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December 11, 2008

December 6, 2008
December 5, 2008

December 11, 2008

Draft Details Emerge – Tropical Forests Advance Only Slightly Despite High Hopes

Date: December 11, 2008 2:15 pm local time
United Nations climate change negotiations in Poland on tropical deforestation, and what to do about it, dragged on with some advances and some set backs. In the hallways and corridors, everyone was talking about, writing each other notes and holding seminars on REDD, the official UN acronym for reducing deforestation in developing countries. While closed-door sessions made progress on some key items, critical issues appeared to get watered down in recent days.  Negotiators released a draft technical decision after more than eight days of talks.

After more than a week of intensive talks, negotiators moved closer to a deal that would form the building blocks for new monies to save tropical forests.  Diplomats have drafted language that would strive to complete outstanding technical deliberations be the end of 2009. Some of the items that have broad support include a series of workshops and expert meetings on how to estimate reference levels for deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation and sustainable forest management. The yet-to-be-approved text also seemed to find common ground on making sure that the negotiation process continues to advance both policy discussions and technical questions in tandem. This would help ensure that next year’s talks in Copenhagen don’t result in a train wreck of confusion.

“There has been a retreat in the past few days in other areas of the text from what we think would be good diplomacy for tropical forests” said John O Niles, director of the Tropical Forest Group.”  Subtle details have been changed in recent days that make the decisions in Poland less friendly to tropical forests. These subtleties include the deletion of text that would have encouraged independent review of national estimates of deforestation. Independent review of national deforestation rates in developing countries is still an option, but negotiators did not want to encourage this idea. This is viewed as a setback by the Tropical Forest Group, since peer-reviewed estimates of deforestation in developing countries is a pre-requisite for linking future conservation of forests to sustainable investments from the carbon markets.

A key element the Tropical Forest Group was keen to see in the latest text was the specific request for guidance from a separate, politically more-powerful sub-set of the talks. The draft language being considered clearly says more guidance from the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) is needed. The AWG-LCA is one of two bodies running parallel to each other to develop an overarching framework for climate change policy. The draft technical decision on the table now notes that while some progress has been made on important technical details, politicians must start to fine-tune options for saving tropical forests in coming months. Continued talk over the next day or two will determine what importance and weight the other UN sub-bodies will include in their text on tropical deforestation.

December 6, 2008

NGO Coalition Recommendations on Inclusion of REDD in AWG-LCA

We strongly recommend that the AWG-LCA affirm the commitment of the Parties to pursue discussions on policy approaches and positive incentives as reflected in the conclusions of the REDD workshop under the AWG-LCA in Accra.  We furthermore recommend that the AWG-LCA advance negotiation of a REDD mechanism to be concluded in the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties.

The report of the REDD workshop in Accra concluded that:

There was a common understanding that the current knowledge of methodological issues was sufficient to initiate discussions on policy approaches and positive incentives. Robust methodologies are important to ensure that emission reductions are real, measurable, reportable and verifiable.

Sufficient progress has been made in the SBSTA to ensure that robust methodologies and tools exist to address many of the REDD methodological issues. Work of the SBSTA should continue to inform and guide the development of an appropriate mechanism for REDD under the AWG-LCA, given that the SBSTA’s role is to contribute methodological guidance and refinements in support of the Convention.

However, any methodological refinements by the SBSTA should most usefully occur in parallel with policy discussions in the AWG-LCA. Therefore, the AWG-LCA must move forward on policy approaches and positive incentives in order to agree on a REDD mechanism in Copenhagen.

We call on Parties now to build upon the methodological progress made under the SBSTA on these issues and begin serious discussions on the types of mechanisms for REDD under the AWG-LCA.  Particularly, we recommend that, under the AWG-LCA, the Secretariat undertake a review of potential financial mechanisms for REDD, inter alia, auction revenues from allowances, potential revenues from REDD credits under different scenarios and fund-based mechanisms.  Poznan must lay the groundwork for both methodological and policy approaches to come together in Copenhagen so that a post-2012 deal will include REDD as a key mitigation building block.

The following organizations endorse this statement:
Amazon Institute for Environmental Research, Brazil (IPAM)
Conservation International (CI)
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
National Wildlife Federation (NWF)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
Tropical Forest Group (TFG)
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Instituto Socio-Ambiental, Brazil (ISA)

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December 5, 2008

Efforts to Save Tropical Forests Falter:

Three Years of Technical Debate, Scant Progress On New Resources

Date: December 5, 2008, 4:00pm GMT+1
Even with already modest expectations for climate negotiations in Poland, there are signs that COP14 is faltering.  On the urgent issue of tropical deforestation, which causes approximately 15-20% of global CO2 emissions, UN negotiators in Poland have yet to make significant progress. On the opening day of the talks, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer optimistically announced that he expected the meetings “…to make a significant advance on the whole question of deforestation”. While there has been some progress on technical issues, UN delegates have not tackled the tougher question about what to do about the leading cause of species extinctions and the second leading cause of human CO2 emissions.

“Despite a clear mandate from the Bali Action plan to develop new policies to stem tropical deforestation, COP14 has not devised a clear plan to develop specific solutions” said John O. Niles, director of the Tropical Forest Group. “Rainforests have been largely discussed in a UN working group on science and technical matters for three years. In this time, approximately 75 million acres of tropical forests have been cut. Negotiators are making good progress on scientific methods. But with only one year until Copenhagen, the UN must pass clear text on when and how it will develop specific financial instruments to help developing countries solve deforestation.”

In Poland, diplomats have been giving speeches and meeting behind closed doors to resolve technical issues such as how to measure forest carbon stocks and how to quantify emission reductions in countries that voluntarily reduce deforestation rates. These discussions have taken place in the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), one of the six UN climate change working groups in Poland. By most accounts, the 187 countries at the talks now have a clearer sense that science can support financial instruments to help cut deforestation rates.

“Despite a conference hall of enthusiasm, the important question on how to compensate countries for reductions in deforestation has not begun in earnest” said Niles. “For instance, there is no assurance on the table that countries that stop deforestation now won’t be penalized down the road. There is also not a clear mandate to take up the issue of REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries) in the UN body developing future mitigation policies”.

At the outset of the Poland talks, UN climate change negotiators set expectations fairly low. With the outgoing Bush administration still attending the COP14 talks for the US, many diplomats resigned themselves to defining success in Poland as having a clear plan for future decisions. The general thinking is that once the new US team meaningfully re-engages the international community, a new pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol can be crafted and approved.

The Tropical Forest Group will hold a press briefing at 4:00 pm (Poznan time) to discuss the current state of negotiations and offer solutions. The press briefing will be held in Pavilion 14B. Once there, follow signs to the “UNFCCC Press Conference Room”.

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