Monday, December 3, 2007

REDD opening comments

“We need it, and most of all our earth needs it.” These words come from the Delegate from Switzerland, referring to an international agreement aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD) in developing countries. We agree! And the work has started: This morning delegates met to open the REDD discussion.

We heard from a total of 25 countries, the majority of which are developing countries. All delegates voiced support of REDD in some form or another, but as usual the devil is in the details. The keywords of the session were urgency, flexibility, and positive incentives.

Perhaps the one thing everyone agreed upon (or no one disagrees with) is the theme of URGENCY: the rapidity of climate change, and the need to reduce carbon emissions now. According to the delegate from Korea, we “must develop policy approaches…and incentives as soon as possible.” Such approaches might include pilot projects such as the World Bank Forestry Carbon Project Facility, which can help developing countries develop capacity and test REDD pilot projects, as well as inform future climate agreements. The United States gave predictably bland/neutral comments and instead of prioritizing active solutions stated that it is a “priority to further improve the understanding of methodological issues” related to REDD solutions. This is code for inaction and continued intransigence.

Almost all delegates urged FLEXIBLE solutions to problems. This includes flexibility in time, such as limited-time horizon solutions that may change in future stages. Flexiblity across space is also important. For example, Papua New Guinea advocated for national carbon accounting for market activities, as well as sub-national accounting. Indonesia pointed out that any REDD agreement must be developed “according to national standards and policies.” This all sounds great but … brings us back to brackets! The most flexible solution may be the least powerful.

Most countries support positive INCENTIVES to reduce deforestation. Of course incentives can take a variety of forms, but perhaps the most often mentioned is a REDD finance mechanism (allowing carbon generated by avoided forest degradation and deforestation to be traded on the global carbon market). Nevertheless, a few countries were notably worried about or opposed to market mechanisms. Brazil (rightly) noted that many Annex I countries have seen rising carbon emissions in the last 15 years, and argued that reducing emissions from “fossil fuel combustion must be addressed before forests are considered.” The delegate from Brazil went on to say that “bringing in market mechanisms now is premature. We are trying to find a roadmap until 2012 and beyond.” This position by Brazil continues its practice of blocking a truly meaningful financial system to emerge that will reward countries that reduce deforestation. Australia, on the other hand, strongly advocated a market mechanism and also (as a developed country) highlighted the need for Annex I countries to provide support for developing countries. Go Aussies!

The meeting wrapped up with comments from a representative of the Climate Action Network International. She sent us on our way with a list of four things to keep in mind for the coming weeks of negotiation: ambition, content, process, and a timetable. We'll let you know how it goes!

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