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COP21: What’s happened so far?

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Today marks the start of the second week of the UN climate change negotiations in Paris. After a week of negotiations we have a Draft Paris Outcome.

The draft outcome contains 940 pairs of square brackets. There’s nothing in there about fossil fuels. The word forest appears 11 times and the word deforestation once. REDD appears 11 times.

There’s a REDD paragraph (Article 3 bis), which does little more than refer to the Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus (click the image for a larger version):

Negotiations on REDD were completed in June 2015, so there’s no real need to mention REDD in Paris. But Kevin Conrad and the Coalition for Rainforest Nations have spent a large part of the last ten years telling us how important REDD is, and they are not likely to stop any time soon.

New carbon markets to be created in Paris?

The word “market” only appears once in the Draft Paris Outcome, and its in the context of enhancing “non-market-based approaches”. However, as Oscar Reyes points out, this is partly because markets have been replaced by variations on the theme of internationally transferred mitigation options. Clever, eh?

Pablo Solón notes that a new carbon offset mechanism could be created under a mechanism to support sustainable development (Article 3 ter). One of the aims of the Sustainable Development Mechanism would be to:

“[Provide for net global emission reductions through the cancellation of a share of units generated, transferred, used or acquired]

“In other words,” Solón writes, “carbon credits from different kinds of projects can be bought and traded, to offset emissions.” The Sustainable Development Mechanism would build on the mechanism defined under Article 6 and Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol. Article 6 created carbon offsets and Article 12 created the Clean Development Mechanism.

Land and forests

Kate Dooley is in Paris, and has written an overview of the negotiations so far from a forests perspective for FERN. Here is her report in full:

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As we enter the second week of the Paris climate summit, four years of technical negotiations (under the working group of the Ad-hoc Durban Platform (ADP) have finally drawn to a close with the production of a Draft Paris Outcome. This document now passes to Ministers who will spend the next five days locked in political negotiations aimed at turning this draft in to a new global climate treaty, by December 11th.
 
Despite this milestone, there are still major outstanding issues to be agreed.
 
Political momentum is growing for agreeing to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, (or to at least reference this alongside the more widely known 2C limit), with the objective of protecting the countries most vulnerable to the worst effects of runaway climate change. Yet so far this increased ambition has not been followed up with bolder measures for supporting (especially developing) countries to deliver the rapid emissions reductions needed to achieve it (in the parlance of the Paris climate conference, these measures are called ‘means of implementation’ (MoI), and include finance, technology transfer and capacity building support).
 
This disconnect has led to some strange positioning. Some of the historically lower per-capita polluters, such as India, are refusing to support a 1.5C temperature limit, while high per-capita polluters such as Australia support 1.5C, but refuse to discuss climate finance.
 
On Friday, the G77 walked out of a negotiating session on adaptation, after a number of industrialised countries bracketed all reference to adaptation finance (‘bracketed’ is another piece of climate summit parlance, meaning highlighting certain sections of text as contentious, up for negotiation or even complete removal). The G77 has raised concerns that developed countries are refusing to engage in negotiations of key issues that would empower developing countries to cope with climate change and contribute to the global response.
 
The overall ‘purpose’ of the Agreement also contains a reference to human rights and gender equity. Previous language which included the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, intergenerational equity, a just transition, food security and the integrity of ecosystems has been moved to the preamble, therefore weakening reference to these crucial issues, amid a strong civil society backlash against Norway and the US for speaking out against including human rights in the text.
 
Some of the main issues to watch out for in the coming days:
 
Long-term global goal, raising the spectre of flawed forest carbon offsets.
 
A contentious issue which Ministers will need to resolve is the long-term goal of the agreement, supposed to provide a collective target guiding long-term action. Options range from more ambitious quantitative goals of peaking and rapid emission reductions, to zero greenhouse gas emissions or decarbonisation, to more qualitative language such as a ‘low emissions transformation’. A much debated goal of net-zero emissions is no longer in the text; welcome news for civil society which has widely opposed net-zero, seeing it as a green light for using land and forests as ‘carbon sinks’ to mitigate emissions, risking land grabs and threatening food security. However, ‘climate neutrality’ is still there in the text, which carries essentially the same meaning (that emissions are offset by removals), and could even be interpreted to support dangerous geo-engineering approaches which try to limit warming despite emission increases.
 
Forests, Agriculture and food security
 
The EU, in line with its Council Conclusions, has been supporting a reference to food security in the agreement, along with a handful of other countries. Achieving food security is an integral part of the UN sustainable development goals and refers to physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. A number of developing countries prefer to reference ‘food production’ over ‘food security’, as production does not imply any restraints on industrial agricultural practices. Leaders in the ‘production’ camp are countries like Argentina and Uruguay, which are net-agricultural exporters. For the same reason, these countries are also resisting any reference to the land sector or land-use, fearing the term could imply mitigation obligations on the agricultural sector.
 
Land-use, forests and human rights (and carbon trading)
 
At the moment there are still references to accounting rules for land use, and internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (which is the new euphemism for carbon trading). It is likely that both of these will be lost from the text. In particular there is a lot of opposition to mentioning land (as mentioned above), and the final result is likely to be a reference only to emissions and removals. The problem here is that this emphasises the role of land in removing carbon from the atmosphere (a carbon sink), but does not clearly link this role with the other crucial roles that land plays in the lives of billions of people. There is risk in focussing on using land to sequester carbon, without explicitly recognising that this could impact the human rights, land tenure rights and food security of local communities and indigenous peoples living on and using that same land.
 
A group of countries – most notably the Philippines, have supported language that recognizes existing international obligations and seeks to develop principles after Paris that would ensure the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems, respect customary and sustainable land use systems, respect indigenous peoples’ and communities’ tenure rights and ensure food security. While the EU has shown support for food security, it has not gone so far as to support a work programme to develop principles on how food security and other multiple uses of land would be protected.
 
REDD+
 
There has been some debate over whether to include a reference to REDD+ in the new agreement or not. REDD+ is currently in the text, in what is called Article 3 ‘bis’, which defines a REDD+ mechanism and refers to the existing Warsaw Framework for REDD+. While the majority of countries do not want to see any reference at all to REDD+ in the text, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a group of rainforest nations led by Panama, want to establish a new REDD+ institution, which would centralise REDD+ finance. Brazil in particular is concerned that any reference to REDD+ could be seen as redefining REDD+ or requiring reinterpretation of the existing decisions. Negotiations on REDD+ officially finished in June, and should be formally adopted by the COP this week. There is no clear substantive need therefore to refer explicitly to REDD+ in the new climate treaty, and such a move could be interpreted by the outside world as support for forest carbon markets, when in fact there is no direct link between REDD+ as defined in the Warsaw Framework and financing REDD+ via carbon trading.

 

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11 Comments

  1. 940 pairs of square brackets – No fossil – 11 REDD+ – 11forests – 1 deforestation- 1 market =
    ministerial level political negotiation = new global climate treaty- Dece11 . doubts and diets ? paris VS saris . who knows distance may lend us enchantment!!

  2. The REDD+ agreement could be humane & environmentally effective, if it required the enforcement of crucial resource tenure and human rights for forest communities prior to funding. It does not yet recognize & stipulate those rights, so continues as an unjust, unsustainable & destructive greenwashed scheme.

    Concerning these dangers and unenforced rights, one need only read the current version of REDD+ in Decision 1/CP.16:
    “72. … requests developing country Parties, when developing and implementing their national strategies or action plans, to address, inter alia, drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, land tenure issues, forest governance issues, gender considerations and the safeguards identified in paragraph 2 of annex II to this decision, ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and local communities;”

    The key nonbinding words there are “…request… to address … applied to the land tenure issues… forest governance…. safeguards. This is vague “UNese” language wrapped in nonbinding “UNese” providing the dangerous illusion of safeguards that are not there.

    REDD+ agreement in its current vague & dangerous form is being negotiated in to the Paris COP21 agreement text. Here Lang writes, “Brazil in particular is concerned that any reference to REDD+ (in the new agreement) could be seen as redefining REDD+ or requiring reinterpretation of the existing decisions.” We believe it should be renegotiated to stipulate that prior to REDD+ funding human rights and customary resource tenure are recognized & enforced statutory rights. Why do you, Lang write, “Negotiations on REDD+ officially finished in June, and should be formally adopted by the COP this week.”?

    Do you want REDD+ to be finalized in its current form with no mandatory safeguards for forest peoples?

    If not how do you propose REDD+ be changed to, at a minimum, protect forests & their people?

  3. @Norman Lippman, Living Story Foundation (#2) – Thanks for this. I think we agree on a lot more than you seem to think. I didn’t write either of the two quotations that you refer to (about Brazil, and REDD being adopted at COP21). Kate Dooley did. As I wrote in the post, just before the piece she wrote:

    Kate Dooley is in Paris, and has written an overview of the negotiations so far from a forests perspective for FERN:

    I’ve added the words “Here is her report in full”, to avoid any further confusion.

    REDD isn’t being negotiated in Paris. The REDD negotiations finished in June 2015. The only decision to be made regarding REDD in Paris is whether to mention it in the Paris Outcome. Apparently REDD negotiators are struggling with whether to call it a “REDD+ mechanism” (with all the echoes and baggage of the Clean Development Mechanism…) or not.

    I agree with you that land rights are important. But I don’t think it makes sense to use REDD as a way of achieving land rights. (See this report from the Rights and Resources Initiative on how REDD could lead to a “carbon grab” and for details of how the the area of forest land secured by Indigenous Peoples and local communities from 2008-2013 was only one-fifth of the area in the previous five years. In other words the rate of land allocation to communities has decreased dramatically since REDD came along.)

    I agree with you about REDD safeguards. I’ve written a series of posts explaining how weak they are. This post is a good place to start:

    The Bonn 2015 decision on REDD safeguards

  4. On Paris is not about forest and health of planet, it is about money. It is so sad that we, people, destroy the planet.

  5. Mr. Lang Thanks for your reply. My comments & question are inserted below in your response to my comment,

    “I agree with you that land rights are important. But I don’t think it makes sense to use REDD as a way of achieving land rights.

    Norman to Chris:
    Please explain why it does not make sense to you or other concerned about land rights & safeguards to enshrine the enforcement of those rights in REDD by redefining REDD now (as Brazil opposes) ? REDD could create the economic incentive to misappropriate these forest lands & acculturate or displace forest peoples. Why not stop those injustices by enshrining those rights in REDD mechanism?

    (See this report from the Rights and Resources Initiative on how REDD could lead to a “carbon grab” and for details of how the the area of forest land secured by Indigenous Peoples and local communities from 2008-2013 was only one-fifth of the area in the previous five years. In other words the rate of land allocation to communities has decreased dramatically since REDD came along.)
    I agree with you about REDD safeguards. I’ve written a series of posts explaining how weak they are. This post is a good place to start The Bonn 2015 decision on REDD safeguards

    Norman to Chris:
    These posts describe the rights issue, but do not answer my question, why not redefine REDD to include those rights before including REDD in the Paris Agreement?

    Chris wrote: ” “…the Philippines, have supported language that recognizes existing international obligations and seeks to develop principles after Paris that would ensure the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems, respect customary and sustainable land use systems, respect indigenous peoples’ and communities’ tenure rights and ensure food security.”

    Norman to Chris:
    Why would they want to do this later vs. enshrining the enforcement of those rights in REDD by redefining REDD now? What is the best articulation of their strategy?

  6. Dear Chris,

    Could you please elaborate more in depth the following pharagraph: “There is no clear substantive need therefore to refer explicitly to REDD+ in the new climate treaty, and such a move could be interpreted by the outside world as support for forest carbon markets, when in fact there is no direct link between REDD+ as defined in the Warsaw Framework and financing REDD+ via carbon trading.”

    Thank you in advance for your kind explanation in order to understand your criteria on this particular issue.

  7. @yvette aguilar (#6) – Thanks for this. I didn’t write that sentence. Kate Dooley did, so you’d have to ask her what she means. I think what she’s saying is that because the REDD negotiations were completed in Bonn in June 2015, there is no need to mention REDD in the Paris COP text. The Warsaw Framework on REDD doesn’t explicitly say whether REDD is a carbon trading mechanism or not. Including REDD in the Paris text could be read as support for REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.

  8. @Norman Lippman, Living Story Foundation (#5) – Thanks again. To answer your questions:

    1. I don’t think it makes sense to trade the carbon stored in forests in the tropics against continued greenhouse gas emissions in the Global North. REDD is a carbon trading mechanism not a way of ensuring land rights.

    You’re right, REDD could create the economic incentive for a land grab. Stopping this by putting rights in the REDD safeguards may sound like a good idea, but the UNFCCC negotiations on REDD safeguards are finished. How do you propose inserting text in a finished document?

    2. The answer to this question is the same – the UNFCCC REDD negotiations are finished. How can you include rights in a process that is completed (and failed to incorporate those rights)?

    3. I didn’t write that sentence. Kate Dooley did. See my previous answer to your comment. I’ve now made Kate Dooley’s comment on COP21 a quotation to make it even more obvious that I did not write this.

    Perhaps the Philippine negotiators said what they did because they realise there is no way of redefining REDD, so they are suggesting a work around. (But I’m guessing.)

  9. Chris Thanks again for your reply, you wrote,

    “You’re right, REDD could create the economic incentive for a land grab. Stopping this by putting rights in the REDD safeguards may sound like a good idea, but the UNFCCC negotiations on REDD safeguards are finished. How do you propose inserting text in a finished document?”

    Chris, The following might be a method for inserting text in a finished document. I present it mainly because it indicates that REDD may not be locked in stone. But I will ask you the question if not now, then how later?

    Kate Dooley wrote, ”While the majority of countries do not want to see any reference at all to REDD+ in the text, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a group of rainforest nations led by Panama, want to establish a new REDD+ institution, which would centralise REDD+ finance. Brazil in particular is concerned that any reference to REDD+ could be seen as redefining REDD+ or requiring reinterpretation of the existing decisions.

    Chris, So given Brazil’s concern about ” redefining REDD+ or requiring reinterpretation of the existing decisions”. It seems as if REDD could be, redefined “ or requiring reinterpretation”

    Who is most effective at getting REDD reinterpreted at COP21?

    Chris, I am not an expert on UN negotiations & strategy, so I ask you, who monitors REDD the next logical question. If not by modifying REDD, then how do we get those safeguards and resource & human rights recognized & required prior to funding vs just having those rights addressed as REDD currently reads?

    Who has the most promising strategies for getting safeguards & rights recognized & required for forest peoples?

    Where can we find the best explanations of these strategies?

    I believe that many of us are wondering how to keep REDD from making the lives of forest peoples worse and seek the best strategies for ensuring that REDD does not do that. Thanks in advance for your expertise.

  10. Thank you for sharing this interesting discussion. It really seems, that Human Rights and rights for Indigenous peoples ought to be included in the final text (not the preamble)