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Jake Schmidt’s Blog

Texting Copenhagen: Draft Negotiating Text Proposed for Copenhagen Agreement (Part 3)

Jake Schmidt

Posted June 3, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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Countdown to Copenhagen

I've discussed in part 1 -- shared vision and developed country emissions reduction commitments -- and part 2 -- developing country emissions reductions and the incentives to encourage them to go further -- key proposals that have now been produced in a new draft negotiating text for the Copenhagen agreement.   

I'll now discuss the last 2 of the six key elements of the Copenhagen Agreement contained in these texts -- deforestation emissions reduction efforts and adaptation assistance.

Deforestation Emissions Reduction Efforts

Providing incentives to slow the loss of the world's tropical deforestation is an essential component of the world's efforts to solve global warming (as I've discussed here and here).  So not surprisingly, incentives to reduce deforestation emissions will be an important part of the agreement in Copenhagen (as NRDC has identified here).  And that is reflected in the draft negotiating text (reminder there are a number of options and {brackets} which implies that there isn't exactly agreement on these pieces yet).

Incentives for forestry and {other land-use emissions}.  Since the Bali Roadmap was agreed there has been a push from some countries to ensure that forest degradation, increased forest cover, {forest management}, and {other land-use emissions} are also eligible to directly receive incentives for their emissions reductions or increased sequestration (I put in the brackets, partly to reflect avenues that I believe have a "proof of concept" internationally before they are ready for a full blown set of incentives).  Not that these bracketed pieces aren't important, but rather that these actions have some work ahead on their methodologies, data, etc. before these activities are ready for large incentives.  This is why people now talk about Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) Plus (or REDD+).

This difference of vision on the land-use activities that should receive which type of incentives and when those incentives should be available still exists as the negotiating text proposes several options:

  • Inclusion of all land-use activities from the outset under the same set of available incentive mechanisms;
  • Different incentive frameworks for different set of land-use activities; or
  • An evolving set of incentives where actions that have proven methodologies are eligible from the outset and other activities come in as they are better defined.

The American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) act that just passed out of the House Energy and Commerce committee directly approves incentives for deforestation and some elements of forest degradation through both the set aside of allowances and the offset provisions (as I discussed here and here).  Protection of existing forest cover (e.g., leakage avoidance) is available for incentives under the set aside of allowances.  If recommended by the Offset Integrity Advisory Board (as I discussed here) and if approved by key government agencies, other emissions sources and sequestration activities would be eligible for offset generation.

Need for Market and Non-Market Based Funding Sources.  There has been a debate about whether or not emissions reductions from deforestation and forest degradation should be supported through market incentives (i.e., as offsets) or through a non-market approach (e.g., through setting aside a portion of the allowance value under a cap-and-trade program).  Different countries have aligned themselves with different positions on this (as was witnessed at one negotiating session last year and is witnessed in the European Union proposal which largely called for a non-market approach).  This difference is reflected in the negotiating text.     

The ACES bill includes both types of incentives through the set aside of allowance value and the eligibility of credible reductions for offsets (as I discussed here).  Both of these incentives are critical as outlined by a new coalition that NRDC is involved with.

What does a country receiving incentives have to do?  The text includes some elements that a country would have to implement in order to receive incentives:

  • Develop plans/strategies that outline how the country will begin to address these emissions sources and what they might need in the manner of incentives (similar to the national low emissions development strategies as I discussed in part 2);
  • Establish a reference level against which performance would be measured;
  • Payment for performance (e.g., incentives tied to actually reducing emissions); and
  • Provide protection for indigenous peoples and communities.

The ACES bill (as I discussed here) provides more detail on a number of these elements including the need for a land-use plan, development of a declining baseline to zero emissions, and accounting for all significant sources of emissions.

Incentives for National Reductions or Subnational Reductions.  For deforestation and forest degradation emissions, countries have proposed that market incentives should be eligible only for national level reductions or subnational level reductions under an interim phase.  There is general agreement that non-market incentives should be available for both subnational and national reductions.

The ACES bill contains provisions for high-quality forest carbon offsets at several scales: national, state and province, and program and project.  State/province and program/project level programs are phased out over time for countries with different sizes of deforestation emissions.

Strong monitoring, reporting, and verification provisions.  All incentive mechanisms should undergo some level of monitoring and verification, but there is some emerging consensus that activities that receive market incentives through offsets must meet a higher level of requirement.

This is reflected in the ACES bill and the consensus on deforestation that NRDC just joined as carbon offsets from deforestation must meet a rigorous set of rules.  Of course many of the rules have to be written, but the bill sets up a strong framework towards this end.

Adaptation Support

Some levels of impact are already occurring or will likely occur as a result of existing global warming pollution.  And many of these impacts will increase in the future.  So there is a need to support developing countries (especially the most vulnerable) in addressing the impacts of global warming pollution.  This is reflected in the negotiating text and has been a strong emphasis in the international negotiations.

The ACES bill recognizes this need and sets aside a dedicated source of allowances (funding) for the most vulnerable by supporting bilateral and multilateral adaptation assistance (as I discussed here and as a powerful coalition of religious and military leaders is calling for).

Supporting the Most Vulnerable.  There has been a general agreement that the majority of developing country adaptation assistance should go to the most vulnerable countries and populations.  However, actually getting agreement on who qualifies as the most vulnerable has been complicated.  The text begins down this path by outlining a set of "criteria" for the most vulnerable including: least developed countries, small island developing states, countries in Africa experiencing certain impacts, and particularly vulnerable populations.

Implementation, implementation, implementation.  While it is important to develop adaptation plans to focus funding on the most important needs, the developing countries have been arguing for years that what they really need is support for implementation of adaptation actions.  After all, many of them are feeling the impacts now.  So the text contains a number of elements that identify implementation actions that would be supported in an effort to expedite the deployment of actions on-the-ground.

Financial support.  The key piece of the adaptation discussion often boils down how much money is provided to support adaptation actions, where this funding is sourced from, and how is it structured.  This text proposes a variety of sources, but still contains a number of options as there isn't agreement on any of these aspects at this stage.

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So a blueprint for Copenhagen is beginning to emerge (as I've discussed in part 1, part 2, and now part 3.  A draft negotiating text has emerged and this will encourage countries to begin to focus on what they really want, how much they are willing to move from their current negotiating position, and how all the pieces will fit together into a coherent international strategy to solve global warming.

The text of that agreement is beginning to emerge.  But now we need to turn it into a working engine that drives solutions to global warming pollution.  That engine won't get started without being fueled by real political commitments from leaders around the world.

I'm sure it looks like a lot of pieces that need to come together in a short amount of time -- less than 6 months.  But I'm still confident it can be done if countries decide to "move past rhetoric" and to agreement.  The fate of the planet and our future depends on countries committing to a strong set of actions that put the world solidly on the path to solving global warming.

So let's get texting...a strong international solution to global warming!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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