Improving LULUCF Data Quality: An Issue of Political Will

ECO feels strongly that Parties should stop hiding behind the issue of data quality in order to avoid accounting for emissions from their lands sector. Indeed this is an issue that should be tackled in SBSTA discussions on methodological grounds this week. Under current LULUCF proposals, countries can choose which land use activities under article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol they want to account for. It is essential that, instead, we move to comprehensive accounting for emissions from land use. However, Parties often express the concern that they are not yet able to manage the necessary inventories and monitoring, and that existing methods tend to be expensive.

As a result, only a small proportion of the emissions from land use activities are accounted for. This means that many feasible and ‘low hanging fruit’ mitigation opportunities are missed. Furthermore, the emissions from the land use sector remain ‘hidden’ from Parties’ accounts and can increase without penalty.

ECO wants developed countries to agree on ambitious emissions reductions targets and therefore urges for Parties to move to improve data quality in LULUCF. The lack of high-quality data is no excuse for limiting the accounting regime. Getting the data right is not so much a question of lacking technologies and methodologies. Instead it is, above all, a matter of the lack of political of political will to improve capacity for better monitoring and reporting, and to allocate the funds needed to achieve this. Time and resources have been invested in MRV-ing REDD+. Surely then, developed countries should also be able to make similar investments for the land sector in their own countries.

All the capacity, methodologies and guidance for reporting and accounting for the most significant pools of emissions are already available or within reach before the start of the second KP commitment period. ECO therefore thinks the following stepping-stones could be achieved in the second commitment period:

 Mandatory accounting for all existing and new land use activities as soon as data quality can be achieved.

 Concentrate MRV efforts in the near term on hotspots (areas of land with the most significant emissions) and quantify these as accurately as possible.

 If data quality is not sufficient, estimates could be based on conservative values.

Parties can establish joint work programmes to support countries that lack capacity.

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Get the Slides Out – But Don’t Tell Us Something We Already Know

As Parties prepare their slides for the two upcoming mitigation workshops, ECO invites Parties to leave out those slides that do not contain new information but focus instead on what will help closing the gigatonne gap.

We would like to see on the first slide of each presenting developed country Party, the true emissions in that country in 2020 – after taking into account assumptions on LULUCF accounting, AAU carry-over and carbon offset use. Countries should further be explicit about what efforts they intend to make domestically.

 Developed countries, with pledges below the 25-40% IPCC range, should show on their second slide which developed countries are going to compensate for their gap by making higher cuts instead, and how that goes along with a fair share of the globally needed mitigation effort. ECO believes that would guarantee some interesting discussions.

The third slide could include information on specific national circumstances. For instance, ECO is already sharpening its pencil awaiting anxiously a slide by Canada, that explains  how  a  pledge  that  is  even  lower than Canada’s Kyoto 1 target constitutes progress. Or take Ukraine’s (or, say, Russia’s) third slide, that, ECO suggests, should show how a target designed to bring in millions of tonness of hot air into the system will help close the gigatonne gap. Or, have the EU explain its continued refusal to move to a 30% emissions reduction target (or, better, the 40% that ECO understands gets the EU closer to its fair share of international action in line with the cold hard facts of science), despite growing consensus underpinned by economic studies that doing so would create net economic benefits for the EU even in the absence of increased action by others.

Generally, ECO encourages all developed countries that have pledged reduction ranges to show, on a fourth slide, under which conditions they will move to the high end of their pledges, and in particular what part of these conditions has already been met and what would it take to get away with the rest. ECO would be very interested to hear from countries like Australia on preliminary assessments of the fulfillment of such conditions.

ECO has some ideas for slides from developing countries, too. They should clarify their assumptions on baseline projections until 2020, for both emissions and underlying key factors such as energy use or population growth, and principally any additional information that allows experts to assess what the emissions will be in those countries. ECO believes that a slide illustrating the expected impact and listing costs of all envisaged measures would help other Parties understanding the offers and needs of each country, i.e. what countries can do on their own and what support they need for doing the rest. And ECO is looking forward to see presentations from countries like Turkey, DRC and Thailand to name a few, that, as ECO has been assured, have their own domestic targets and measures but have yet to insert them into the famous INF documents.

Following the workshops, Parties should fully incorporate their findings into the formal negotiations. After all, the purpose of these workshops is to better understand each others’ pledges, to identify the size of the gigatonne gap, to get developed countries move to the high end of their pledged ranges (as a first step), and launch, in Durban, a process that would actually mandate further talks to agree on further action to close the gap to 1.5°C.

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Expectations For Bonn

Friends, delegates:

We find ourselves at a crucial time.  A record increase in greenhouse gas emissions last year, to the highest carbon output in history, puts your target of keeping warming below 2 degrees in jeopardy.  It puts the more important temperature threshold of 1.5 degrees – the limit needed to keep the sovereignty of many small island states intact – in even more grave danger. 

Parties, delegates, this is your moment.  The threat of climate change has never been more evident; just ask the hundreds of millions of people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa who are already experiencing a food crisis.

Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, says that disaster can be averted, if governments heed the warning. "If we have bold, decisive and urgent action, very soon, we still have a chance of succeeding."

The decisive action you must take, delegates, is to be productive at this Bonn intersessional, set yourselves a workplan for this year, that allows substantial progress to be made at Durban.  This work includes the following:

Advance the Adaptation Committee so that it becomes a driver for promoting coherence on adaptation under the UNFCCC. Agree on a Work Programme on Loss and Damage in Bonn and a further phase of the Nairobi Work Programme. Also advance modalities and guidelines for national adaptation planning that follow an inclusive and integrated approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems.

Bonn must take concrete steps to close the gigatonne gap. The first baby step towards that end is for developed and developing countries to clarify their pledges, including their assumptions on LULUCF, AAU carry over and carbon offsets, so that we know what amount of GHGs the atmosphere will see in 2020.

Ambition in the LULUCF sector can be increased by measures that include incentivizing emissions reductions below historical levels to add to overall effort and assist with deep, early cuts and increased targets. Parties must also move to address the bioenergy / biofuels emissions accounting loophole, ensuring that all bioenergy emissions are accounted for, either in the energy or LULUCF sector.

Parties must also talk about conditions that countries have attached to the high end of their pledged ranges – how will we know when these conditions have been met?  All that done, what do developed country Parties propose to do about the fact that their pledges are (far) below the 25-40% range and in some cases even below something Kyoto 1 targets.

Developing countries should be invited to make submissions on key factors underlying their BAU projections as well as the level and form of international climate finance needed to implement NAMAs that are conditional on such finance.

REDD+ negotiations need to start promptly in Bonn on all of the subjects that were mandated in Cancun.  By the end of the year, the COP needs to be able to decide on a mechanism for REDD+ that delivers adequate, predictable and sustainable

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Bioenergy Is Not A ‘GET OUT OF JAIL FREE’ Card

Bioenergy had a starring role in this week’s workshop on developed country emission reduction targets. The theme of many parties was reducing energy sector emissions by substituting bioenergy for fossil fuels.

At last, Mexico sounded a note of caution in their presentation in the workshop on NAMAs, pointing out that reliance on biofuels is difficult to do sustainably, can be harmful in terms of conservation and REDD targets, and can impact on agriculture

Bioenergy - a clean alternative?

Bioenergy leaves a carbon footprint which is largely ignored when proposed as an alternative. This is an unacceptable situation as we face exponential growth in this energy source which is being justified in the name of addressing climate change.

The worry arising from tremendous expansion of bioenergy production from land and forests is not just the unintended consequences of constraining food supply and the potential to destroy biodiversity, as important as those are. There are also problems arising directly from the failure to address deficiencies of accounting rules in the KP.

ECO is compelled to point out that although the use of bioenergy is often claimed to be carbon neutral, this is rarely so. The emissions released from producing and burning bioenergy can be much larger than those for fossil fuels, especially when converted to liquid fuels or where grown on emissive peat soils, as shown in the chart.

Developed countries:

Actual emissions, fake accounting

Equally rare is accounting for the actual emissions. Yes, it’s that old problem – the LULUCF rules – once again!

Under existing IPCC guidance, bioenergy is accounted as carbon neutral when it is combusted in the energy sector, as it is a renewable energy source. But the crucial presumption underpinning this is that emissions associated with the provision of bioenergy have been accounted for in their sector of origin (i.e., the land use and forestry sector) in their country of origin and netted out against carbon sequestration in growing the bioenergy crop in the first place.

In developed countries this assumption founders on the failure of the LULUCF rules to mandate accounting for either forestry or cropland management. Currently, many parties choose not to do this. There isn’t even a proposal on the table that all parties must account for all LULUCF emissions including cropland management, in which case parties won’t include those activities in their reporting when they are emissive. In addition, the proposal for projected reference levels for forest management in the KP second commitment period opens a new kind of loophole, and this is a very concerning development also for accounting bioenergy emissions specifically.


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