Forestry and climate change
UNFCCC meetings in Durban, South Africa. 28 November until 11 December 2011
UNFCCC meetings held in Durban, South Africa from 28 November until 11 December included the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP17), seventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP7), 35th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA35), 35th session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 35), resumed 16th session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 16-4), and the resumed 14th session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 14-4).
The decisions from the meetings, including those referred to below, may be accessed from the UNFCCC’s home page
Key overall outcomes
Among the many outcomes of the meetings, the most notable were:
• Agreement to establish a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from 2013 until either 2017 or 2020.
• Agreement to work to put in place a new, single legal instrument under UNFCCC, applicable to all parties, to be agreed by 2015 and to take effect in 2020. The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action was established to develop the legal instrument, protocol or outcome, beginning in early 2012
• Operationalization of the Green Climate Fund.
These decisions address three interconnected issues: the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which defines emission reduction commitments of developed country members, but expires at the end of 2012; the need for developing countries, in particular the major emitters, to join developed countries in making emission reductions so as to achieve the goal of limiting the average global increase in temperature to within 200C; and the need of developing countries for financial support to undertake both mitigation and adaptation measures.
AWG-LCA has been extended for one more year, until COP18, in order to conclude its work under the Bali Action Plan, which was agreed upon in COP13. A number of other decisions were adopted, including the ones to implement the Cancun Agreements.
Key outcomes related to forests
REDD+ (negotiated by SBSTA and AWG-LCA)
COP17 adopted three decisions that refer to REDD+:
• Guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards are addressed and respected and on modalities relating to forest reference emission levels and reference levels, resulting from work undertaken by SBSTA over the past year;
• Options for REDD+ financing;
• Explicit mention in the COP decision on the Green Climate Fund that REDD+ activities are eligible for GCF support.
COP decided that countries will include in their national communications a summary on how REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected, taking into consideration their national circumstances and capabilities, and in accordance to national legislation and international agreements. Guidance on the systems for providing this information is given.
COP agreed that a step-wise approach to development of countries’ reference levels and/or their forest emissions levels may be useful, as a means to allow improvement by incorporating better data, improved methodologies and, where appropriate, additional pools. Sub-national reference levels may be elaborated as an interim measure. COP invited parties to submit proposed reference levels to UNFCCC, with accompanying information as laid out in guidelines provided in the decision, and agreed to establish a process for technical assessment of the proposed reference levels.
The issue of sources of financing for REDD+ was addressed by AWG-LCA (see LCA decision, section IIC). It continued to be controversial. Both market and non-market financing options were considered. COP agreed on a process during 2012 to explore the options, including submissions by parties and accredited observers, the preparation of a technical paper by the UNFCCC secretariat, and the holding of a workshop. COP18 is to consider the resulting recommendations in December 2012.
No COP decision was made regarding modalities for REDD+ measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) and national forest monitoring systems. SBSTA will continue to work on REDD+ MRV and national forest monitoring systems, with the aim of completing its work and reporting to COP18 in December 2012. (See FCCC/SBSTA/2011/L.25)
Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) (negotiated by AWG-KP)
CMP reached a long-awaited agreement on LULUCF, most notably issues related to forest and forest product accounting. Agreement was reached on accounting rules for forest management, accounting for harvested wood products, and treatment of emissions from natural disturbances. Clarity on these points will help Annex I countries decide on their level of ambition for emission reductions for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Accounting for forest management, which was voluntary during the first commitment period of the Protocol, will be mandatory during the second commitment period. Revegetation, cropland management, grazing land management and wetland drainage and rewetting will remain optional, but those countries that have elected them during the first period shall continue accounting for these activities.
Countries will also be required, during the second commitment period, to account for changes in a sixth carbon pool: harvested wood products. The CMP decision also provides rules on accounting for emissions due to natural disturbances.
Work will continue under SBSTA to explore more comprehensive accounting of emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry, including through more inclusion activity-based approach or a land-based approach and also to consider additional LULUCF activities that could be eligible for CDM, and to report to COP at the end of 2013.
Other relevant decisions
• The decision on the Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change calls for two technical workshops, one on water and climate change impacts and adaptation strategies, and the other on ecosystem approaches for adaptation to climate change, including taking into account the role of forests. The secretariat is requested to compile case studies on national adaptation planning processes and to develop and disseminate information and knowledge products.
• The decision on National Adaptation Plans provides guidelines for developing countries for the development of national adaptation plans.
• The proposal of a work programme on agriculture has been discussed since 2008. AWG-LCA agreed to an exchange of views in SBSTA on issues regarding agriculture, with the perspective of a potential decision in COP18.