Despite Trump, The Paris Agreement Continues To Evolve At Bonn/Fiji Climate Talks

Gustavo Silva-Chávez and Meryl Cohen

This year’s climate talks may not be as glamorous or high-profile as the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that adopted the historic Paris Agreement two years ago, but the agenda for COP23 that starts Monday in Bonn is packed with key issues that need to be resolved to fully implement the Agreement.

This story first appeared on the Forest Trends blog.

3 November 2017 | It has been almost two years since countries adopted the historic Paris Agreement at the COP21 in France. In the next two weeks, this work will continue – perhaps less excitingly so – at the 23rd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known informally as COP23 in Bonn. The main objective of this upcoming meeting is to finish the Rulebook, meaning negotiators will continue to develop the rules to operationalize the Agreement. The agenda in Bonn is packed, and Forest Trends staff and partners will be on the ground, following the discussion around key issues, including:

The Role of the US Delegation

The Trump administration has been sending mixed messages about its role under the Paris Agreement. On the one hand, the President and members of his Cabinet have denied the problem of climate change exists, have signaled their intent to withdraw from the Agreement (which cannot formally happen until 2020); and have made decisions that are not consistent with the goals of the Agreement. On the other hand, the US government will be sending a delegation to Bonn with the intent to play a significant role in the negotiations; however, exactly what they plan on doing remains a mystery.

Progress on the Rulebook

In Paris, negotiators agreed that a “Rulebook” would be needed to operationalize the Paris Agreement. The deadline to finish this Rulebook is in 2018, and to date there is still a lot of work to do. Picking up where climate negotiators left off in Marrakesh last November and this spring in Bonn, the discussions in Bonn will focus on procedural issues, and no major decisions are expected. However, time is running out, and countries need to make as much progress as possible in Bonn; they need to identify any outstanding issues and also propose how they will tackle them in early 2018.

Transparency Framework

In an effort to determine whether all countries are making sufficient progress in meeting the elements of the Paris Agreement, countries agreed on a creating a transparency framework under Article 13 of the Agreement. The Framework still needs to be further refined in Bonn so that all countries can agree on common reporting and verification requirements and also continue their discussions related to enhancing transparency over time.

Global Stocktake Process

Although emissions reduction targets are at the core of the Paris Agreement, the Paris Agreement also includes a Global Stocktake Process for evaluating global progress towards the goals of the agreement and for identifying new mitigation opportunities and, over time, strengthening the nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

This Process is set to begin in 2023 and take place every five years thereafter. In Bonn, all the necessary procedural hurdles will need to be cleared in order to formally start the stocktaking exercises during the 2018 facilitative dialogue – now called the Talanoa Dialogue. It is expected that the dialogue will be launched at COP 23, and its goal is to “foster stability and inclusiveness in relation to dialogue, by creating a safe space which embraces mutual respect for a platform for decision making for a greater good.”

Article 6 (Markets)

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows for the voluntary use of carbon markets to offset emissions. (Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace initiative has a great analysis of the specific carbon market issues agreed to in Paris as well as global carbon market developments.) In Bonn, countries will continue to identify the types of “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes,” or ITMOs, that are available for this purpose, or that could be created for it, as well as the type of guidance needed in line with the bottom-up, flexible approach of the Paris Agreement. The ITMOs would be the “currency” if countries decide to use carbon markets to meet their NDCs.

This is an ongoing and crucial part of the Agreement, and Forest Trends will be actively working with countries and partners to create – where appropriate and in consultation with local stakeholders – robust carbon markets with environmental integrity and strong safeguards.

Land Use and Intact Forest Landscapes

Since the REDD+ framework was first finalized in Warsaw and has since then become part of the Paris Agreement, REDD+ is not on the main negotiating agenda for Paris Agreement issues in Bonn. Yet, it is on the agenda for one of the Subsidiary Bodies of the COP, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, or SBI, which will discuss how to best share experiences about REDD+ financing.

However, a number of other outstanding issues on the main agenda in Bonn, including carbon markets and transparency issues, will impact REDD+ in some way. For example, if a developed country buys REDD+ tons from a REDD+ country, there needs to be a transparent accounting framework/registry that will accurately keep track of these transactions and ensure there is no double-counting. Since the negotiations around REDD+ have already resolved some of these issues, non-REDD+ negotiators can learn from the rules already created under the REDD+ framework.

There will also be discussions about the considerable role the land sector can play in meeting the Paris goals. The land sector is responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and changes to land-use practices have the potential to significantly contribute to reducing emissions, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, improving rural livelihoods, and promoting countries’ ability to adapt to a changing climate. Over 100 countries that have signed the Paris Agreement have committed to pursuing actions in the land-use sector that contribute to the ultimate objective of the Convention, which is to avoid dangerous climate change.

Forest Trends and our partners plan to emphasize the importance of the land sector and forests, a critical part of the land sector. Article 5 of the Paris Agreement explicitly states that all countries “should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests.” To achieve these, it will be necessary to ensure that all existing forest stocks are conserved and enhanced, not just forests that are currently threatened by deforestation – also referred to as “Intact Forest Landscapes.” These forests have great potential to contribute to climate change mitigation.Forest Trends recently put forth a submission on this topic, supported by numerous partner NGOs with whom we work closely.

Forest Trends’ Communities Initiative also directly addresses this concept through its partnerships with indigenous and traditional communities of the Amazon rainforest—one of the largest carbon sinks in the world—using markets and other financing means to support traditional livelihoods that maintain intact forests. It has been demonstrated that Indigenous Peoples and local communities, if they have legal forest rights, maintain or improve their forests’ carbon storage.[1]

The Forest Trends team is excited to be on the ground as these next steps towards operationalizing the Paris Agreement are being taken. Watch this space for a future update from the negotiations!

Gustavo Silva-Chávez is the REDDX program manager at Forest Trends. He has worked on REDD+, land use, agriculture and climate issues for 15 years.

Meryl Cohen is a Manager with the Communities Initiative at Forest Trends where she focuses on strategies to conserve forests by supporting indigenous and local communities.

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