’s “flexible mechanisms” that allows developed countries to fund GHG reduction projects in developing countries and credit those reductions against their own mitigation caps; and decisions of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), the fulcrum for pivoting from the existing treaty regime for mitigation targets to one that goes beyond mitigation goals and binds all Convention parties. Having blogged about our daily experiences at COP20/CMP10, this summary of these four, key components of the Lima talks reflects on the overall process and outcomes and what it means for la route à Paris and COP21/CMP11.

Beyond adaptation: Loss and Damage experienced now by the poorest countries

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM) was established at COP19 last year to recognize and begin to address the particular needs of those countries most vulnerable to loss and damage. Millions of people around the globe will experience the kind of certain and permanent losses that surpass their ability to adapt to climate change. Earlier this year, Kiribati bought land in Fiji for its anticipated climate refugees, the first nation to do so. At COP19, the UNFCCC Parties gave themselves a deadline for finalizing the Mechanism’s Executive Committee and two-year workplan in Lima.

At COP20/CMP10, the December 5th SBSTA/SBI combined recommendation to the COP contained approval of the two-year workplan submitted by the interim Executive Committee before the COP and three different proposals for the makeup of the permanent Executive Committee. In the end, the Parties agreed to an Executive Committee composition of 10 non-Annex I Party members and 10 Annex I Party members. Eight of the non-Annex I Party members are stipulated in the decision: two each from the African, Asia-Pacific, and the Latin American and Caribbean States, and one each from Small Island Developing Sates and Least Developed Country Parties. The two remaining non-Annex 1 slots are not designated.

Interestingly, the final Executive Committee composition looks like a new equation for a UNFCCC mechanism. The related Adaptation Committee is made up of 16 members, with representatives of the 5 UN regional groups (2 each), SIDS (1), LDCs (1), Non-Annex I (2) and Annex I Parties (2).) Some observers wished for greater explicit LDC and AOSIS representation on the permanent WIM Executive Committee, despite the fact that the two undesignated non-Annex I seats could potentially go to these groups. At least the WIM work can now begin.

The larger question asked repeatedly in the final 36 hours of COP20/CMP10 was how deeply anchored the concept of loss and damage generally, or the WIM specifically, would be in the ADP decision that lays the groundwork for COP21’s Paris agreement. The absence of both in the draft ADP decision text published early Saturday morning (Dec. 13) caused most developing countries’ refusal to agree to that document. Despite the fact that loss and damage can be found in the “Elements for a draft negotiating text” referenced in the draft decision’s Annex, the multiple options for how it might be addressed range from deeply anchored to not included at all. In the end, the final text accepted by consensus in the wee hours of Sunday morning referred to progress on the WIM in the preamble only. With this section’s language having no legal force, Parties’ comments made after acceptance and included in the meeting’s official record made it clear that a Paris agreement is expected to and would have to go further.

The nitty gritty of using REDD+ to “sink” carbon in the world’s forests

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ adopted at COP19/CMP9 included seven decisions that build on the Cancun Agreement on REDD+ established at COP16/CMP6. The REDD+ Framework includes decisions on national forest monitoring systems; safeguards; forest reference emission levels; measuring, reporting and verification (MRV); results-based financing; drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; and an information hub on the UNFCCC web platform for publishing results information. Importantly for COP20/CMP10, the safeguards decision required developing country parties to start providing summary information in their national communication, including via the web platform of the UNFCCC, after implementation of REDD+ activities begins.

At COP20/CMP10, with the $10 billion Green Climate Fund 2014 goal met, REDD+ projects are already lining up around the block for funding. The question remains whether safeguards and methodological guidelines will be put in place in order to protect the rights of forest communities who will be impacted by these projects. At COP 20, SBSTA made no progress on the Warsaw REDD+ framework on safeguards.   During SBSTA negotiations, the Philippines, Sudan, the EU, Bolivia and the US advocated for developing further guidance on safeguards, but Panama, on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said that now is the time to implement REDD+, not to develop further guidelines.

Yet many side events at COP20/CMP10 highlighted the necessity of developing safeguards. During a side event, Looking Forward: REDD+ Post 2015,  Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People, spoke of a dire need to create governance structures that would protect indigenous people during implementation of REDD+ projects. Notably, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) reported that REDD+ can lead to reduced access to natural resources and land tenure insecurity for locals.  CIFOR presented evidence that in order for REDD+ to offer non-carbon benefits, and indeed for it to accomplish its goal of curbing both deforestation and emissions, public participation should be integrated into the REDD+ framework under SBSTA, pursuant to principles of free, prior and informed consent.

Looking ahead to COP 21 in Paris, it is clear that REDD+ will continue to be a debated issue between indigenous people and project developers. Perhaps, because REDD+ is a market-based solution to climate change, it will always fall short of what is socially just. Regardless, REDD+ is moving forward on a global scale, and human rights advocates will continue to call for close monitoring of its interactions with local communities.

Cleaning up the CDM with an eye toward life post Kyoto Protocol

ADP Parties came to Lima with an important agenda: ensure that the clean development mechanism (CDM, for short) modalities and procedures were improved. However, little progress was made in the SBI and SBSTA meetings held during the first week – in fact, most of the mandates and analysis were further postponed to both subsidiary bodies’ forty-second and subsequent sessions (FCCC/SBI/2014/L.35, FCCC/SBI/2014/L.31, and FCCC/SBSTA/2014/L.24). The second week started with the CMP negotiations for a CDM draft decision. Besides providing further rules to key CDM issues, the CMP decision also aimed to guide the CDM Executive Board for the coming year. The CMP negotiations lasted three days, with many hours of long debates and tireless disagreements. Countries were clearly divided in two groups, even though some members often shifted from one side to another. Brazil and the European Union, one of the biggest CDM host countries and the biggest CDM regional market, respectively, expressed opposite opinions about several of the key issues, including voluntary cancellation of emission reductions units (CERs) and double-counting concerns.

Yet the negotiations concluded on Wednesday night. After the Parties finished the third read of the draft text, the CMP convened again at 9 pm. At that point 20 paragraphs were already agreed, several were agreed to be deleted, but other 23 paragraphs, with several alternatives, were still under consideration. After a long debate about what procedure should be adopted to help the negotiations move on, several Parties remind the Chair that a fourth read of the proposed text was not feasible or desirable. The Parties decided to delete all the paragraphs that were not agreed upon, leading to a final CMP decision regarding CDM. The final decision compiled a number of mandates for the CDM Executive Board to comply within the next year. In particular, the Parties requested further analysis on issues such as the revision of CDM’s baseline and monitoring methodologies, and their streamlining, registration of project activities that qualify as automatically additional, and alternatives methodologies to ensure environmental integrity. Besides the CDM Executive Board mandates, the Parties were able to agree on two issues: the adoption of a voluntary procedure for deregistration, and the flexibility regarding the verification timing for afforestation and reforestation projects.

While the CDM negotiations were intense, the uncertainty regarding CDM’s future was a clear ghost in the room. The CDM negotiations happened under the CMP, but the Doha Amendment – which established the emission reduction commitments for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – continues to not be in force. And without an emission reduction market, CDM has no future.

But CDM can once again gain force if Parties agree to an ambitious post-2020 agreement. Looking ahead, Brazil has proposed an “Advanced CDM” or simply CDM+ to the ADP. The new mechanism is explained in three simple paragraphs, and contains one main element: the possibility of voluntarily cancelled CDM CERs to be used to account for countries ’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) financial targets and pledges. Despite the lack of information regarding the proposed CDM+, several countries are already criticizing it. The European Union, for instance, used the expression “double-counting” of CERs continuously during this week’s negotiations, showing great dissatisfaction with the Brazilian proposal. While the double-counting language was not included in the final CMP decision regarding CDM, the issue will continue to surface in future negotiations if a CDM+ is considered in the new agreement.

ADP: Shifting to global peer pressure to mitigate GHG emissions through INDCs 

As was the case in Warsaw last year, final ADP decision-making was pushed to the last minute, of the last hour, of the last day of the COP20 in Lima. The ADP was originally scheduled to close on Thursday afternoon. Not for the first time at this COP, negotiators worked into the wee hours of the night on Friday hoping to come together on issues addressing how Parties will communicate their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), as was directed under paragraph 5 of Decision 1/CP.17 and how parties should contribute to closing the pre-2020 ambition gap. With a newly drafted decision in hand on Saturday morning (officially after the close of the COP), Parties still held clear differences on specific language and its implications.

The COP20 President, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, had taken a very active and open stance during the last few weeks, and many have complimented his efforts to promote clarity and transparency for all Parties. As the close of the meeting neared, and with the draft decision still far from being adopted, his guidance became stronger and more determined. Recalling that Lima had been called a tipping point for the new agreement, he pled with the delegations to “help me . . . don’t leave me alone. We need to help ourselves. We are representing the world, and we are representing what the world is seeking.”

As Parties gave their final interventions, all agreed that the draft decision was not ideal for anyone. However, a dichotomy emerged with some parties endorsing adoption of the decision as it stood subject to more negotiation in Geneva this February, while others drew the red line and declared the draft unacceptable as is. Switzerland on behalf of EIG and Chile on behalf of AILAC were willing to move forward with the current draft, along with the EU, US, Japan, Russian Federation, and New Zealand. Surprising some, Singapore, Belize, and the Marshall Islands also urged Parties to move forward with the current text. Noting that his country is running out of time and its very existence is in danger from sea level rise, the delegate from the Marshall Islands made a very compelling plea: “We cannot leave Lima with empty hands on road to a successful Paris agreement.” Yet parties such as Sudan on behalf of the Africa Group, Malaysia for the LMDCs, India, China and Tuvalu were not willing to compromise the vulnerable people that they represent, and asked the COP President to reconsider the draft. The delegate from Tuvalu, in particular, noted that we should not let this COP be the one where the world’s poorest are denied.

With no consensus on this text, the meeting continued for 10 more hours, shifting to intense, behind-closed-doors negotiations with COP President Pulgar-Vidal and ministers of Singapore and Norway empowered by him to speak with parties on his behalf.  Finally, just before midnight, the COP20/CMP10 final plenary convened, a new final draft decision text was presented, and the gavel was banged. Nonetheless, despite the COP’s consensus position, Tuvalu asked for the floor and spoke intensely and purposefully to register concerns about the need for stronger loss and damage inclusion (besides the WIM progress recognition in the text’s preamble). Many other parties laid out their specific concerns about missing references to the Convention’s principles, notably equity and common but differentiated responsibility and respective capacity (CBDRRC).  Likewise concern was expressed about the changes in external review of the promised INDCs, from well before COP21 convenes in Paris on November 20, 2015 to just a month before.  Behind these specifics lies continued disagreement by developing countries over differentiation and eliminating the so-called binary system of responsibility.

In this way, the route à Paris has been laid out as a bumpy one, littered with the potholes and frost heaves borne of unresolved applications of the major shift away from “top down” international climate change obligations (as embodied in the Kyoto Protocol) to nationally driven commitments.  This mistrust — often referred to as the ghost of Copenhagen —   lingered from the opening to the closing plenary statements. The barebones text adopted in the wee hours, now referred to as the Lima Accord, necessarily deferred detailed discussions to the regular meetings scheduled in 2015 leading up to the COP21 next December in Paris.


REDD+ Recap

At COP 20, SBSTA made no progress on the Warsaw REDD+ framework on safeguards.  Philippines, Sudan, the EU, Bolivia and the US spoke in favor of developing further guidance on safeguards. The Africa Group said that further guidance is not needed, but that additional review of REDD+ in coming years should evaluate that question. Panama, on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said that now is the time for the implementation of REDD+, not to develop further guidelines.

Also this week, the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature convened in Lima on December 5 and 6th. Cases ranged from fracking in Bolivia, mining in Ecuador, the BP Gulf Oil spill to… REDD+. Parties presenting their case against REDD+ alleged that the program is inherently flawed, as it is a commodification of nature. Further, Ninawa Kaxinawá, president of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil claimed that REDD+ violates ILO 169, as the program has relentlessly failed to engage indigenous people in the decision-making process.

Ninawa Kaxinawá, President of the Huni Kui

Cassandra Smithie, a translator and interpreter, and Ivonne Yanez of Oilwatch presented evidence that REDD+ results in land-grabbing in the global south, by developed countries, who wish to offset their pollution. In other words, REDD+ allows companies to continue business as usual at the (further) expense of indigenous people elsewhere.

There is clear dissonance when one juxtaposes the lack of progress at COP 20 to the testimony presented at this weekend’s tribunal as well as evidence presented by CIFOR and others at the COP. It is clear that the integration of public participation principles is essential in order for REDD+ to offer non-carbon benefits, and indeed for it to accomplish its goal of curbing both deforestation and emissions. The principles of free, prior and informed consent must be integrated into the REDD+ framework under SBSTA. Now that the first monetary goal for the Green Climate Fund has been met, REDD+ projects are already lining up around the block for funding. The question remains whether safeguards and methodological guidelines will be put in place at Paris to ensure that projects are ethical and effective.


Ad Hoc REDD+ Projects: Warning that REDD+ May be Broken

Today, a panel of experts from CIFOR and the European Forest Institute presented on the importance of including local people in REDD+ projects. The panel reviewed REDD+ initiatives created ad hoc in the absence of a fully functioning international program. These are regional, state, or local—rather than national— initiatives. Crucially, they offer lessons for the future implementation of REDD+.

The panel discussed how these initiatives were all contract-based: private agreements between two parties. For forest communities, unequal bargaining power between those parties creates huge equity risks, since there are no concrete ethical guidelines or safeguards in place. This point informed the panel’s broader discussion about how these initiatives demonstrate that. REDD+, if not properly implemented, can result in more burdens than benefits for communities. The panel therefore focused on tactics for implementing REDD+ within a framework of community participation and local community control.

Panelists explained that ad hoc REDD+ initiatives have demonstrated that non-monetary benefits are key to the success of these programs. In other words: to achieve REDD+’s concurrent goals of curbing deforestation and aiding communities, financial incentives are not enough. REDD+’s potential for capacity building, technical assistance, jobs (e.g. a newly created position working in forest monitoring), and infrastructural improvements have all proven more attractive to communities than a simple pay off. For example, 20 years ago a National Park was established in Brazil. At the time of its inception, the government claimed they had approval from local peoples. However, when an NGO and the government sought to expand the park recently, it became clear that the locals had never wanted it there. The NGO and the government tried to pay people off in order to receive permission to expand, but the communities said no. The indigenous people said they wanted their customary rights to the land recognized, and for their access to it to remain unrestricted. This example illustrates the burdens that conservation projects such as REDD+ can bring.  The panel submitted research of REDD+ leading to reduced-access to natural resources and impingements upon land tenure security. The reason for these failings? The panel cited process. When implementation processes are not legitimate, and community participation is minimal, initiatives are not effective, and more burdens than benefits are created.

Adeline Dontenville, from the EU REDD Facility, proffered two adjustments to the current REDD+ framework to increase legitimacy and improve participation. First, demystify “carbon rights.” There is often talk about who owns the carbon in the trees.  Do the local people, who clear the land for their agricultural purposes, have a right to the carbon? Or is the carbon part of the commons and therefore owned by a national or internationally entity?  Adeline suggests we decouple REDD+ issues from land-tenure issues with respect to carbon. She advocates that we do not need a REDD+ law allocating carbon rights, rather the discussion should focus on who contributes to carbon sequestration and to emissions reductions. As my blog yesterday mentioned, indigenous peoples contribute strongly in this respect. Second, Adeline and other panelists discussed the power of Local Development and Environmental Funds to improve participation in REDD+. Local Development Funds have demonstrated to offer the most advanced benefit-sharing experience. These funds, which are known to be highly participatory, restore agency into the community and are adapted to the country context based on proven experiences. Most importantly, these funds offer examples of locally controlled implementation of REDD+. While these funds do require capacity and technology that many communities don’t possess, they represent a model for restoring community agency within the REDD+ program.  These sub-national implementations of REDD+ offer the international community information about what not to do, and what must be done in order to ensure the rights of local peoples. So how about it?


The Future of REDD+: Communities a Side Note?

Today was REDD+ Day at COP 20. The COP assigns themes to certain days of the conference, in order to emphasize important issues. I have been following REDD+ during this course, and blogging on the issue, so was excited to have the opportunity to attend several meetings on REDD+ today. When looking ahead to COP 20 this fall, I thought that the Warsaw Decisions had redirected the focus of the REDD+ program to address human rights concerns and the needs of local communities. However, as Macarena’s blogs demonstrate, meetings on REDD+ at COP 20 have been about financial mechanisms far more than human rights. This trend continued today, on REDD+ day, where scientific and financial advances in the program were celebrated and safeguards were literally only a side event.

Youth Delegation Protesting REDD+

Youth Delegation Protesting REDD+ at COP 20 (C. Craig 12/8/14)

To begin, pursuant to Decision10/ CP. 19, the first voluntary meeting on the coordination of support for the implementation of REDD-plus activities convened today. During this meeting, which focused nearly entirely on procedure, parties disagreed about who should be able to take part in future meetings. Some parties interpreted the past COP decisions to exclude all stakeholders other than national entities. For example, Brazil said that if experts and communities wish to participate in the meetings, they should do so through their national entities (party delegates.) In contrast, the World Wildlife Foundation, the Indigenous Caucus, Germany and other Parties argued that all stakeholders, including observers to attend the meetings. To me, the fact that inclusion of non-party stakeholders proved contentious was grossly disappointing.  Decision 10/ CP. 19 recognizes the need to “strengthen, consolidate and enhance the sharing of relevant information, knowledge, experiences and good practices, at the international level, taking into account national experiences and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge and practices.” This portion of the Decision, as well as a good body of international law (including Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration), requires the inclusion of local communities in environmental decision-making and supports the case that inclusive participation is essential to a ethical approach to coordination of implementation of REDD+.

In the afternoon, I attended a REDD+ showcase, in which Columbia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico announced the submission of their forest reference levels. Again, I was struck by the limited mention of safeguards.

The final meeting I attended today, a side event entitled “Looking Forward: REDD+ Post 2015,” however, did point the discussion back to people and communities. The panelists discussed the importance of governance structures to empower and protect local and indigenous communities. In particular, Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, gave an impassioned speech on the need to create governance structures that protect indigenous in the implementation of REDD+.

Vicki Tauli Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Corpuz spoke of her skepticism of the REDD+ program, but said that REDD+ has potential to simultaneously address deforestation and alleviate poverty. Further, Corpuz described how Indigenous peoples are protectors of the forest. Research has demonstrated that protection of indigenous rights is correlated with climate mitigation: between 2000-2012, deforestation in Indigenous territories in Brazil was less than 1% compared to 7% in non-indigenous territories. This side event demonstrates that while at the party-level the conversation remains stunted at procedure, the REDD+ framework (as established by the Warsaw Decisions) is far beyond that.  Perhaps because REDD+ is a market-based solution, it will always fall short of what is socially just, or perhaps some parties (e.g. Brazil) have yet to get hip to the necessary protections Corpuz and others understand are necessary.


REDD+ in life post-Warsaw/ in Lima

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

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

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

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


Popular measures for conservation: Payments in Ecosystem Services

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

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

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

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

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


A Preview: REDD+ at the Global Landscape Forum

REDD+ is a major agenda item at COP 20. In particular, attention will be paid to methodological issues and the implementation of safeguards within the REDD+ program. At the Global Landscape Forum, a COP 20 side event, panels will discuss various aspects pertaining to REDD+. The GLF will offer information both on technological and methodological approaches to mitigation and adaptation.

For example, a panel “Improving livelihoods in the Andean Region: Scaling up innovations to integrate agriculture, forestry and other land uses in a changing climate” will examine experiences from REDD+ regarding reducing GHG emissions from forestry. This panel will also address issues of governance within REDD+ and the matter of incorporating diverse perspectives in the project process (e.g. farmers, private businesses, governments, communities.) The Forum will also focus on social questions such as gender and climate change. Studies demonstrate that climate change has a disparate impact on women. In the REDD+ context, deforestation has been shown to have a negative impact on women’s livelihood, health and safety as women have to travel further in search for fuel wood. The GLF will also examine financing mechanisms for REDD+. It is estimated that with $30 billion dollars, REDD+ could be fully operational on a global level. The panel, “Financial forces in the landscape: Can fiscal and trade policies reduce deforestation?” will discuss subsidies, taxes, tariffs and other fiscal and trade policy instruments.

These policy instruments have a large impact on the land use sector. And while fossil fuels are currently highly subsidized, these same policy tools have great potential to “turn the tide by reducing deforestation, strengthening the agricultural sector and make landscapes more resilient.” Panels will also address implementation of Forest Information Systems and Safeguard Information Systems, to support informed policy decisions and to monitor both the ecological and social impacts of REDD+. This year, the GLF panels address essential questions regarding the future of REDD+ and to what extent social justice concerns will be incorporated.


Extra, extra! Read our COP19 wrap-up in the Huffington Post!

Congrats to our Week 2 Observer Delegation on its recent publication in the Huffington Post courtesy of climate and energy reporter Ben Jervey.  In it, we recap COP19/CMP9’s last week of activity, analyzing what this “nuts and bolts” COP did and didn’t achieve. Specifically, we take a close look at adaptation, loss and damage, subnational initiatives, new REDD+ rules, and technology, all in light of the ADP’s struggle to find common ground on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, and capacity-building to ensure maximum participation in the legal agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2020.

VLS COP19/CMP9 Observer Delegation Week 2

VLS COP19/CMP9 Observer Delegation Week 2

P.S.  Given that the Huff Post version did not include all of our links, I’m pasting below the draft that includes them.

As COP19/CMP9 comes to a close, the Vermont Law School Observer Delegation reflects on what it witnessed during the second week of the climate change meeting. As the high-level ministers began arriving on Monday, the pace of negotiations ramped up. Beginning with several days of speeches about the contours of the legal agreement post-Kyoto Protocol, financing mechanisms, alternative energy, and adaptation needs in developing countries, the technical discussions of COP19’s first week turned to long days and nights of political bargaining.

In this piece, we explore what this “nuts and bolts” COP did and didn’t achieve. Specifically, we take a close look at adaptation, loss and damage, subnational initiatives, new REDD+ rules, and technology, all in light of the ADP’s struggle to find common ground on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, and capacity-building to ensure maximum participation in the legal agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2020. For more detail about these subjects and play-by-play of the most contentious issues, see our blog.

Adaptation Activities Accelerate

Although adaptation is still a relatively new idea under the UNFCCC, COP19 expanded its reach by conducting workshops to showcase achievements to date and negotiating a new loss and damage provision (covered in the next section). COP16 established the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAN), which sought to enhance action on adaptation under the Convention. National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) were established at COP17 to help countries assess their vulnerabilities and climate change risks, and adapt to them. NAPs aim to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change by building adaptive capacity and resilience. They contain four main elements: (1) laying groundwork and addressing gaps, (2) preparing preparatory elements, (3) creating implementation strategies, and (4) reporting, monitoring and reviewing data.

Bangladesh is currently working on a NAP that looks at health security, disaster management practices, and infrastructure. It currently experiences storm surges and flooding, which impacts crops and food security. Malawi wants to implement a NAP due to its vulnerability to road flooding. It currently lacks sufficient policy, institutional, and legal frameworks, and faces low awareness, skills, and know-how among the general public.

While adaptation has clear benefits, it can be expensive and so the parties ask: is it worth it? Presentations at COP19 answered in the affirmative. Emergency responses to remedy damage from climate change can be even more expensive than investing in adaptation measures. Climate change impacts, like the recent Typhoon Haiyan, often cause GDP to decrease, as developing country governments spend their limited budgets on disaster relief. By investing in adaptation up front, disasters do less damage when they hit, so not as much money is spent on reactive remedies.

While COP19 included much discussion of mitigation, parties acknowledge that even the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid climate change. This makes adaptation necessary. It’s not an either/or proposition.  As the UNFCCC makes increasingly clear, international climate change law must address both.

The (R)evolution of Loss and Damage

The tragedy wrought in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan placed the concept of “loss and damage” center stage in Warsaw. Loss and damage would pick up where adaptation and mitigation fall short, helping developing countries to improve risk reduction and assessment, strengthen adaptation, enhance capacity building to deal with slow-onset events like sea level rise or extreme effects like typhoons, and compensate them.

COP18 set a legal mandate to establish institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate on developing countries.  Covering both economic and non-economic losses, it could include the loss of livelihood, damage to property, food insecurity, climate migration, loss of identity, and potential human rights abuses. Due to Russia’s blocking of the agenda, the June 2013 SBI meeting did not go forward and work on this mandate was delayed to the COP19 SBI meeting.

At COP19, negotiators worked on this SBI agenda item around the clock, trying to draft text that was responsive to developing countries’ compensation needs and developed countries’ liability concerns. Tired of Australia’s antics to scuttle constructive discussions, the G77 negotiator, Bolivian Rene Gonzalo Orellana Halkyer, walked out of the meeting at 4 am this past Wednesday morning and other G77 countries followed suit. Undaunted, high-level party delegates, co-chaired by ministers from Sweden and South Africa, attempted to hammer out a text, debating whether it should be an institutional arrangement, work program, or task force. Would it get its own mechanism under an UNFCCC institution, like the Clean Development Mechanism does, or be housed under the SBI or SBSTA, or simply sit under the adaptation pillar?

At the closing plenary, delegates approved “the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts.” Controversially, it is organized under CAN’s adaptation pillar. G77+ China, AOSIS, and Yeb Saño from the Philippines made it known that this text was inadequate, as loss and damage meant “beyond adaptation.” This opposition sparked an hour huddle, with U.S Special Envoy Todd Stern and Fiji’s Sai Navoti discussing the use of “under” while surrounded by at least 50 other negotiators.

Afterward, the COP19 President announced consensus on retaining the word “under” while including an amendment requiring review of the mechanism at COP22 in 2016. Going forward, the executive committee to the Warsaw international mechanism will meet and develop a work plan by COP20; a two-year review will take place at COP 22; and the COP will make an “appropriate decision” on loss and damage governance based on this review.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

On Thursday, November 22, during the first-ever COP Presidency Cities and Sub-national Dialogue of the Cities Day, one environmental minister declared that “the only people with the power to actually change anything are the local elected officials.”

While international agreements on climate change have languished, cities around the world have acted. For good reason: two-thirds of urban dwellers live on the water, subject to sea level rise and lethal heat waves from the urban heat island effect. The Cities Climate Leadership Group C40 membership  comprises 40 of the 50 biggest cities of the world and represents 8% of the world’s population, 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 21% of the global GDP. Together, cities have the collective clout to get something done.

The COP19 Dialogue of the Cities Day, organized by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), C40, and EUROCITIES, highlighted work that is already happening in local municipalities around the world, and sought support for it from the national and international levels. Roundtable discussions focused on adaptation, transportation, waste, and buildings. A recurring theme was the potential for a bottom-up approach that empowers local governments to combat climate change by creating a platform for continuous dialogue between cities, national government, and UNFCCC parties.

Building on this event, ICLEI (which coordinated the adoption of the Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change in September, 2013)  advocated for a more substantive forum for identifying key priority areas of collaboration on mitigation and adaptation at the city and subnational levels during the next ADP session in June, 2014. Although the ADP decision text changed throughout the last few days of negotiations, and ICLEI did not receive all it sought, the final iteration includes cities and subnational governments in technical meetings “to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building” and a subnational forum “to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation,” both to be held at the next ADP session. In short, this COP19 decision means more meetings, reports and business as usual for the UNFCCC. But with this clear recognition of a subnational role in UNFCCC lawmaking may come more resources for the people actually doing the work on the ground.

REDD+ Is a Go

One of the more significant outcomes of this week was the package of decisions, known as the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), that the COP approved to provide a formal framework, safeguards, and funding in hopes of cutting deforestation in half by 2020 and halting it by 2030. Every schoolchild knows that the forests are the world’s lungs: this is the UNFCCC’s smoking cessation program.

REDD+ has been implemented on the ground by various development organizations, including the World Bank, USAID, and the World Wildlife Foundation, in a somewhat haphazard and experimental fashion since its conception in Montreal in 2005 and development in Bali in 2007. It was met with serious criticism by indigenous peoples around the world as another form of colonialism, with Bolivia in particular championing to keep market mechanisms out of this mitigation activity. This new version of REDD+ hopes to address those concerns. The safeguards included for biodiversity, ecosystems, and indigenous peoples’ territories, livelihoods, and rights are commendable. It may even serve as a mechanism for governments to more formally recognize indigenous land rights. Hopeful thinking? Perhaps. We will have to watch carefully how the new REDD+ decisions improve its implementation on the ground.

Good News About Technology

Developing nations will require new technologies to achieve their goals of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. At COP16 in Cancun, the UNFCCC established the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), a technology transfer mechanism that collaborates with national governments to develop and implement desired climate technologies. Two months before COP19’s start, the CTCN Advisory Board approved the CTCN Modalities and Procedures for adoption at COP19. While both SBSTA and SBI adopted the CTCN’s report, and forwarded a draft decision for approval, , the COP did not reach the agenda item.  Instead it will instead take up these items at SBSTA 40 and SBI 40 in Bonn next year.

Nevertheless, a COP19 side event organized by the UNFCCC Secretariat marked the official opening of the CTCN. While most of the world may not have noticed, COP19’s advancement of CTCN is crucial for developing nations striving to fulfill their commitments under the UNFCCC. The CTCN can now accept requests from countries’ Nationally Designated Entities (NDEs), which is good news for achieving international, on-the-ground progress for mitigation and adaptation.

Developing countries can now request from CTCN resources to develop and implement clean energy technologies. Clean energy is essential for reaching all parties mitigation targets, and CTCN can supply the requisite experts to deploy these innovative technologies. At the CTCN event, Zambia announced plans to submit a request for clean energy projects. Bangladesh has described plans to request agricultural technologies from CTCN, in order to improve crop yields. Agriculture is a main cause of deforestation, and improving agricultural practices has the direct and immediate impact of keeping more carbon out of the atmosphere. Of course, new technologies will be necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change. Following Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines will request a collaboration with CTCN to rebuild with clean energy.

ADP:  2(b) or not 2(b)

By 2am Saturday morning – two hours after COP19/CMP9 was due to end – tired and tense negotiators left the room where they had spent the last eight hours locking horns over language in the fourth draft decision the ADP had debated since Monday. Environment ministers from Venezuela, E.U., U.K., and U.S. were in the room working directly with their negotiating teams. Yet even they left not knowing if the parties would achieve their COP19 mandate of determining the elements of the new legal agreement to be negotiated in Peru next year, signed in Paris in 2015, and put into effect in 2020.

The contested language reflects the main sticking points between developing and developed countries about constructing mitigation targets, setting timelines, balancing pre- and post-2020 mitigation, and financing.  For example, Article 2(b)’s language of post-2020 mitigation targets was changed from commitments to contributions in the final round.  This obligation, applicable to all countries under the Doha Amendment, focuses on parties doing “domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions” and reporting them “in a manner that facilitates the clarity, transparency, and understanding” of them as early in 2015 as possible.  Subpart 2(d) was added to request financial support for developing countries doing this domestic work. Notably this language of differentiation eschews references to Annex 1 of the UNFCCC, even though the G77+China and AILAC asserted in every ADP session that the post-2020 agreement is made under the Convention and thus the Annex applies as is.

All parties agreed that pre-2020 mitigation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period is lacking, whether in terms of number of countries (participation) or amount of GHG emissions avoided (stringency). Thus Article 4 calls on developed countries to make or enhance their national emissions reduction targets, and for developing countries to do the same with their nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Article 3 urges developed countries to follow through on the financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building work that it has already committed under the Convention, noting its ability to leverage compliance with Article 4.

How to complete the ADP’s work and how to fund it reached some resolution by the closing plenary.  On process and timelines, delegates agreed to meetings of high level ministers at both the June inter-sessional meeting in Bonn and at COP20, as well as an additional sessions in March and possibly another one between June and December. The ADP decision also noted the U.N. climate change summit that Ban Ki-Moon will host on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly’s September meeting. Thus the parties will have up to five meetings next year to turn the COP19 ADP decision into a working draft to kickstart COP20 discussions.   On finance, however, there was less resolution. Developing countries insisted on the developed countries living up to their capacity to fund this climate change lawmaking, as part of their common but differentiated responsibility, and mistrusted calls for private financing. The U.S. noted the importance of private financing as a complement to public funding, highlighting the role the latter could play in middle- and high-income countries while reserving government funds for the lesser developed countries.

Overall, while COP19/CMP9 made some progress toward Lima and Paris, it was limited by continued concerns about the transparency of negotiations and moving toward an “applicable to all” standard without some accounting for historical responsibility. As the Earth Negotiations Bulletin observed, a “sense of resolve was notably absent” in Warsaw, due as much to an absence of political will as to the vagaries of the UNFCCC process. While the REDD+ framework and other “nuts and bolts” adjustments represent real steps forward in elaborating an international system of climate change law, a question remains whether they are enough to motivate countries to continue to invest in it.

 

This post was written by Tracy Bach, Heather Croshaw, Alisha Falberg, Dan Schreiber, and Lindsay Speer, members of the Vermont Law School COP19/CMP9 Observer Delegation. You can read more of their observations at their COP19 blog, Substantial and sustained.

 


Side (event) . . .

Side events can more than occupy one’s time at a COP.  Presented by a range of actors — academics, activists, businesses, government agencies — they can range in content and quality.  Thus I was fortunate that the few I attended at COP19, given my focus on tracking the ADP negotiations, were fascinating and informative.

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Joana Abrego of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, at right.

On the Saturday mid-COP, a day-long conference on human rights and climate chance organized by the Yale University Governments and Environmental Markets Initiative, UNITAR, and the law faculty of the University of Warsaw (that Heather covered well) sought to bring together activists and academics “to
examine how substantive and procedural rights can be used to support, design, and implement effective and equitable solutions to address climate change.”  The third session of the day addressed “human rights, safeguards, and climate mechanisms.”  Dr. Constance McDermott of the University of Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests & Environmental Change Institute provided an overview of forest program safeguards, noting that while the context for the COP19 discussion is REDD+, that these safeguards are rooted in financial institutions like the World Bank.  Joana Abrego of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental encouraged academics to research the actual implementation of public participation requirements of CDM and REDD+ programs, not just their theoretical constructs.  She described conditions in Panama, where 33% of the territory is protected area, 76% is inhabited by indigenous peoples, and more bird species exist than in U.S. and Canada combined.  She spoke of Panama’s interest in hosting CDM projects, almost all hydropower projects.  With 19 registered projects and 48 in the pipeline, required community engagement and participation have varied significantly.  Abrego described one proposed CDM project, Barro Blanco, which indigenous people fought because of the effect on their river but was nonetheless approved for CDM registration, and Bonyic, another dam project within indigenous peoples’ territory that was rejected by the CDM.  Given this uneven human rights track record, she underscored the need for both research and activism on developing clean energy while protecting IP rights.

Allie Silverman '12 of CIEL.

Allie Silverman ’12 of CIEL.

Allie Silverman of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) focused on safeguards within the REDD+ program of the UNFCCC.  She began by acknowledging that these safeguards, which are procedural and substantive in nature, can be seen by different beholders as either a market-based way to reduce emissions by protecting forests and communities or an attack on indigineous communities, given their traditional place outside international markets.  While CIEL doesn’t take a pro or con position on REDD+ safeguards, it does see the risks of the relatively minimal safeguards, especially as they are put into play on the ground. Allie, VLS’12, who is one of my amazing former students, described CIEL’s rights-based approach to REDD+ project development, implementation, and ongoing monitoring (harkening back to Abrego’s point) and specific projects to extend its reach.  For example, she previewed a web tool (currently in beta form, undergoing peer review) that will provide access to a variety of legal instruments for countries considering REDD projects (e.g. those on self-determination, right to participate, ILO 169, information and consent), intended to help lawyers and legal activitists do their work more effectively.  CIEL is also creating a community guide that builds on the more technical legal information in the web tool to strengthen work with civil society groups like indigenous peoples groups.

In sum, an incredibly exciting side event session, where I learned about one slice of international climate change law as applied and studied from both the ground up and the top down.

And had the joy of watching a former student show her passion for her work post VLS.  Lex pro urbe et orbe.  Law for the community and the world.