Under international accounting rules significant emissions from bioenergy are not being accounted for, meaning that bioenergy is not fulfilling its potential as a climate mitigation tool and in some cases emits more carbon than fossil fuels. This briefing explores the reasons for this accounting failure and what must be done to resolve this issue.
Tag: Pacific Islands
Bonn is a key moment to make progress on MRV issues. While there are a great many political issues at play, work on some technical issues needs to begin now.
Parties should agree on the structure, timing, and content of the workshops that are needed to discuss new or enhanced elements of MRV in the coming months. These workshops should be informed by existing submissions of Parties and observers, and should involve calling for further submissions.
ECO is pleased that parties finally managed to agree on agendas last week. (Imagine how much quicker it could have been if agenda discussions were held transparently in plenary, as opposed to shenanigans occurring behind closed doors). This week Parties must make up for lost time – and convince everyone that another intersessional would be productive. After all, there is much work to be done between now and December so that Durban can successfully lay the basis for a fair, ambitious, and binding global climate change regime.
Essential to Durban’s success is securing a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Intrinsically linked is the binding outcome under the LCA, where Parties now need to discuss the substantive issues. Our ultimate objective must be a legally binding architecture, which is fair and ambitious.
Last week, the list of issues under shared vision began to resemble a bag of assorted cookies. ECO suggests focusing on the agreed global goal with peak year, and only including issues essential for these discussions – such as effort sharing. Agreement of a mid-term goal of -80% by 2050 and a 2015 peak year for emissions must be the aim.
On mitigation, some issues may look technical but are in reality political. This week ECO suggests focusing on the following three areas required to address the gigatonne gap: (i) clarifying assumptions; (ii) closing loopholes; and (iii) preparing to move beyond the high end of the current pledges by Durban. ECO assumes parties remain serious in their commitment to 1.5/2°C – you are aren’t you?
This week also offers opportunities for LULUCF. The re-analysis of this issue as a significant loophole in the mitigation workshops could allow Annex I land and forests to contribute to genuine emissions reductions. And technical discussions on force majeure provisions for forests could genuinely reflect extraordinary circumstances. Or, if Annex I parties are up to their usual tricks, could this be yet another way to avoid accounting for emissions?
Parties should also take the opportunity to draft a CDM appeals procedure to grant affected communities and peoples access to justice. And this week parties should move closer to a decision
to address climate forcing HFC in cooperation with the Montreal Protocol and exclude all new HCHC-22 facilities from the CDM.
The two groups on REDD+ (in the LCA and in SBSTA) got off to a good start last week. In this second week, ECO anticipates significant progress on both reference levels and information on safeguards, hopefully followed by expert meetings prior to Durban.
Adaptation negotiators should press ahead on substance to make the Cancún Adaptation Framework operational in Durban. Parties should strengthen the role of the Adaptation Committee to promote coherence in adaptation, and to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation in its operations. Furthermore, this week must see parties launch the activities of the work programme on loss and damage.
With the end of the fast start finance period only one year after Durban and no indication of how rapidly public finance will be scaled up from the $10 billion per year currently committed, parties need to start discussions here in Bonn on effort sharing, scaling up finance, and on new innovative public sources such as raising finance from international transport. For this to happen, the US and its Umbrella Group allies need to stop blocking the discussion of sources and scale of long-term finance.
ECO has two requests for technology negotiators over the next week. First, fill up the nominations of the Technology Executive Committee. Secondly, decide on the terms of reference and likely locations of the Climate Technology Centre and Networks to maintain balance of adaptation and mitigation technology.
Among other issues that should be addressed, Parties need to deal with technical issues. ECO is waiting eagerly for some technical workshops and expert meetings. In the coming months, technical experts should make progress on technical issues such as biennial reports, reporting on support, IAR/ICA, REDD safeguards, etc. These discussions must feed into the negotiating process.
Given the uncertainty over whether another intersessional will take place, the next five days will determine whether Parties will be able to secure an effective and balanced outcome of COP 17 in Durban. Parties should make the best use of this time and ensure both political and technical issues get addressed.
Nuclear power has long been promoted as one of the tools to mitigate climate change. Japan has always been one of the biggest promoters of this theory and has not only tried to get nuclear power accepted in the CDM, but has also developed its own “bilateral crediting mechanism,” to include nuclear. ECO assumed that Japan would change this position after the Fukushima disaster, so we were taken aback by Japan's intervention in the flexible mechanisms discussion, stating that the CDM should be open to all technologies, including nuclear.
New nuclear power plants require massive public subsidies to go forward – monies that would be much better invested in the development and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The nuclear energy industry has been pushing COP after COP to promote their technology as a tool for carbon reduction, but even a massive four-fold expansion of nuclear power by 2050 would provide at best a 4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Against the background of the Fukushima tragedy and all the risks inherent in nuclear energy, ECO finds it amazing that countries still keep promoting nuclear energy as a mitigation option. There’s no point in trying to jump out of the climate frying pan by jumping into the nuclear fire. That would be like trying to cure one’s addiction to smoking by taking up crack cocaine. After the massive demonstrations in Japan, and the German and Swiss decisions to phase out nuclear energy, ECO calls upon Japan to become a leader in ensuring the exclusion of nuclear power from the CDM.
While ECO found it extremely pleasant to hear Chile, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Kenya, Bolivia and Cote d'Ivoire’s plans to contribute to global climate action during yesterday's workshop on Non Annex 1 mitigation action, ECO wonders why some of the big emitters from the developing world tried to hide under their desks. You can’t hide an elephant... or its emissions. ECO knows that some of these countries have big plans, and would like to see more information about their targets and their plans. Take some countries with high emissions from deforestation. Brazil and Indonesia made short interventions in Bangkok, but we were expecting some more information in Bonn. Especially given the news that reached ECO about the proposals to “reform” the Brazilian Forest Code and the message from a large amount of Brazilian scientists that the proposed amendments would make it difficult if not impossible for Brazil to achieve the pledges it has inscribed into the famous INF documents. And ECO still misses news about the target of DRC, and wonders why the government's ambition to reduce emissions from deforestation to zero below 2030 has not been submitted to the UNFCCC. Similarly, it would be quite interesting to get more information from countries like Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Thailand, who are all part of the biggest emitters.
Obviously, if all these countries, led by Argentina, would send their pledges to the UNFCCC, that would make an important contribution to closing the gigatonne gap, as ECO learned from a presentation by AOSIS, showing that also developing countries have a contribution to make in the fight against the gap.
Clarification on all these plans will allow Parties to look at the real contribution of current developing country plans, and would allow a discussion on what more can be done, by looking into what other supported action could be taken. Which makes a discussion on innovative sources for long-term climate financing all the more important. ECO knows that most Parties are aware of that but has heard it couldn't pass some umbrellas. Perhaps some of the suggestions made at the end of the workshop, including the development of formats and guidelines, and an initiative to ensure Parties learn from each others’ experiences and good practices could help.
Inventories look daunting but they can help with national policy making, NAMA design, tracking energy use which helps with national budgets etc. Also the suggestion for the secretariat to develop a technical paper on developing countries action could help the negotiations to move forward. The elephant caravan left from Bangkok, but all the elephants have yet to show up. They cannot hide forever. We hope they show up by Durban.
It is tough to spot the actual emissions reduced through the current thicket of different Annex I country pledge formats. And many countries suggest to further obscure the actual impact by including complex means of accounting for sources and sinks from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).
In the Annex I mitigation workshop on Thursday, AOSIS highlighted the potential contribution of lax LULUCF rules to the gigatonne gap, as described by UNEP. The Secretariat’s recent paper on the assumptions and conditions of Annex I Parties’ targets begins to clarify the extent to which Annex I countries will rely on the LULUCF sector to comply with their targets.
However, the question remains: which LULUCF rules are we talking about? These rules for the 2nd commitment period have not yet been decided! ECO seconds the statement made by St. Lucia on Thursday that there is a pressing need for much greater transparency regarding what assumptions Parties are using in their LULUCF accounting, and encouraging the use of common methodologies.
Targets without clear LULUCF accounting rules are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get. To remedy this situation, ECO thinks Annex I Parties should take the suggestion that Colombia made in Bangkok – to submit tables showing what
their commitments would be under different accounting options, including the different options on the table for LULUCF. These tables would make the role of this sector clearer to everyone. They would also illustrate clearly which countries are relying on their forests to help meet their targets, and which Parties are expecting to use delayed accounting for wood products or the exclusion of emissions from natural disturbances in their accounting.
It is impossible to make informed decisions on targets until it is clear what rules underpin them. With the kind of clarity and transparency Colombia has requested, Parties may be able to complete the task of decision-making that they failed to finish in Cancun.
Delegates will be fascinated to discover that New Zealand won’t release its forestry emission and removal projections to NZ NGOs so that it can “avoid prejudice to the substantial economic interests of NZ,” and “enable the Minister to carry on without prejudice, or disadvantage, negotiations.”
This raises the question of what forestry projections has New Zealand been providing to Parties in the UNFCCC negotiations these past couple of years? Perhaps New Zealand’s Minister of Climate Change Negotiations hides the real figures in his briefcase while his officials hand out merry works of fiction to fellow delegates. ECO encourages readers to enquire for clear information from the NZ delegation on its LULUCF assumptions (and while you’re at it, you might want to ask about the substantive amounts of offsetting that is core to New Zealand’s positioning).