Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The article by Grist's Geoffrey Lean hyperlinked in the blog title covers the accusations and finger pointing following the mayhemic Copenhagen talks. Every seems to be playing the blame game, even before the impact of COP15 is still unknown.
The ultimate negotiations on climate change are probably yet to come. What is clear is that the UNFCCC process, with six separate "tracks" and more than 190 countries (not to mention the new escalated antics of everyone else) needing to find consensus on every single piece, is simply not going to work in the future. Things will get even hairier as the framework takes place (next year to two) and the bare bone technical details and rules have to get put in place to support any new framework.
It is worth noting that after the Kyoto Protocol was "built" in 1997, it took until 2002 before the rulebook started to crystalize. So if we fast forward to a broad deal in Mexico (maybe 50:50) then look for a frantic fight on every major detail to get filled in before the expiration of the KP on New Years day in 2013. The UNFCCC even with the best staff, simply won't be able to mange the accelerated process of rules and regulations in just two years (2011 and 2012). Whoops, I forgot. The world will also probably need several months or years to ratify any international agreement in domestic processes. Which means the pace of climate change negotiations is probably not going to slow down any time soon. Book your tickets now for Bonn and Mexico City!
Simply, time is running out. The Copenhagen accords are messy and no one is sure where they will go, but there is some new potential there as well as some blatant omissions. And for the community of nations to have a continual UN process for handling climate change, we need reform to the UNFCCC process no matter how you slice and dice the coming years. Beyond the text and the interpretations and the recriminations, COP15 will hopefully be remembered for starting to change the rules away from a binary world of rich and poor and for demanding the wonderful, incredibly competent UNFCCC must get a tune up. The sooner the better.
Happy New Year TFG blog readers!
Monday, December 28, 2009
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 16, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the United States, joined by Australia, France, Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom, agreed, in the context of an ambitious and comprehensive outcome in Copenhagen, to dedicate a total of USD3.5 billion as initial public finance towards slowing, halting and eventually reversing deforestation in developing countries. This funding will help facilitate immediate actions in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) for the years 2010-2012.
"Protecting the world's forests is not a luxury - it is a necessity," said Vilsack. This substantial commitment is reflective of our recognition that international public finance must play a role in developing countries' efforts to slow, halt and reverse deforestation."
The U.S. contribution to this effort will be $1 billion over the next three years. These funds will be available for countries that develop ambitious REDD+ plans for their forest sector, according to their respective capabilities.
Protecting the world's climate is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime and forests have a vital role to play in overcoming this challenge. The world loses more than 13 million hectares of tropical forests annually producing approximately 17% of global warming emissions. The loss of tropical rainforests is devastating to the protection and storage of water, the health of biodiversity, and the livelihood of rural populations.
The United States is already working with international partners to protect forests across the globe. The State Department¸ USAID, and USDA's Forest Service are starting to work with developing countries around the world to learn how REDD+ can be implemented on the ground and we expect to ramp up these programs in the near future. This includes improvements in carbon inventories, payment systems for ecosystem services, and assistance in helping forests adapt to a changing climate.
While REDD+ can make it possible for developing countries to protect their forests, developed countries must also recognize their responsibility towards their own lands. In the United States, the Obama Administration is taking steps to protect and restore our forests in order to sustain our climate and our water resources. This week, the US Forest Service will formally announce a process for development of a new forest planning rule to govern the way we manage our publicly-owned National Forests.
"It is imperative that we sustain our forests everywhere so that they, in turn, can sustain us," said Vilsack.
Reactions From NGOs To The U.S. Commitment:
"The President has taken the first step forward to bring resources to the table to break the deadlock in Copenhagen. Combined with the funding included in the clean energy and climate legislation pending in the Senate, this would amount to 10 billion dollars over three years. That's real money to preserve forests and the essential carbon capture they provide. That's a big step and an important first start on the long-term commitment we need." - Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council
"The President's commitment to jumpstart REDD+ is a powerful and timely signal of the US' commitment to protecting tropical forests and reducing climate change. It should help drive progress toward a successful deal here in Copenhagen," said Kevin Knobloch, President, UCS.
"The commitment of the United States announced by Secretary Vilsack today to spend $1 billion over 3 years for building capacity from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is exactly what is needed to begin to address the global challenge of deforestation. We encourage other nations to join with commensurate commitments to support taking the actions that are urgently needed to begin solving this global problem." - Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy
Reactions From Developing Countries To The Joint Contribution:
"The announcement is a major breakthrough, bringing us towards the estimated costs of fast-tracking REDD+ start-up through the first three years of an interim start-up phase. Gabon is committed to moving forward." - President Omar Bongo, Republic of Gabon.
"Colombia is committed to reduce its emissions from deforestation, as one of its ways to contribute to the global mitigation effort. We welcome initiatives such as this one that provides prompt start finance that will allow developing countries, and their communities, to start work on the ground." - Columbian Environment Minister, Carlos Costa
"Costa Rica has demonstrated that halting and reverting deforestation in tropical developing countries is possible, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks is feasible and cost-effective. Our country had 72 percent cover in 1950, it went down to 21 percent in 1987 and it has now recovered to 51 percent in 2005. Although this is an achievement, we aspire to do more. That is why we welcome the pledge for fast-start financing for REDD+ because it will allow us move forward as well as helping other developing countries to become effective carbon sinks." - Dr. Alvaro Umana, Ambassador for Climate Change and Chief Negotiator of Costa Rica
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
"The one issue that can unite governments and constituencies... is massive new incentives to arrest deforestation at scale in developing countries," said Niles. "This single positive will probably need to carry the day when a real binding and ambitious accord will eventually be drawn, sometime in the next 18 months."
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Yesterday, the United Nations announced that accredited observer non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would no longer have access to the United Nations climate change negotiation conference center. As a result, more than a thousand NGOs, working hard to advance issues critical to achieving an ambitious and equitable international climate change agreement, were shut out of the negotiations. The NGO lockout not only prohibits accredited observer organizations from viewing the negotiations in person; it also eliminates interface and dialogue between NGOs and party delegates and the media.
More than 5,000 chairs remained empty throughout Thursday at a designated offsite alternative location where NGOs were told they could watch the negotiations on video screens. However, no negotiation sessions were made available for viewing; instead, the arena streamed-in general party statements from a virtually empty plenary room. Indeed, protesting outside the conference center posed legitimate safety concerns, but permitting the negotiations to proceed in the absence of all its accredited participants is an extreme departure from the 15-year tradition of transparent negotiations.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It was difficult to get to the meetings. As we left the Bella Center this morning, a large riot had just swept through and I literally was helped to get out by police who lifted me over a barricade of security vehicles. the metro was filled with many anarchists and other rowdies. Helicopters were in the air, the streets are filled with sirens as dignitaries move about and arrive and protestors block streets. there were rumors that some NGOs broke into backroom talks and other rumors that there was a bomb scare in the main station.
despite that all, the pieces are finally falling into place. Stay tuned for more announcements.
The State of Wisconsin, under the leadership of Governor Jim Doyle, has set ambitious renewable portfolio standards; renewable energy sources will serve 25% of the state’s energy demand by 2025. One Wisconsin dairy is converting cheese byproducts into ethanol to fuel vehicles. A glass making company that supplies glass for solar panels provides green jobs for Wisconsin residents.
Cities contribute 75% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and New York City, under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, has initiated PlanYC to reduce the city’s emission levels by 30% by 2017. The Plan incorporates approximately 130 cross-sectoral initiatives to cut emissions, including planting one million new trees, implementing new energy codes that require energy efficiency retrofits for existing buildings, and installing sub-metering systems that provide transparency to tenants about their energy consumption.
Thanks to these innovative efforts, states and cities across the country are paving the way to a low carbon future.
Monday, December 14, 2009
So perhaps it was destiny that I should run into Mr. Modouus. He told me about the plight of forests on the north bank of The Gambian river and wondered how the Tropical Forest Group might be able to help. He also hoped that I would communicate this to his whole country, which I was of course delighted to do. An interview was set up with The Gambian national TV, where I explained the methodology behind REDD-based financing, how one first needs to first ascertain total carbon inventory and deforestation rates for any program, and how this is something that TFG is able to help with.
So if you're in The Gambia and reading this blog, keep your eyes peeled!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
a panel of speakers including Hilary Benn, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from the UK and Nicholas Stern, Chair if the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, presented the critical nature of saving forests both from the spiritual perspective to the blunt economics of the price of the carbon they sequester.
There were two questions posed- Why, and how? The why is easy, the long list of ecosystem services, including the preservation of biodiversity to climate regulation were obvious, Benn was preaching to the choir, but he also reminded us of the forest’s ability to heal our spirits and lift our souls and the myriad other social benefits afforded those who are blessed enough to live with, visit or just know that forests exist.
How to save them is a question of economics. Saving forests is one of the lowest cost mitigation strategies we have available to curb climate change. In order for this to work, however, we must act across the globe at the same time, in other words, leakage has to be avoided or the cost goes up. Stern stressed that policies need to be designed in the countries where the forests stand, but that the costs need to be shared globally. Also, the demand side of the problem needs to be addressed. The UK is pushing for more timber certification (to avoid purchasing illegally logged timber), but Benn called for an all out ban on the sale of illegally sourced timber (something the U.S. has recently done with the passage of the Lacey Act amendment of 2008).
The solution? REDD plus must be included in the new climate agreement that (may?) come out of Copenhagen at the end of the week…
Mato Grosso Governor blog/paraphrase from WHRC dinner
(heavily paraphrased due to translation and speed of delivery)
I am the governor of the state that is the largest produce of grain, beef and cotton in Brazil.
34% devoted to production
66% devoted to conservation.
This is the stew in which we are working – how doe we keep forets standing, how do we produce, supply food to a growing world and provide communities with decent lives (heavily paraphrased) . With the advance of technology from many government agencies, we can triple production without clearing more forests.
We can give the farmers and ranchers in the state that if they continue to increase productivity, they can still grow and expand but not with cutting more forests.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is called REDD. Van provide people of the state compensation for keeping forests standing while still having a productive economy.
It is not just about production, It is also local and indigenous peoples land and rights. Matto Grosso has everything in place to put a major solution to GHG into action.
There will be x governors tomororw. They all want REDD to work. it is like a big ship coming into the port. We must construct REDD so that funds will flow and the benefits can be distributed, For now, our main job is to make sure REDD works. We must build into REDD public funds, there has to be additional funding for state governments to do their job, and without this,it won't get done. Thank you.
Blogging from the Woods Hole Research Center/IPAM dinner at COP15
John Holdren speech before a dinner (the Customs House, Copenhagen)
paraphrased quotes only.
The President understands with great clarity the challenges of climate change and tropical forests.
And he understands we have a great opportunity. He knows REDD provides some of the greatest opportunities to get lots of early carbon emission reductions.
I have spoken with the president at length on climate change and the issue of REDD.The US will play its appropriate role. There have been some bumps in the negotiations. There always are. But we will move to a better outcome.
Yesterday afternoon I arrived in Copenhagen for the U.N. negotiations on climate change. Some 30,000 individuals are expected to descend on Copenhagen to negotiate, observe, protest, and advocate for the world’s next climate change regime, which could include meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions from the world’s largest emitters (U.S., China and India) and equitable means for developing countries to participate in an international carbon market.
In the weeks leading up to Copenhagen, there was a growing sense that no agreement would be reached by the close of negotiations, largely due to the reluctance of the largest emitters to arrive at the negotiating table with meaningful emission reduction targets. I too was becoming doubtful. Upon my arrival however, I was met with a renewed sense of confidence. Although significant uncertainty exists concerning critical parts of an agreement, we can expect the negotiators to burn the midnight oil (or something greener, let’s hope) in the days ahead. The pressure is on, with almost 100 heads-of-state, including U.S President Barack Obama, expected to arrive in Copenhagen by the end of next week. In the week ahead, we will likely feel hope and doubt many times about whether an agreement will in fact emerge. But one thing is certain – our world leaders aren’t coming to talk about a failed negotiation; they will want to speak about something they can applaud. Stay tuned…
Forest Day 3 opened with Elinor Ostrom, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri and Gro Harlem Brundtland all calling for the inclusion of a REDD + mechanism in the new climate agreement and stressed that funding is critical NOW.
Ostrom said that she strongly supports REDD, but stressed the importance of including communities in the process, particularly in monitoring. She pointed out that studies have shown a strong correlation between community willingness to monitor and forest density. She also called for clear assignment of property rights, community training and particularly stressed the importance of a general policy that can be adapted to local conditions.
The importance and range of forest services beyond just carbon needs to be highlighted according to Pachauri, particularly in the policy arena when it comes to issues like flood control and agricultural productivity. In terms of the climate, forests are critical for staying below 1.5 degrees (not 2 degrees) and also provide the least expensive mitigation option.
The overall message to negotiators was reiterated by Brundtland- that REDD plus needs to be part of the new agreement and must include; immediate upfront financing for REDD preparation, a phased approach, incentives and must be results based.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Odigha comes from Cross River State one of the last forested parts of Nigeria, at the western border of Cameron. The area is rich in biodiversity, particularly primates, including the most endangered African ape, the Cross River Gorilla. Odigha was a mathematician prior to becoming a grassroots activist in the mid-1990s, stopping a massive deforestation project in his state and later winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. In a surprising twist, he now works directly for the government, as the chairman for the Cross Rivers State Forestry Commission. Recruited by Governor Liyel Imoke, whom Odigha describes as an emerging climate leader in Africa, Odigha now straps on a gun and bulletproof vest along with an ex-police task force to guard the local forests from illegal logging.
This work is being done under a 2-year state moratorium on logging and Imoke’s declaration of a shift from logging concessions to carbon concessions. The hitch is that there is not yet a market to support the carbon concessions that Nigeria can tap into. The REDD market will not appear until 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires. Projects like Cross River will not be likely to get much investment to prevent deforestation if they can’t first create the institutions, capacity, monitoring and other essential requirements to make investors feel secure and qualify for REDD funds. This stage of planning has been dubbed “REDD readiness.”
While a few countries have been able to secure funding and implement programs to prepare for REDD, for example Panama and Gyana, Nigeria has difficulty attaining resources for forest conservation, says Tunde Morakinyo. That is because donor funds tend to go for education, HIV, and governance, not the environment.
At a Conservation International and Nature Conservancy sponsored REDD side event, another Nigerian complained that the stringent requirements to qualify for REDD funds will limit the involvement of poor African nations. CI’s spokesperson responded “if the mechanism excludes countries, it must be flawed”. It’s the hope of the Tropical Forest Group that when the governor arrives at COP15 on Sunday, they will have succeeded in arranging some meetings and Cross River will be able to get the financing they need to prove the governor right -- that preserving carbon can pay.
Ecologist, Climate Central
Friday, December 11, 2009
According to Mr. Niebel, Germany will put forest protection at the core of its development efforts and provide major technical support and funding to REDD projects - most likely concentrating actions in Southeast Asia, inter alia Vietnam.
In negotiations earlier this month between Mr. Niebel and the President of Brazil, Mr. Lula da Silva, in Berlin an agreement including significant funding for the protection of the Amazon rainforest has been reached.
In the meantime, Mr. Niebel explained, the final elaboration of the new government's forest-related development policies will have to wait until the end of the negotiations in Copenhagen in order to take into account possible agreements.
It is available on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), a report from 2004 on National forest programmes supported by the ministry.
Danish Text: What is All the Fuss from Copenhagen
Danish Text? Yes the draft negotiating text that was “secretly” developed by the Danes to try to move the world forward on addressing global warming pollution.
Would that be the text that certain countries can’t remember having seen? The text shared with many of the key countries, including key developing countries prior to the beginning of the Copenhagen negotiations? Yes to all of those things.
Was that the “secret” text that no one knew about -- except those key developed and developing countries that saw the text together at the same time? Yes one and the same. Well I guess the “secret” was that it wasn’t leaked sooner.
So what is the big deal? I’m still trying to figure out why some people seem so surprised that: (1) such a draft document exists; and (2) a smaller group of key countries are sitting around the table to try to work through key differences in advance of a Heads of Government Summit.
That is how high-stakes negotiations are conducted and if that is what it takes to move the process forward to putting the world on a path to solve this challenge then I’m all for it. [The Financial Times hit the nail on the head with their story, while the Guardian totally blew up the story on the basis of some “conspiracy”].
These negotiations always have this kind of smaller process that tries to break down the differences outside the “theatrics” of the formal negotiations. After all it is hard to get consensus in a big room, with 192 countries wanting to make a point. They have different names -- "friends of the chair” or “friends of the president” -- but they are all characterized by one thing – they don’t include all 192 countries.
In my old job we used to conduct dialogues where we would try to get underneath a country’s stated negotiating position. We found that when you could question country’s stated position, you could understand where they were really coming from and find solutions. Often we found solutions that addressed the concerns of two countries that used to be at opposite ends of an issue. Without such a process you would never get into “problem solving” mode. All you would be doing is rehashing stated positions.
So we used to do three things:
1. Keep the meetings small (usually no more than 30 key negotiators);
2. Structure the dialogue to be a back-and-forth so we could really get to the bottom of a countries position (we put people around a square table and made them talk to each other and challenge assumptions about each others position); and
3. Developed “straw proposals” (draft proposals that took a position to get a reaction and then help force the group to flesh out their real concerns and hopefully agree to a path forward).
Sound familiar? Well it kind of sounds like the process that the Danes conducted to try to get us closer to addressing this challenge.
After all, we’ve had a number of negotiating sessions this year where countries have had draft negotiating text in front of them. And all that has produced is a process where proposals are shortened, rephrased, and reoriented on a page. That isn’t negotiating. Negotiating is where you say: “I can live with that if you do this”.
As a number of countries have told me privately:
“We weren’t negotiating. That process wasn’t going to produce an agreement.”
So the Danes tried to move the process forward in a different manner in order to move the world closer towards agreement. I can’t really blame them for trying this as going at the same problem in the same way isn’t leadership it is brainless. Thank goodness the Danish Presidency is trying everything it can to get a strong agreement out of Copenhagen that will lead to a treaty in a matter of months, not years (as I’ve discussed here).
It caused some “controversy” and maybe participants will get the grumbling about process out of their system early so we can get down to real negotiations. So maybe this is “the storm, before the agreement”.
There are now rumors that the Danes will introduce a new draft text on Saturday. And a number of other countries or groups have either developed their own draft or one is in the works:
* Africa is rumored to have produced a draft text;
* China produced one draft (now referred to as the “Beijing text”) which was supposedly done as a part of the effort with Brazil, South Africa, India, and China (reported here) but the detailed proposal seems to only be actually supported by China; and
* The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is rumored to be proposing one today.
That sounds like the back-and-forth of negotiations. And that is healthy. Propose something, other groups counter propose, narrow down the differences, and propose a new iteration. So stay tuned as this “negotiation” continues.
I hope everyone stays focused on the real action -- are countries taking action to address this challenge (as I discussed here and here). On that front we have very positive momentum.
We must do better than this kind of “made-up” drama if we are going to solve this challenge. Lead us to solutions not to more games.
Jake Schmidt International Climate Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council :
I’m not alone in sharing these views as you can see from these posts from other leading climate policymakers.
*More from Jake Schmidt at NRDC SwitchBoard.
Three additional points that are proving to be difficult to get into the text are; 1) the issue of conversion of natural forests to plantations 2) the rights of indigenous people, and 3) setting long term goals (short term goals are becoming well established).
There was positive news from Norway (who have been champions of rainforest financing, including their pledge of three billion dollars over five years that they announced in Bali in 2007), where the issue of deforestation as part of a successful climate agreement was part of a conversation between Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and President Barack Obama.
These issues are expected to push into the negotiations next week as over 100 heads of state are expected to arrive here at Cop 15.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
A good way to keep track of the Climate Change negotiations!