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Time to Review the 1.5 Track

A group of workers were building a railway between two towns. Let’s say one town was called Copenhagen and the next was called Ourcommonfuture.  The railway workers had assembled sleepers (crossties) and rails and knew the distance between the towns.
After a while, some of the railway workers looked at the pile of construction materials. Some of them realised there weren’t enough materials,  and those who most needed to arrive at platform 1.5 in the next town asked for a review of the problem. If you were working on the new track would you agree to the review?
The railway bosses at Copenhagen 
secured broad agreement that we must limit warming to below 2 degrees, with a review of implementation and levels of ambition (considering 1.5) by 2015.  So ECO’s question for delegates is this: If your political leaders are serious about the Copenhagen goal and the review, then a workshop under SBSTA is a good way to focus on the technical and scientific challenges of reaching the goal, the size of the gap between current abatement efforts and the goal, and the opportunities to make up that shortfall.  These are essential elements to making sure we can reach our common future.

If there’s a gap in abatement effort, we need to understand it and find ways to resolve it. The world needs to look at sources like bunkers and industrial gases, consider the role of finance, and seek other ways to reduce the gap between what is happening and what needs to happen.  ECO looks forward to a 1.5 review coming out of SBSTA today. That will give us greater hope that we may reach the final destination.

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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.

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Fossil #1: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia received the 1st Place Fossil for ingeniously linking carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries. In today’s debate there was general  agreement on having additional public funding for REDD; the Saudis said they would only consent if there were funding windows for all other  mitigation activities, including CCS. That would not only mean that they  can ‘compensate’ for emissions from the oil they produce, but also get  money for it, holding REDD hostage in the process.

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Fossil #2: Russian Federation

Russia received the 2nd Place Fossil for very significant weakening of its emissions reduction commitment from 25% to 15% of 1990 levels if land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) is not counted. The Russian president announced the 25% target as unconditional, but the Russian delegation converted this to being conditional in yesterday’s Numbers+LULUCF contact  group. In addition, Russia’s proposal to account for LULUCF would  hide huge quantities of emissions.

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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!

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Loss, Damage and Survival

The failure of industrialized countries to reduce emissions and provide support for adaptation  means that some countries on the frontline of climate change are facing unavoidable impacts on their economy and for some, their survival as nations. In the face of this threat, small island states and other developing countries have tabled a loss and damage mechanism in the adaptation negotiations. Disliking certain elements of the proposed mechanism, the pre-Copenhagen strategy of quite a few developed countries was to kill the issue by not talking about it at all. Ignoring the issue is not an option: it will not go away. In picking up the pieces from Copenhagen, parties should bring creative thinking on how to help people and countries when sea levels rise, lands disappear under water and deserts spread. ECO applauds the Chair for putting Annex I countries on the spot by posing questions on this issue. However, the answers given by Australia, Japan and others show that Annex I has still not grasped the rapidly growing importance of this issue. Strengthening existing initiatives on risk reduction and insurance is a good start but will not be adequate by themselves.  A scale shift in global commitment and new mechanisms will be required to address the impacts both of extreme weather events and the more slowly emerging disasters of disappearing coastlines. A vital action ingredient is for Parties to acknowledge the consequences of unavoidable impacts. If most of 
London, for example, were just 1 meter above sea level (instead of a posted average of 24 m), would Annex I be more engaged?

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Fossil #1: Saturday
 United States

The US earns the Fossil of the Day for blocking the common space discussion on mitigation in the Ad Hoc Working Group for Long-term Cooperative Action yesterday.  Failing to pass a strong climate and energy bill is keeping them from participating in cross-cutting discussions, like the one AOSIS proposed, to build a post-2012 agreement to reduce global warming emissions.

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Fossil #1: Monday

Canada was awarded First Place. Canada earns a Fossil of the Day for reducing its mitigation commitment after Copenhagen to the same level pledged by the United States of America. This January, Canada scrapped a 2020 target equivalent to 3% below 1990 in favour of one equivalent to 3% above 1990, using the rationale of following the U.S. Canada is endangering progress on post-Copenhagen targets by acting like the 51st US state.

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Fossil #2: Monday 
Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia was awarded Second Place. Saudi Arabia earns a Fossil for being the only country trying to block discussion of bunker fuels. Speaking in this morning’s LCA contact group on sectoral approaches, Saudi Arabia asked the chair not to bring forward any text on reducing emissions from international aviation and shipping fuels and warned her that discussions on this issue ‘would be futile’.  No prizes for guessing who will try to wreck that debate.

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