The Governator is back. “Action is needed now, and action is what we’re taking with R20,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger at a meeting this week at the University of California, Davis. But there may be less to it than meets the eye. China did not sign on. The Guardian reports that a Dutch official, who did sign on, said he thought it was just another empty promise.
R20 stands for the Regions of Climate Action. R20’s first action was to announce two sub-national REDD projects, one in Chiapas in Mexico, the other in Acre in Brazil. Under the R20 deal, the two states will be able to sell carbon offsets through California’s cap and trade scheme.
Schwarzenegger, Governor Arnobio Marques de Almeida, Jr. from Brazil and Governor Juan Jose Sabines Guerrero from Mexico signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a REDD working group to develop recommendations aimed at bringing sub-national REDD projects into California’s cap-and-trade scheme, which is due to start in 2012. Up to 8% of California’s emissions reduction targets can be met by carbon offsets, including from REDD projects.
The first meeting of the REDD working group will take place during the COP 16 meeting in Cancun and the first set of recommendations are expected by October 2011.
The meeting at the University of California, Davis was the third Governors Global Climate Summit. On the Climate Summit website, is the following statement explaining why the governors believe that action should take place at the sub-national level:
As progress on climate change has stalled at both national and international levels, there is growing consensus that new actors must help tackle the climate challenge. Subnational governments are key actors for many reasons:
- According to the UNDP, most investments to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change—50 to 80 percent for reductions and up to 100 percent for adaptation—must take place at the subnational level;
- Subnational governments implement national policies, and can also provide solutions to climate change when national-level action stalls;
- Subnational governments, such as California, are global leaders in reducing emissions and creating green jobs and these efforts could be replicated and scaled up in both developed and developing countries;
- Subnational governments are politically close to where projects must be implemented yet remain sufficiently elevated to achieve wider benefits by integrating projects into regional planning; and
- Subnational governments provide a perfect interface for addressing both urban and rural issues and thus cover all key aspects of the fight against climate change.
To say that the whole endeavour is fundamentally flawed would be too generous. Before AB 32 was signed, Schwarzenegger said
“I say the debate is over. We know the science. We see the threat. And we know the time for action is now. Global warming and the pollution and burning of fossil fuels that cause it are threats we see here in California and everywhere around the world.”
Which sounds great. Except that AB 32 only requires reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And it allows carbon offsets to create loopholes in an already weak target. Currently, REDD credits are the only offsets specifically proposed in the regulations.
There is an explanation of California’s Air Resource Board proposed regulations to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) on the Tropical Forest Group’s blog. Tropical Forest Group outlines the requirements for REDD credits to be traded under California’s cap-and-trade scheme as follows:
Proposed California Sectoral Requirements for REDD
- Historical deforestation emissions must be calculated for “gross” deforestation over the past 10 years.
- Jurisdictions & ARB [Air Resource Board] must approve plans to lower emissions below historical emissions by 2020.
- Forest carbon inventories must follow IPCC guidance, likely at Tier 2 or higher.
- Jurisdictions that use nested-REDD projects must have accounting systems to reconcile nested project-based GHG reductions with sector-level accounting.
- Jurisdictions must plan to retire and ensure permanence of the REDD credits.
- Mechanisms must be in place for public consultation and participation in the program design.
In other words, the loophole (carbon offsets) is full of loopholes. Leakage will be a serious problem – as deforestation might be reduced in one province or state, but could increase in neighbouring states or in other countries. Calculating deforestation baselines is almost inevitably fraught with error, estimates and room for fraud. Ensuring permanence of REDD credits is particularly difficult. REDD-Monitor looks forward to reading the reports written by experts fitted with 20/20 future vision goggles who can accurately predict the future for us – particularly in a changing climate, where the likelihood of the Amazon going up in smoke is increasing rather than decreasing.