LULUCF: The Countdown Commences


With Cancun looming, a push is coming to get much of LULUCF finalised here in Tianjin.  ECO cannot stress enough: it is more important than ever to get strong rules for forest management accounting. Proposals in the form of projected baselines for forest management that allow countries to increase anthropogenic emissions into the future without accounting them need to be rejected.

Avid readers will recall that ECO has been calling for emissions from forest management to be measured compared to what happened in the past -- just like all other sectors – and not to uncertain futures determined by Parties. In the current text, the proposal put forward by Tuvalu is the only one that attempts to incorporate this principle, and time must be found on the agenda in Tianjin to discuss this. A methodological review, while helpful in ensuring transparency, will not bring hidden emissions back into the accounts.

Meanwhile, with so much focus on this now familiar issue, we must not lose sight of the other ways in which Parties are attempting to use accounting for their lands and forests to fiddle the system. While negotiators have been knocking heads on rules that may determine whether forest management accounting becomes mandatory (and so it must), what of the fate of the other land use activities? It remains an open question as to whether Parties will still be allowed to elect for cropland or grazing land management, or revegetation.

Additionally, crucial environmental safeguards should be maintained in accounting for natural disturbances so that when the storms come or wildfires rage, these aren’t put forward as yet another excuse for not
accounting for man-made emissions.

We are often told that LULUCF accounting with environmental integrity, while technically achievable, is not politically realistic. Dealing with dangerous climate change will be a much greater political problem than good LULUCF rules could ever be. 

And locking in loopholes in the climate accounting is the last thing that should be on negotiators’ minds.

Related Newsletter : 

Your LULUCF Glossary

Recently the mysteries of ‘land use, land use change and forestry’ (LULUCF) have come to broader attention.
ECO feels that full appreciation of the wonders of LULUCF is often hindered by the technical jargon that surrounds the subject.  To help move the process forward, we offer delegates this glossary of commonly used terms in the debate on forest management.

Forest management: Logging.
Sustainable forest management: Mostly logging.
Harvesting: Logging.
Temporarily destocked: Logged (usually logged natural forest).
Age class structure: Age of forest.
Wrong age class structure: Old trees 
= needs logging.
Conversion: Logging a natural, carbon and biodiversity-rich forest and 
replacing it with a low carbon, low 
biodiversity forest with no penalty (see also temporarily destocked, empty forest, displaced local and indigenous people and Australia).
Unique national circumstances: Need to log (often thought just to apply to New Zealand but can apply to any country wanting to log).

Forward looking baseline: A means of hiding logging emissions (see also Canada and others).
Bar with a band to zero: A means of hiding logging emissions (see also Russia).
Incentive: Not penalising logging emissions and/or allowing them to be hidden, as in ‘give us an incentive (logging loophole) and we will take on a more ambitious  target’
Voluntary: If you might have a high emission from logging then you can opt not to tell anyone.  Notable as being the only term that means roughly the same in English.  (See also ‘not electing for forest management’ and Austria.)
Cap: Term used by the G77 and China but not understood by Annex I.
Harvested wood products: The logging industry’s little joke.

Related Newsletter : 

LULUCF Goes to the Wire

Yesterday’s KP contact group on “numbers” (emissions reductions in Annex I countries) highlighted a question that has dominated the first week of this session: is the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) debate about emission reductions – or is it about creative accounting that undermines overall ambition? The chorus in favor of requiring 
absolute reductions in net emissions from forest management is growing louder:  the Africa Group, COMIFAC, Belarus, India and now the Coalition of Rainforest Nations have all made public statements in this session supporting that goal. So far, they are being stopped cold by the brick wall of an Annex I bloc that prefers to hide increased emissions while trying somehow to create the illusion they are stopping catastrophic climate change. A graph presented in the contact group painted a very clear picture of what is going on: all Annex I Parties except one propose reference levels that either erase all debits or yield massive credits. By contrast, Switzerland chose to accept a debit, thereby creating a policy signal to improve forest carbon management. ECO wants to be clear – we’re not advocating that Annex I countries must receive debits for forest management accounting, but rather that they own up to the true carbon costs of their management activities, regardless of whether that results in credits or debits.  It’s a matter of honest accounting. It also became clear yesterday what the effect of LULUCF rules will be on overall numbers.  Annex I Parties will only take the high end of their targets if they get the LULUCF emissions loopholes that they want. The science says we need at least a 40% reduction by 2020 on 1990 emission levels; pledges on the table amount to less than 25%, and, if Annex I gets its way on the new LULUCF rule set, real reductions that the atmosphere actually sees will be substantially less. It’s time for the G77 and China to step up their demands to hold them to account, but it’s up to the developed countries to take responsibility. So, Annex I, wake up: we’re here to reduce emissions!

Related Newsletter : 

LULUCF: on the verge of a bad deal

Will the LULUCF roller coaster end in a train wreck? Last week was LULUCF week here in Bonn. It all started with a KP Chair intent on finalizing the LULUCF rules, despite the existence of enormous loopholes.  In particular, the approach to forest management accounting favoured by Annex I Parties would allow developed countries to increase their annual emissions without accounting for it. In Saturday’s contact group, the G77 and China presented a two-part proposal to try to limit the damage of this approach: a review process to allow independent scrutiny of how each developed country calculates its reference level, and the proposal for a cap on credits from forest management. The Group’s proposal includes an expert review that would have the power to make adjustments if the assumptions and methods of a country’s reference level were found to be flawed, if the projection contradicts historical data collected for the first commitment period, or if there are accounting inconsistencies that result in hidden emissions (e.g., not accounting for emissions from bioenergy use). The Group is clearly trying its best to close the loophole, but this effort is severely limited by a group of Annex I Parties who are uninterested in rigorous accountability and actual emission reductions.  Rather than Parties agreeing to an honest accounting framework, the G77 and China are being forced onto the back foot to develop partial fixes to limit the damage. Further evidence of this was provided in the follow-up proposal from Russia that it should have no cap on credits and no obligation to account for increased net emissions until the forest sink is wiped out. These talks are in dire need of some leadership from developed countries. ECO maintains that accounting must be based on comparisons to the long-term historical average before the start of the first commitment period (i.e., 1990-2007), and that the goal of LULUCF must be to reduce net anthropogenic emissions, not let them increase. And lest we forget our natural forest ecosystems, they must be protected! Unless Annex 1 Parties adopt fair reference levels based on historical average emissions, a cap on credits may be needed as a second-best solution for LULUCF rules that are on the verge of becoming even weaker.  But the cap should not be applied to debits; even as every effort is being made to exclude emissions from the accounting, it would be even more perverse to further limit a Party’s obligation to account for emissions by also capping debits. Finally, accounting for Forest Management must be mandatory. After bending over backwards to accommodate the national interests and aversion to real debits by Annex I Parties, voluntary accounting would simply ensure that no good could ever come of this framework.

Related Newsletter : 

How Biodiversity Supports Climate Resilience

This is the International Year of Biodiversity.  ‘So what’ ECO hears you say. ‘Nothing to do with us – we just deal with climate change.’ That would be wrong! Biological diversity supports ecosystems essential for human life, including climate regulation, water, food security and protection from natural disasters. Climate change is an increasing cause of biodiversity loss that in turn adds to the impacts of climate change.  Healthy ecosystems are particularly important for people living in poverty – they depend far more directly on natural resources for their livelihoods and survival.  Ah, now you’re seeing the connection to our agenda . . . The starting point is that mitigation and adaptation must be based on sound science. An important new report, ‘Global Biodiversity Outlook 3’ (Convention on Biological Diversity, May 2010) supports this. GEO3 is also a wake up call.  In many places across the world, natural systems supporting economies, lives and livelihoods are at risk of rapid degradation and collapse.  While the poorest people suffer disproportionately from deteriorating ecosystems, ultimately, everyone stands to lose.  Climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked. Government policy and our personal choices determine how human drivers of both will shape our future. Time is short.  The challenge to stay below 2o C of warming looms ever larger. The current Copenhagen pledges add up to a 3o to 4o C world by 2100 at best. At the same time, we have massively failed to meet the CBD’s target to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss globally by 2010 (agreed by world leaders at the Johannesburg World Summit in 2002 and integrated into the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs). Catastrophic changes to our planet could happen well within the lifetime of our children. One planet.  Unabated, these crises will change our planet’s unique human-life supporting conditions.  Above 2o C of warming, ecosystem capacity to meet the needs of present and future generations will be severely compromised.  In fact, even at a 1.5o C increase, lives in vulnerable places such as small island developing states and communities in the polar regions will be tremendously difficult, and for some, impossible. Costs increase the more we delay.  TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, 2009) is providing an economic evidence base for decision-makers, as Stern did for climate change. Addressing these challenges together will reduce costs and secure multiple benefits. But we must not steal from one pot to put money into another.  New, not recycled, public money is essential. Money promised in the CBD process in the past should not be counted towards satisfying fast-start finance promises. Adaptation can support or harm nature and people. Supporting natural and social resilience is cost effective, locally appropriate and our insurance mechanism for the future. Mitigation.  Nature can help. Ecosystems such as forests and peatlands absorb and store carbon, as do oceans and water bodies.  If our mitigation choices harm natural systems, such as biofuels replacing natural forest, we risk releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. 190 Parties engaged in the UNFCCC are also signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Meeting the MDGs by 2015 is the international commitment to tackle poverty. This year through to Rio+20 in 2012 provides an opportunity not to be missed. Governments will meet to discuss biodiversity in New York this September and Nagoya in October, international development at the MDG Summit in New York in September and climate change in Cancun at the end of 2010. Parties in the UNFCCC have a crucial role to play in encouraging cooperation and ensuring effective opportunities to make sure the links are made at national and international levels.  Addressing these interconnected crises in a mutually reinforcing way is the only realistic and cost effective way forward for our modern world.

Related Newsletter : 


Subscribe to Tag: LULUCF