What is Up Next for Forest Carbon after Durban?

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With the Durban talks coming to a close over the weekend, it is now time to digest the decisions, looking at what was accomplished and what still needs to be determined.

One of the central outcomes of COP17 in Durban was the Durban Platform. Instead of a detailed agreement, the Durban Platform is a two-page document establishing a timeline and process for instituting a treaty for mandatory caps on emissions for developing and developed countries.
 
In addition to this platform, there were also more substantive texts and agreements coming out of Durban.  These decisions will inform the expected treaty as well as outline or initiate activities that will take place until a global agreement is formally adopted.  Below is a look at key aspects from these texts and decisions.

Kyoto

  • The existing Kyoto Protocol establishes legally binding emissions cuts – 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The primary tool to achieve these reductions is the formal international carbon market, operational since 2008 with plans to continue through December 2012. This period marks the first Kyoto commitment period.
  • On the final day of Durban talks, countries agreed to a second commitment period beginning January 1, 2013. The end date of the second period could range from 2017 to 2020 and will be determined next year, according to UN envoys.
  • So far, the European Union has agreed to set targets under a second Kyoto period and could increase its reduction target from the existing 20 percent to 30 percent if other major polluters also agree to targets.      
  • Canada, Japan and Russia will not take part in a second commitment period.\



REDD

  • Negotiators adopted a decision on REDD+ safeguards(PDF), stating that parties will be required to submit “a summary of information on how all of the safeguards established at COP 16 are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the (REDD+) activities”.
  • Next year, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) will establish how and how often parties will be required to submit this information.
  • A decision on forest reference levels maintained that both forest reference emission levels (a measurement of the emissions from a geographical area) and/or forest reference levels (a measurement of emissions and removals from a geographical area) could be submitted as benchmarks for assessing performance of a country’s REDD+ activities.
  •  The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) did not clearly establish a financing mechanism, deciding to wait until 2012 to resolve technical and policy issues.  AWG-LCA also requested the creation of a technical paper  to explore financing options.
  • While an early text stated that “a wide variety of new and existing sources of financing, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including market-based and alternative joint mitigation and adaptation mechanisms, could provide new, additional and predictable combined funding for the full implementation of the results-based actions by developing country Parties…,” the final version of the text did not contain that passage, and instead made a vague request for parties to submit their views on “modalities and procedures for financing results-based actions."
  • The issue of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) was also left largely unanswered, with the SBSTA calling upon parties to submit their views on MRV by February of next year.  Those submissions will largely form the basis of discussion at SBSTA’s next session.



LULUCF

  •  LULUCF will continue to exist under the extended Kyoto Protocol.
  •  Most issues remain unresolved and are left to be solved by work programmes under the SBSTA in 2012: The issue of non-permanence in forest carbon and land-use projects under the CDM, the development of additional modalities and procedures for LULUCF under the CDM, as well as accounting and MRV issues.
  •  The reporting of certain activities (revegetation, cropland management, grazing land management, and wetland drainage and rewetting) is still voluntary. However, any activity that was reported in the first commitment period must continue to be reported going into the second commitment period.
  • Afforestation/Reforestation (A/R) projects remain eligible under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in the second commitment period, with the possibility of expanded activities if agreed upon by future COPs.

      

New Market Mechanisms

  •  Nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) were accepted as a mechanism for developing parties (non-Annex I) to achieve self-imposed, and currently voluntary, emission reduction goals. 
  • Developed countries are to provide “financial, technology and capacity building support” for the preparation and implementation of NAMAs, but the mechanism to deliver those resources is undefined.
  • A variety of mitigation activities, including REDD+ and other CDM project activities, will be accepted under NAMA plans. (For a list of activities currently being carried out as NAMAs, see here.
  • A web-based registry of NAMAs intended to facilitate “financial, technology and capacity building support” will be deployed, but participation will be voluntary. Parties are to submit their first report on their NAMAs by 2014, and every two years after (with increased flexibility for “small island states” and “least developed countries”).

 

CDM

  • The CDM will continue to be used as a mechanism to help countries meet their emissions reduction targets.
  • Saudi Arabia successfully bid to include carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the list of eligible CDM projects.
  • The secretariat requested that an effort to digitize reporting validation and verification activities be made during 2012 to improve the efficiency of the CDM project cycle.    
  • A  materiality standard for the CDM was adopted.  Materiality is the idea that there is a point where looking for further potential errors is no longer worth the financial cost, time, and effort required because, at some point, any errors discovered are likely to be immaterial. The decision was accepted in order to expedite and reduce the cost of implementing CDM projects.

      

Green Climate Fund

  • Details on the Green Climate Fund remain sparse, as even one of the fund’s host countries remains elusive. The Fund remains unfunded at the close of COP17, but has been operationalized with the as-yet unnamed board set to meet in Switzerland and Korea in 2012.
  • The draft decision text “(Stressed) the need to secure funding for the Green Climate Fund… (and) facilitate its expeditious operationalization”. They’ve got two years to do so, as the “interim arrangement’ is intended to end by the COP 19.
  • Language on financing the Fund was vague with regards to market mechanisms as a source of funding, with the text saying “The Fund may also receive financial inputs from a variety of other sources, public and private, including alternative sources.” US$ 100 billion is supposed to finds its way into the fund by 2020, but it’s unclear how this will be achieved.  South Korea pledged money to finance the establishment of an interim secretariat, 
  • The Fund will provide finance for mitigation activities (including REDD+) and NAMAs.