25 November 2012 | Doha | The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) begins Monday here amid low expectations and high urgency. If all goes according to plan, it will usher out the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), which grew out of COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia, and usher in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-ADP), which grew out ofCOP 17 last year in Durban, South Africa.
The AWG-ADP is set to run until the end of 2015 when it’s supposed to yield a single, unified global agreement on emission-reductions that will come into force by 2020.
That all sounds great, but let’s not forget that at COP 15 in Copenhagen obligated parties to keep global warming below 2°C, but the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Third Emissions Gap Report 2012 says that even if the ADP delivers on all its promises, a rise of 3.5 degrees Celcius is in the cards. For a simpler treatment, visit the Climate Action Tracker.
The mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is currently being negotiated in the LCA track, and most observers assume it will be absorbed into the ADP track. There is, however, little consensus on how the ADP will evolve – as Jessica Boyle and Soledad Aguilar of the International Institute for Sustainable Development make clear in Scenarios and Sticking Points under the Durban Platform: The Long and Winding Road to 2020.
“There are some who argue that, with the establishment of the ADP, now is the time for agenda-setting, exchanges of views, and slow and steady progress under this new negotiating track,” they write. “On the other side, there are those who argue that, with the future of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (LCA) hanging in the balance, and a lack of agreement over the length of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (not to mention the residual effect of the absence of several key Parties, including Canada, Russia and Japan), the negotiations could be in as precarious a place as ever.”
Katie Kouchakji of Climate Finance offers her take on the future of ADP in “Doha preview: The big picture”.
Whatever path the new tracks take, REDD+ offsetting under the UNFCCC seems destined to be phased in between now and 2020, with various fast-track efforts taking place within and among those countries that choose to move forward outside the system.
The first phase is aimed at building up the accounting mechanisms needed to track REDD credits. The second phase will focus on the creation of pilot programs using public-sector funding. The third phase will make offsetting operational.
Outside the UNFCCC, REDD is going strong in the voluntary market and in regional compliance markets, leading to a doubling of prices for forest-carbon offsets last year, according to the latest State of the Forest Carbon Markets Report.
On the financing front, developed nations have pledged more than $7.3 billion to help developing countries get up to speed on REDD+, and $4.3 billion of that is slated to be delivered by the end of December. With just a month to go, however, it’s not at all clear how much of that money has been delivered or how it’s being used, according to the REDD+ Expenditures Tracking Project. Several meetings are scheduled to cover this, and we will bring you details as they emerge.
The Green Climate Fund is also set to be operational.ized this year. It's designed to channel $100 billion per year to developing countries, starting next year and running through 2020. It comes on the heels of $30 billion in early-stage funding pledged in 2009 and mostly delivered -- although reporting has been vague and opaque.
Other talks are aimed at creating a register for Nationally-Appropriate Mitigation Activities (NAMAs) and, of course, REDD+.
As it does every year, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) will spend the first week hammering out agreement on science, technology and methodology in an effort to map out a work programme to study the causes of deforestation and degradation and the methodologies for measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) the emissions of REDD+ activities.
Gus Silva-Chavez, who is the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) REDD+ Project Manager, offers his take on the negotiations in “REDD+ almost at the finish line: Doha preview”.
Over the past few years, a strong consensus has emerged on how to measure, report and verify emissions and emission-reductions attributable to REDD+, but Silva-Chavez points out that actual discussions on the “REDD+ MRV” are taking place in several sub-groups within the LCA track.
“Some countries believe overall guidance needs to be determined before issue-specific details, like for REDD+, can be addressed,” he writes. “Other countries feel that REDD+ has made strong progress and as long as the guidance does not conflict with the overall MRV, countries should move ahead.”
He expects to see general rules emerge from the talks, with countries being given the flexibility they need to reflect their own realities on the ground.
Once SBSTA gets as far as it can go, it will pass its agreement up to the national negotiators.
For a deeper dive into the technical issues, you can read An assessment of deforestation and forest degradation drivers in developing countries, which is published by CIFOR and offers a comprehensive review of the drivers of deforestation.
Indigenous leaders will also be making their voices heard in SBSTA, with Juan-Carlos Jintiach, the economic director for the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations for the Amazon Basin (COICA), advocating a mechanism he calls “Indigenous REDD,” which requires clarity of land tenure, strengthens the collective rights of tribes in general, and calls for accreditation mechanisms and state-sanctioned regulation to combat fraud.
For a deeper dive into the role that communities can play, download Community-based Forest Monitoring for REDD+: Lessons and reflections from the field, which examines lessons-learned from the Community Carbon Accounting Project, which is training local communities in Asia-Pacific countries on forest monitoring for sustainable development and carbon accounting.
For another look at how REDD might impact communities, read REDD+ Politics in the Media: A Case Study from Papua New Guinea.
The rubber hits the road in Week 2, when negotiators within the LCA track will try to agree on the details for how to implement Phase III of the REDD+ rollout, when actual offsetting officially is slated to begin.
“A draft proposal from the Chair of the LCA negotiations at September’s meeting in Bangkok reached no agreement on whether this text should form the basis for negotiations,” writes Silva-Chavez. “However, given the ambitious agenda and the fact that the LCA ends in Doha, many believe that this chair’s text or some modification of it will be the starting point for negotiations.”
Ther Kyoto Protocol didn't require developing countries to reduce emissions, so South Korea floated the the idea of "Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) in 2007.
These vaguely-defined actions are expected to come into better focus in Doha, which could lead to more funding for capacity-building, perhaps in tandem with REDD+ readiness procedures.
One key step in this directiohn will be the creation of a NAMA registry.
Further interviews from UNFCCC meetings in Bonn and Bangkok from 2008-2012 are available here.
If the negotiations have your head spinning, we recommend you take a look at the Negotiators’ Guides published by the Institut de l’énergie et de l’environnement de la Francophonie (IEPF). These PDFs are written for negotiators, but in a way that is accessible to a mainstream audience. State of the Negotiations is almost 200 pages long, and offers a deep dive into the history of the negotiations and the current state of play. Summary for Policymakers is shorter but still comprehensive and eminently readable.
To get a feel for what’s at stake economically, dive into the World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat report, which examines the economic consequences of a 4°C temperature rise.
As it always does, IISD will be following negotiations and side events in excruciating depth and detail. You can subscribe to both theEarth Negotiations Bulletin, which covers negotiations, and the ENB on the Side, which covers side events, here. If you are on a mobile device, click here.