End of term is nearing for LULUCF and ECO presents the report card for some Parties, indicating their grade based on interesting statements made in Wednesday morning’s contact group on Annex I Parties’ emission reductions.
ECO notes that this subject is a difficult one with several Parties routinely handing in incomplete assignments and struggling to understand the basic concept: account for emissions.
European Union: D
Although the EU’s intervention was fairly focused on the implications of LULUCF for targets, it allowed a glimpse of that most troubling idea of projected baselines (an idea the EU just does not seem able to shake). Surprise, surprise: they estimate that the impact of this approach on EU targets is zero, because it is defined to be so! The EU gets a D for handing in an incomplete assignment with a non-position that points in all directions, some of which are absolutely unacceptable.
New Zealand: D
For continuing to parade its graph showing that their planned harvest of forests creates an unacceptable hit on the national accounts. The graph on page 13 of their submission (not shown during the contact group) shows that these unacceptable forest management debits are balanced by credits from afforestation!
Canada deserves kudos for being the only Annex I Party to explicitly observe that countries need to account for emissions from all management activities. However, the code behind their accounting principles is clear: remove all natural disturbances from the inventory, use projected business-as-usual baselines, and account for carbon stored in wood products.
Japan had a mixed performance: good marks for observing that forest management projections are not a good idea, but demerits for their continued support for the existing rules when what we really need are rules with greater environmental integrity.
ECO considered handing out the only A for an Annex I country to Australia for being the only country to propose that the national emission reductions target apply to LULUCF as for other sectors. Great idea! But then ECO remembered that Australia had very high deforestation emissions in 1990, and that this proposal would (coincidentally?) make it much easier for Australia to meet ambitious targets.
Norway almost got a high grade for being willing to accept a simple accounting approach of measuring changes in emissions since 1990, but slipped behind when it observed that special adjustments may need to be made for some countries.
G77 & China: A
For giving Annex I Parties a wake-up call and proposing the revolutionary concept that the same set of simple rules should apply to all Annex I Parties: account for changes in emissions/removals compared to a base year. Although their proposal to apply a cap to the entire LULUCF sector is difficult to evaluate without more information, it appears that they are interested in using it to ensure that mitigation happens both in LULUCF and in other sectors. Makes sense to ECO! Finally, G77 & China have rightly called for a resolution to these negotiations by Barcelona so that new Annex I targets can be agreed in Copenhagen.
As well as supporting the call for simple, transparent accounting and environmental integrity, Micronesia also added some humour to the discussion in describing the data submissions by Annex I Parties: “Whoops, data gaps! Whoops, data uncertainty! Whoops, different rules for everyone!”
As ever in the arcane world of Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry LULUCF negotiations, progress towards a shorter text this week has not necessarily made it easier to understand. ECO has even caught whiff of some positive changes, though it is hard to get more than a whiff when everything is behind closed doors.
There is still something smelly in the draft text and it is hiding behind a bland name – projected baselines for forest management. Here is how it works: A Party tells you what its emissions from forest management will be during the commitment period and then will only be given LULUCF credits or debits if actual emissions are different from this projection.
ECO is confused (this is LULUCF after all). Depending on what level these “projected baselines” are set at, this could mean Parties might never have to account for their logging emissions. A country can pretend that its emissions from forest management are going to increase and not incur any debits, as long as this increase was predicted ahead of time. ECO shudders to think what this type of approach would mean if applied to all sectors.
Luckily, not everyone is behind this ruse. Past submissions from Norway and Switzerland have expressed a preference for accounting for changes in emissions from a historical level. Other countries may be out there that support such an approach, but they are hard to see; hidden inside the EU bloc on this issue. ECO calls those Parties to step out and identify themselves.
Is it any wonder, with ideas like this still on the table, that the G77 and China are considering how to cap credits from the entire LULUCF sector?