Friday, November 30, 2012

BREAKING NEWS - Last minute progress gets blocked

(Doha, Qatar - 5:10am - GMT +3) UNFCCC climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar broke down early this morning as Brazil blocked progress in last minute discussions to provide billions of dollars in finance to save rainforests. This failure in the talks could potentially jeopardize the trajectory of the UNFCCC, an already wounded United Nations effort to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Brazil objected to the requests of many nations by refusing to allow verified emission reductions for reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD+). Earlier, other stubborn nations stalled talks for hours based on a different interpretation of the word “the”.

Culley Thomas of the Tropical Forest Group, a leading US research and conservation organization stated “Donor nations sent the signal loud and clear that finance to save forests would require verification. Catastrophically for our planet, Brazil refused to listen.” These key environmental talks broke down despite a promising agreement yesterday between major REDD+ donor countries: the U.K., U.S., Germany, Norway, and Australia. These five wealthy countries have invested billions of dollars in efforts to save rainforests despite a global recession, key elections and record unemployment. In London yesterday, during talks headed by HRH Prince Charles, these large donors privately resolved to maintain momentum for the UN efforts on REDD+. The donors made it clear that if rainforest countries want help, they will need to go through some form of international verification process.

Some parties suggested that Brazil’s obstinance during SBSTA resulted from its objections to REDD+ text in a separate track, the AWG-LCA (Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action). Since SBSTA is set to close today, December 1st, negotiations on key provisions including monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) and reference levels will be punted to the intercessional SBSTA meeting in Bonn in midyear 2013.

What will result of yesterday’s major donors’ joint statement remains unknown. However, REDD financing could potentially collapse as countries lose faith in the UNFCCC’s ability to limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

SBSTA on REDD+ negotiations break down

It's nearly 5 am in Doha, Qatar, and we've just received word from TFGers Jeff Metcalfe, Jeff Jackson, Culley Thomas, and Megan Byrn who are on the ground at the Qatar National Convention Center that critical SBSTA (subsidiary body for scientific and technical advice) negotiations have just broken down. Technical text advancing the verification component of MRV (monitoring, reporting, and verification) faced fatal blockage from Brazil, related (or so we hear) to its objections to REDD+ text in a separate track, the LCA.

This occurred despite a promising agreement yesterday between the major REDD+ donor countries, the U.K., U.S., Germany, Norway, and Australia, that resolved to move REDD+ rapidly towards large scale development for verified emissions reductions (VERs) and a performance-based system. Who knows if this support and promised finance for REDD+ will evaporate. A UNFCCC-based plan to limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels probably can't be achieved without addressing tropical deforestation, which accounts for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the IPCC.

Here's to hoping that the parties can magically (but rather unlikely) reverse Brazil's obstinancy. Or deal with this in the intercessional SBSTA meeting in Bonn roughly 6 months from now. This may very well be the UNFCCC's last chance to take ownership of REDD+.

SBSTA is still at it...

We heard SBSTA is working on the V in MRV.  It's 3:30am Qatar time...we tried to send them pizzas, turns out late night delivery in Doha is an issue.

Big Breaking REDD+ News! - Joint Statement from UK, Norway, US, Germany, and Australia

TFG  had heard rumors for the past few hours that this was coming, and here is a link and a joint pdf statement.  This was released just as negotiators entered what could be the final few hours.

The urgency of tackling climate change is clear. We agree to continue our efforts to address climate change and recognise the need for increased mitigation ambition in the period to 2020, with a view to doing our part to limit the increase in global temperature below 2oC above pre-industrial levels, consistent with science. Significant reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries before 2020 will be critical in this context. Accelerated action on REDD+ has significant potential to contribute to climate objectives while securing co-benefits for rural economies, providing ecosystem services, contributing to poverty reduction, and fostering the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities.
We have made some good progress on REDD+ to date, based on the decisions of Cancun and Durban and various multilateral and bilateral partnerships. We recognise the need to maintain momentum to move to implementation at scale, and the potential to work together as we move ahead. We are committed to practical action to show that REDD+ can work at scale, with benefits for developing countries and the global community.
There are different ways of achieving REDD+, but there is a need to ensure our respective efforts are working together towards our common aims. In that context, we together resolve to:
1. Continue to support developing countries to build readiness and capacity for REDD+.
2. Support efforts to transform the supply chains of the commodities that put pressure on the forest. We welcome the commitments and initiative of the Consumer Goods Forum in this regard, and stand ready to contribute in various ways.
3. Explore options for scaling up demand for verified emission reductions from REDD+ up to 2020.
4. Demonstrate – analytically and on the ground – the contribution that REDD+ activities and results can make to fostering rural green growth, securing livelihoods and implementing low emissions development strategies.
5. Work together to coordinate our REDD+ support, and explore opportunities to collectively support the implementation of REDD+ at scale, for example jurisdictional REDD+ initiatives that address readiness, supply chains, and payments for verified emission reductions, and to demonstrate good examples of how forests can play a key role in a green economy and low emission development strategies.
6. Support the further work of the REDD+ Partnership to catalyse an enabling environment for effective REDD+ implementation and information sharing.

TFG rolls with RINGOs

Yesterday morning Megan and I represented Tropical Forest Group at the meeting of the RINGOs, not aficionados of the fifth Beatle, but the research and independent non-governmental organizations. Attendees at the meetings include professors and students from universities around the world, including Georgetown, University of Colorado, University of Zurich, and University of Botswana, as well as NGOs whose main activities involve scientific research. RINGOs provide scientific information for COP parties but do not make recommendations for action like environmental NGOs may. TFG fits into this category because of the Terrestrial Carbon Accounting extension course it is offering at UC San Diego with WWF. The course will surely bolster TFG's RINGO participation in future COPs.

Saving Resources with PaperSmart

Ironically, UN climate change conferences have been historically known to generate tons of pollution, both as an event that requires local resource consumption and heavy emissions from international travel as tens of thousands of stakeholders flood the region. COP 15 emissions reached a massive 72,374 tons of C02 as Copenhagen hosted an undeniably influential conference. Paper usage was an unquestionable contributing factor to the waste generated as environmentally conscious minds gathered to use heaps of paper outlining agendas, participant lists, and summarizing information documents. As a refreshing change of pace, COP18 in Qatar has implemented the PaperSmart initiative, which effectively reduces paper waste by an impressive 96%. The first two days of this paper conservation policy proved successful, as it’s already saved an equivalent of 90 trees! By the end of the conference, which can usually be noted by not only environmental foresight but also by a considerably negative environmental footprint, the PaperSmart program is on track to save 4,875,000 sheets of paper during the 2-week climate conference.  In a city with both the highest GDP per capita and the highest carbon footprint per capita, the insight to reduce waste and protect forest resources should be seen as a success for COP 18 and the UNFCCC future. Let’s hope this positive step to reduce the overall environmental impact of conferences continues. Kudos, Doha!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

TFG at COP 18

TFG has a dynamic team here at COP 18 in Doha, Qatar including John-O Niles, Jeff Metcalfe, Megan, Kate Ziemba, Jeff Jackson and Culley Thomas. We have been busy tracking the REDD+ related negotiations, promoting the upcoming Advanced Terrestrial Carbon Accounting course at UCSD, and networking with colleagues.

Thus far, REDD+ negotiations have been slower than hoped for, stalled in discussions related to monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). We hope negotiators will have time to have meaningful discussions about reference levels too. Decisions about reference levels and MRV are both very important to terrestrial carbon accounting.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Crash of Rhinos

No, there are no rhinos in Qatar, but TFG has sent a few of their own to the Arabian Peninsula. As always, there is a lot to accomplish in a limited amount of time. TFG affiliate spoke with SBSTA co-chair, Peter Graham, prior to the conference's inception. Based on that conversation it seems that the Parties are keen to maintain progress on REDD in Doha and send a positive signal to sustain interest and political will outside the process. However, there appears to be a formidable amount of work needed to finish what was begun in Bonn in May. Negotiators will start where they left off and try to deliver a COP decision that includes guidance for national forest monitoring systems as well as modalities for MRV of results of REDD+ actions. We are hopeful that this will also include a process for technical review of reference levels. Doha is not an endpoint, but the next two weeks should mark the closure of the AWG-LCA and the beginning of the AWG-ADP that emerged out of Durban. Further work will be needed post-Doha on safeguards and drivers as well elements of the MRV modalities, particularly where there are dependencies on the outcome of the greater finance discussions. Bring on the megafauna.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TFG and WWF head to Qatar and COP18

Promoting the Advanced Terrestrial Carbon Accounting Course that TFG and WWF are co-developing with the University of California, San Diego. Here is WWF US Forest and Climate Director (and former TFG Director) John-O Niles, and current TFG Director, Jeff Metcalfe.