Forestry and climate change
UNFCCC meetings Panama City, Panama. 1 - 7 October 2011
The session included the continuation of the fourteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Groups on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the sixteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex 1 parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). On the request of SBSTA the expert meeting on “Guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards for REDD-plus activities are addressed and respected” were held during in connection the meeting from 8 - 9 October, 2011.
For the past three years, UNFCCC has been engaged in parallel-track negotiations under two ad-hoc working groups. One addresses actions of all parties under the Convention, including on climate change mitigation, adaptation, financing, capacity building and technology transfer. The other focuses on further emission reduction commitments of Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol. The goals are to advance collective efforts to limit global warming to within 2o C above pre-industrial levels to avoid severe consequences of climate change and to promote adaptation to the inevitable consequences of climate change.
While some progress was made on technical issues related to the implementation of the Cancun Agreement the general progress was reported as modest. One of the key issues discussed at the session was the question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, i.e. a second commitment period and the risk of a regulatory gap between Kyoto Protocol commitment periods. In focus was the preparation of text for COP 17 in Durban and the AWG-KP forwarded a draft text to be negotiated Durban. The outcome of the AWG-LCA was mainly text from the informal working group and it was agreed to continue work on the text in order to further streamline it and incorporate submissions before Durban.
Issues related to forests
The forest issues addressed in Panama included REDD+ and forest management accounting rules for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (LULUCF).
The AWG-LCA continued the discussion on source for REDD+ finance (e.g. fund-based, market-based or a mix of the two), the definition and scope of result based activities and actions and the linkage with the Green Climate Fund. Parties agreed that the approach should be to build on a diversity of sources when funding REDD+ activities and include both public and private finance. In this relation it was underlined by most non-annex I Parties that the main funding should come from public sector and the private sector funding should be seen as complementary. As earlier it was emphasized by many parties that each country should be able to decide on the sources of funding they would seek.
Many non annex I Parties raised the issue of a REDD-plus window as part of the institutional framework of the Green Climate Fund. A number of Parties raised the issue that REDD+ activities should not only include forest carbon stocks but also cover biodiversity conservation, the provision of ecological services and in clued forests role in adaptation. The facilitator asked Parties to submit views and proposals to the secretariat that will compile these before Durban and allow Parties to begin work on a full text during the session. The Cancun Agreement (COP16) confirmed the scope of REDD+, outlining five mitigation activities as well as principles and safeguards to be respected while undertaking these activities. The focus at COP 17, 28 November - 9 December in Durban will be the unresolved issues related to reference (emission) levels; the financing of REDD+, modalities to address measuring; reporting and verification (MRV) of REDD+ activities; and how Parties will provide information on safeguards.
SBSTA Expert meeting on safeguards for REDD-plus
As part of the decision from Cancun, SBSTA was requested to work on technical/methodological issues in relation to REDD+. In relation to this work an expert meeting on “Guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards for REDD-plus activities are addressed and respected” was held from 8 - 9 October, 2011 in Panama City, Panama. The official outcome of the meeting was a summary that includes a number of recommendations to be forwarded to Durban including a list of suggested elements to be included in a COP decision. The elements discussed covered in some detail the possible characteristics and design of a system to report on safeguards as well as a recommendation to report trough national communication. The chairs’ summary.
Clean Development Mechanism
Discussions on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) were linked with the key issue of what happens in the case of a gap between the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the next commitment period, or if agreement cannot be reached to continue the Kyoto Protocol. In Panama many parties expressed concerns about the fact that, should access to CDM credits be made conditional on second commitment period targets, parties might be forced to create their own rules through bilateral deals. EU emphasized that demand for projects and emission reduction credits will continue in Europe, regardless of adoption of a second commitment period while Venezuela, with Brazil and Bolivia, underscored that the CDM cannot function without a second commitment period.
Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)
The key issue under discussion in relation to LULUCF lies with accounting rules for forest management, for which reporting was made optional under the first commitment period. One of the central unresolved issues is the baseline for accounting for changes in emissions from forest management. This is important because the determination of whether emissions have gone up or down entirely depends on how the baseline is set. Agreement on this issue remains elusive after the Bonn session.
The discussions under the KP negotiation track on carbon accounting rules for forest management -- a complex and controversial issue – have stimulated debates on what constitutes good forest management and how to incentivize it. Of relevance to the climate change community is how forests could contribute more to climate change mitigation, while of interest to foresters is whether incentives for better forest management will be forthcoming as a result of climate change decisions.
Apart from the overall discussion on forest management, the areas of debate include: whether a cap should be applied to emissions and removals from forest management; if and how emissions from extraordinary occurrences (“Natural Disturbances”) would be accounted for; how to set a baseline or forest reference (emissions) level; and how to factor in changes in forest carbon stocks that are not caused by human intervention.
In Panama parties exchanged views on force majeure versus natural disturbances, including the commonalities and differences of both concepts. Delegates eventually agreed to a revised text on force majeure where “disturbances” were included. Furthermore a cap on forest management and harvested wood products was discussed. Apart from this, the draft text for Durban was streamlined on issues related to reference levels; and rewetting and drainage. Unresolved issues are still a cap for forest management and a proposal on flexible land use.
Apart from being a major issue in relation to forestry, agreement on revised LULUCF accounting rules for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (after 2012) could influence the level of emission reduction commitments by Annex 1 parties and thereby have a significant influence on emission pledges by parties. Furthermore, the approaches agreed under LULUCF might have an effect on developing Parties as they might be reflected in the modalities to be agreed upon for REDD+.