Climate smart agriculture sprouting at the UNFCCC?

thumbnail-logo-csaGlobally, agriculture is a significant source of GHGs. At the same time, climate change is threatening the food security of millions. However, no official means to link and address these issues has yet been established within the UNFCCC (though there is an agriculture contact group in the Subsidiary Body For Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA)). A relatively new and dynamic player on the international scene might change that.

The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture was officially launched at the UN Climate Summit in September, and has been making its presence known at the Global Landscapes Forum and the COP 20 side events. Climate smart agriculture focuses on sustainable agricultural productivity, food system and farming livelihood resilience, and mitigation of agriculture’s GHG emissions.

At 70 members strong, including governmental, scientific, and NGO leaders from around the world, this entity could be growing something new within the Convention.


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.


No Need to Re-Invent the Wheel

At today’s side event forum, hosted by the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), panel members called for governments to stand behind the CDM. Comprised of Executive Board members of the CDM, renowned representatives from the Parties and the private sector, World Bank and Green Climate Fund (GCF) the message was clear, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. “We need to work with what we have,” said Phillip Hauser of the GCF.

Despite current funding issues, panelists made the case that governments already have a powerful tool in the CDM that they can use now. Following the central message from the 81st meeting of the CDM Executive Board, panelists urged governments to release the full potential of CDM for strong climate action. “We urge countries in Lima [ ]and in Paris next year to renew their commitment to the CDM,” said CDM Executive Board Chair Hugh Sealy. “This is one of the most effective instruments governments have created under the United Nations Climate Change Convention. It drives and encourages emission reductions, climate finance, technology transfer, capacity building, sustainable development, and adaptation—everything that countries themselves are asking for from the new Paris agreement,” he said. Countries need to set a strong market signal to ensure the stability of the CDM. “They can do this by increasing their demand for Certified Emission Credits (CERs) before 2020, by recognizing the value that the CDM can add to emerging emission trading systems, and by recognizing the mechanism’s obvious value in the international response to climate change after the new agreement takes force in 2020,” he said.

Acknowledging that the CDM is far from perfect, Sealy said that the “learning by doing” mantra has provided valuable insight into building on the success of the market mechanism. As the largest, most widely recognized baseline and crediting mechanism in the world, the CDM has the potential to reduce 2.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by the end of 2020. Over the past nine years, the CDM has reduced over 1.5 gigatonnes of emissions and saved $3.6 billion in Kyoto Protocol compliance costs. In addition, the CDM has encouraged $138 billion in climate finance, leveraging privately 10 times the amount of public investment. Compatibility---Wind-And-Agricultural-Farming450px copy

However, despite the success of the CDM, the demand for CDM is plummeting. This year saw a continuing decline in the size of the CDM program, which had about a tenth of the number of registered projects in the preceding reporting periods, said Dirk Forrister, President of International Trading Association.  As Sealy explained, the demand from traditional markets (especially the European Union Emission Trading System) has contracted severely, with the spot price of a secondary CDM CER crashing from over 30 USD in 2008 to around USD 0.30 in 2014. Investment in new CDM projects is almost non-existent and significant hemorrhaging in the private sector is occurring. The price drop in CERs has lead to a decreased incentive to continue projects and develop capacity. Ultimately, “all this jeopardized the long-term partnerships of the UNFCCC Parties and the private sector, in the midst of a growing need for global climate action.

Increased demand is the key to addressing the CDM’s current challenge, said Sealy. The CDM is too valuable to discard, especially now that we have figured out most of the kinks, said Forrister.


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.


Mapping resilience

As delegates begin arriving in Lima for the start of COP20/CMP10 on Monday, a new report from the Royal Society underscores the need for more urgency in climate change mitigation negotiations.  The Royal royal societySociety, which was founded in 1660 and serves as the United Kingdom’s independent scientific academy, released today Resilience to Extreme Weather, which projects the human impacts of coastal and river flooding, droughts, and heat waves using data provided by the IPCC in its recently published AR5.  The report also provides an on-line “chart of defensive options,” through which the user may explore different policy options for reducing the impacts of these four extreme weather events and determine each option’s effectiveness and cost. The Royal Society, along with BirdLife International, will host a side event at COP20 on Friday, December 12, 11:30am-1pm, to encourage policymakers to look beyond “traditional engineering options” to adaptation policies and practices based in ecosystems management.


… by side (event)

The second of two fascinating and informative side events mentioned in my last post was hosted by the Global Canopy Programme, to launch its newest publication, The Little Book of Big Deforestation DriversIMG_4259 (which Alisha covered well here).  What caught my attention most was not the the research done to document and calculate the individual and cumulative supply chain impacts on climate change, but rather how to portray these results so that you want to learn more of these details. Can we, as individual consumers, augment national and international legal efforts to stop tropical rain forest deforestation, by making more informed buying decisions and thereby changing the deforestation catalysts embedded within the supply chain?  Take a look at the poster at right (I couldn’t help but think of Mara from the University of Montana, for she came to COP19 in part to learn how to communicate climate change impacts) and ask yourself:  how much forest did you eat today?


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.

IMG_4254

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.


UN starts seriously working with cities.

My very last “low-level” side event, I ended with some positive news about progress in cities throughout the world. Not only are cities making progress, but they are starting to get recognition and assistance from the international community. The representative form the World Bank said, “We realize we need to partner with cities” For the first time the CDM finance will be used for a proposal in Amman Jordan.

The Phillipines also have a new law, the Phillipine Climate Change Act of 2009 in which local governments are recognized as frontline agencies. The law also requires that in the formulation of plans cities shall conisider climate change adaptation as one of their regular functions. In addition Phillippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act requires cities to integrate DRR and CC adaptation into comprehensive local land use and development plans.

 

 


Failure to include local governments

On Friday night at 8:15, I went to a very well attended side event on local government. Panelists included Felix Gonzalez Canto the Governor of Quintana Roo State and mayors from Denmark, Vancouver, Mexico City and North Little Rock, AR. Even though all the panelists are elected government officials, they are only allowed ‘non-governmental organization’ passes.

Local Governments side event at Cancunmesse

Ronan Dantec, the Climate spokesperson for United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) said that local governments have the most significant capacity to reduce emissions in a short time and the failure to include local governments affects the credibility of this negotiation. Continue reading


Local Partnerships for City Adaptation

 

On December 3rd, NOAA sponsored a side event to discuss lessons learned from air quality monitoring in Mexico City and LA over the last 20 years.  The event began with a technical explanation by NOAA of how climate forcing agents and air quality producing pollutants are often the same. The spokesperson from NOAA suggested that reducing emissions for air quality can help climate change mitigation opportunities to create a “win win” situation.  Continue reading


1st day/1 de Diciembre

Protesters: So far I have only seen about a dozen protestors, many who are advocating for GHG reductions through veganism. The perimeter around this facility seems to go on forever, who knows how far they had to walk.

Cancunmesse Entrance. Photo courtesy www.cc10.mx

Cancunmesse: After registration, I had my first walk-through of one of the conference facilities. The exhibit hall is full of the usual suspects – from Greenpeace to the Pew Center. In addition to a ton of free amazing publications, the exhibit hall was a great way to find organizations with similar interests… Continue reading


COP 16? Really? Why?

So far, the two most common responses after hearing about the trip to COP 16 are about:

  1. (1) Sunshine, not surprising given the lack of it in Vermont lately.
  2. (2) Pessimistic opinions about how nothing is expected to happen, also not surprising given what happened in Copenhagen.

    Cancunmesse

    Cancunmesse: Venue for COP 16. Photo courtesy of www.cc2010.mx

Targets set by the Copenhagen Accord are not good enough to stop climate change. No heads of state are even to attend COP 16. Expectations are very low. So why even go? I hope to learn from Latin American countries who, like Vermont, have significant greenhouse gas emissions coming from land use, agricultural and forestry.  I hope to share with them what is being done in Vermont and other parts of the U.S. I’m not holding my breath for internationally binding commitments to solve this problem, so I am interested to see what is being done locally and regionally in different parts of the world. I already know that I will have trouble deciding between events. If anyone has an interest in any specific side events, please let me know, I could easily be convinced to check it out over another event.  Currently the forecast is “mostly cloudy” – not much better than people’s expectations for this COP. We will see what happens.


Senator John Kerry: “Amateur hour is over. It’s time for science fact to trump science fiction.”

Wednesday, December 16, our last day in the Bella Center due to NGO restrictions, was an intense day.  In the first meeting, we witnessed the resignation of COP15 President Connie Hedegaard and several Heads of State statements, as well as the concern from developing countries regarding the imposition of the Danish text.

Senator Kerry at the Bella Center

I left the plenary to hear U.S. Senator John Kerry discuss the critical role of a global deal in advancing domestic legislation.  Kerry is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and lead author of the Senate’s climate bill.

As I was attempting to enter the meeting, I ran into Brice Lalonde, Kerry’s first cousin and French ambassador in charge of international climate change negotiations since 2007.  I had the luck of finding a seat in the front row!

Continue reading



Transparency & Civilian Participation Falls Apart at COP15

After a disappointing day for many of us, who waited in seemingly endless lines to nowhere, the COP has essentially come to an early end… at least for observers.

As anticipated, COP15 has become the most attended climate COP to date.   Unfortunately, the Bella Center in Copenhagen (capacity of 15,000) is not large enough to handle the overwhelming number of parties and observers that traveled to Copenhagen (over 30,000) to view history unfold.  Today at the COP, it was announced that a new system for entry would be instituted for the remainder of the convention.  As a result, our ability to observe has been significantly restricted.  The VLS delegation was issued only 4 secondary badges that we can use at any one time to enter the Bella center to view negotiation and side events.  However, even the secondary badges are not going to ensure our access.  Continue reading