On the Way to COP15: Battling an Unlevel Playing Field

Federica Bietta – October 15, 2009

Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/

…but some progress has been made on REDD text. Photo: Angelique via flickr.
As was expected, the bar for progress and positive outcomes was set quite low for the Bangkok Climate Talks. Contentious issues–such as defining “common but differentiated responsibility” and financial support from Annex I countries to developing countries to adapt to and mitigate climate change–were largely unresolved after two weeks of discussions. Most parties maintained old and rigid positions and did not seek a common ground: More Team Players Needed
Equally disappointing was the ongoing lack of U.S. leadership in guiding the discussion toward a deal in Copenhagen due to the Obama administration’s competing priorities, including the drawn out debate on the Senate’s proposed climate legislation. Ideally, in the coming weeks climate negotiators–including U.S. stakeholders–will recognize the need for an alternate game plan that will shift the role of the U.S. to team player.

Some Progress Made on REDD Text

Thankfully, there were some signs of progress and a number of key commentators noted the advances made with the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) text, including:

  • It has been consolidated from an unwieldy 19 to a more manageable nine pages.
  • Negotiators concentrated on developing safeguards for environmental integrity, stakeholder participation and overall governance issues, in addition to a first time discussion about institutional arrangements for finance.
  • All relevant parties worked to ensure that strong language was included regarding the safeguards. Despite this, there were many who still complained that the final text prohibiting conversion of forest to plantation was omitted. However, as the Subgroup Facilitator Tony La Viña of the Philippines made clear, all text would be open to further negotiation in Barcelona.

The Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) played a significant role in negotiating the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) rules. Papua New Guinea issued a statement claiming that the current LULUCF framework — known as “Option A” in the current negotiation text — compromises environmental integrity by allowing industrialized parties to “cherry pick” areas and activities for reporting. In effect, under the current rules parties are free to not report on land areas that are sources of emissions and are allowed to report only on areas where reductions can be achieved. This is both a gross failure of leadership and environmental integrity.

During the past session in Bonn, CfRN introduced Option B, which focuses on land-based accounting. Under this rule, Annex I countries would be called to report on their total land base area and therefore on all potential emissions into the atmosphere.
During the Bangkok session, however, the LULUCF group remained focused on Option A. Therefore, a group of CfRN countries — namely Cambodia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Guyana, Myanmar, Mexico, PNG and Vietnam –proposed restrictions on Option A in order to make it more consistent with the principles and ultimate objective of the climate convention. Under CfRN’s proposal, if Annex I parties would like to report under Option A, they would have to account for leakage, cap the LULUCF accounting and be conservatives with numbers therefore to reduce uncertainty. No final decision was made about LULUCF in Bangkok. This hotly debated item will certainly be revisited in Barcelona next month and we’re encouraged that we may have the results REDD countries and beneficiaries are looking for.

Overall, while major issues remain unresolved, delegates did leave Bangkok in a better position with a more manageable negotiating text then before they arrived. However, much work remains to be done on a number of contentious issues ahead of Copenhagen. CfRN will continue to fight for a level playing field with Annex I countries and maintain its consensus-building efforts to tackle REDD financing and concerns on institutional arrangements.