Reporting from Copenhagen
A deal is on the table at UN climate talks that would require poor nations to halt deforestation completely by 2030 on the condition that wealthy nations fork over $22 billion to $37 billion to jump start the plan, according to new text leaked today in Copenhagen.
"There’s money in there for the first time," Peg Putt of the Wilderness Society told SolveClimate in an interview. That alone is "quite significant," she said.
The proposal is one of three objectives being considered to drive the entire Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation scheme, known as REDD.
It’s the only one with dollar amounts.
The range proposed isn’t new. It comes from the Informal Working Group for Interim Finance on REDD, a project of the Prince of Wales and the government of Norway. On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy similarly announced that rich nations must come up with $25 billion between 2010 and 2015 in forestry seed money.
Despite an appearance of consensus, though, a financing commitment on REDD is hardly set in stone — in fact, nothing is in the highly bracketed, seven-page REDD draft, which doubled in size overnight.
The document is now headed to high-level ministers and probably heads of state for further hashing out. World leaders will have until close of the Copenhagen conference on Friday to finalize the details.
Money, Targets In
The poorer countries said they wanted the wealthy to put up funds before they bound themselves to anything more than a generalized statement.
In today’s text, targets are back on the table in two of the three objectives floated as options.
Sources say "Option 1," the least ambitious, has the most support. It states that
"all Parties shall collectively aim to reduce emission and increase removals by halting and reversing in forest cover and carbon loss in developing countries."
"It means absolutely nothing," said Roman Czebiniak, a lawyer who has been active in the negotiations.
"Option 2," courtesy of the European Union, boasts similar language with a key difference: a target requiring developing nations to stop forest loss by 2030.
It also specifies a mid-term goal. Countries would need to halve deforestation by 2020. Importantly, these targets would be conditional on financing, although specific dollar amounts were not mentioned.
If we can get the $22 billion to $37 billion dollar amount in there, said Czebiniak, "this would be the best option on the books."
"Option 3" is indeed historic in urging specific dollar amounts. But the fact that it makes no mention of a target for slowing deforestation by 2020 is a red flag for advocates.
In spite of some fresh optimism on REDD, advocates expressed frustration with the newly bloated agreement.
With just three days left of Copenhagen, "more is not better," Andrea Johnson, director of forest campaigns at the non-governmental Environmental Investigation Agency, told SolveClimate.
Further, earlier versions of REDD text protected natural forests from being razed for less climate-friendly palm oil and other plantations.
The "conversion safeguard," as it’s called, was weakened in today’s draft, according to analysts.
In Monday’s text, negotiators agreed that the conversion provision would need to be "adhered to." By Tuesday, that directive was sliced out in favor of the words "promoted" and "supported."
The United States is seen by many as the chief culprit behind the watering down of the safeguards.
According to Czebiniak, "the U.S. has wreaked havoc on this process in the last 48 hours."
"There’s been all this momentum built in the last four years to get a deal based on very simple principles of countries taking action to reduce their emissions in exchange for financing," he added. "Now, it’s like [the U.S.] is sabotaging the whole process."
Developing countries are said to be surprised by the Americans’ sudden activism in diluting the safeguard language.
The one place where the world seems to have achieved some trust building is in REDD, and that’s been "devastated," Czebiniak said. The Climate Action Network today gave the U.S. and Colombia one of its Fossil of the Day awards "for moving the process backwards on the REDD text."
REDD is seen as a vital component of a wider global warming pact, as deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global warming emissions according to UN figures. Funding, however, is key.
Currently, the only figure on the table for a climate deal is $30 billion in kick-start financing over three years. Saving forests would snag about 20 percent of that — or $2 billion per year from 2010 through 2012.
Putt said the $37 billion figure "could" end up in a final REDD agreement by the end of Copenhagen, but it’s not likely.
Environmental group Greenpeace agreed. But according to them, that may not be a bad thing. The clause may have targets tied to dollars but overall it "lacks ambition," said Czebiniak.
The organization wants a REDD target that zeros deforestation by 2020. The price tag for such a deal would be $42 billion per year, the group estimates.
According to Stewart Maginnis, director of the Environment and Development Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the worst-case scenario on REDD — no deal in Copenhagen — may not be that bad.
Some 38 countries have already undertaken REDD readiness activities, he said.
"There’s enough of agreement that we can actually move ahead and start to get early action ready or it will be held up six months until the parties come back."
Maginnis added, "REDD is no longer some sort of optional nice little flexibility mechanism on the side. It is a fundamental mainstream mitigation strategy."
On the current text, he expressed concern over the safeguards but told SolveClimate, "More or less, the thinking is all there."