The 15th Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in December did not meet the expectations of the vast majority of participants and of the rest of the world who avoided the cold weather and followed the discussions remotely.
The "Copenhagen Accord" hardly goes beyond the Bali Roadmap of two years ago. It indicates a target for Globally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (GAMA), aiming to keep the manmade global temperature increase below the 2o C that may be manageable, while stronger warming can lead to uncontrollable further changes. But if all countries are listing their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA), it probably does not add up to GAMA. Substantial further negotiations will be needed.
There is no agreed set of principles of fairness and efficiency on how to do it: past emission records were the basis for claimed "emission permits" under the Kyoto Protocol with proportionate emission reduction targets for industrialized countries, but the voice for more equal per capita emission rights and/or linkage between emissions and national economic performance (C efficiency) is getting stronger.
The Kyoto Protocol has led to an outsourcing of dirty industries to countries without commitments to reduce their emissions, defying global emission reduction. Similar "leakage" occurs when fossil fuel is substituted by biofuel with the emissions caused by biofuel production outside of the accounting scheme. The global economy is simply too well connected for selective policies on emission reductions to work; there have to be globally applicable policies.
Indonesia's bid to deal with 26 percent emission reduction as a NAMA, with a further 15 percent emission reduction depending on external investment provides a good example of what it takes globally to reach agreement, alongside offers by Brazil and China. But the "differentiated responsibilities" within the UNFCCC may need to be measured differently between the land (including forest) and fossil fuel sectors.
The NAMA approach can include REDD+ but is not restricted to forests; peat lands, agriculture and other forms of land use can be included, as well as substitutions for fossil fuel use. The bottom line has to be formed by National Communications on net greenhouse gas emissions.
As problematic as the relationship between NAMA and GAMA is for now the relationship between NAMA and LAMA, or Locally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. Negotiations between sectors and subnational entities such as provinces and districts how the national emission reduction target can be met are yet to start. How the 26 percent of Indonesia's NAMA will be allocated over sectors and parts of the country will need a lot of further discussions. Again, there is no agreed basis of "fairness" or "efficiency"; on how to do it.
Provinces with a track record of high emissions (Riau, Jambi, Central Kalimantan) can expect a lot of attention as they can show "emission reduction" against a high local baseline, but the opportunities for emission pressure to shift to other parts of the country is large. Local perceptions on fairness and efficiency need to be understood, before a value chain can be formed that can deliver stable results.
Between sectors there is a risk of gaps. No agency wants to be responsible for peat lands that lost their tree cover and are high emission sources. A holistic terrestrial accounting is needed to ensure nothing falls through cracks. Accounting through territorial entities (district, province, country) has to be cross-checked with estimates via the sectors, before the data can be trusted.
In the NAMA-GAMA game, a realistic assessment of actual emissions is needed as the basis for globally spread efforts. Indonesia's pride may have been served by the 2nd National Communication of greenhouse gas emissions that put the country as the 6th global emitter rather than the 3rd, but under-reporting of past emissions is problematic when this forms the basis for promises for further emission reduction.
One of the immediate consequences of the COP outcome is a crash in the price of carbon credits. For the carbon markets to function a long term perspective of gradually tightening emission restrictions. The unpredictable nature of international decision making by consensus does not provide such a perspective.
Investment in mitigation (emission reduction) will largely remain in the sphere of public funds for the coming years. This means that a greater emphasis on local livelihoods (reducing vulnerability to climate change) and on biodiversity conservation is appropriate, with mitigation as "co-benefit" (rather than the other way around, mitigation actions with livelihood and biodiversity co-benefits). Private money will chase efficiency (cheapest C credits), public money is more inclined towards fairness and social/societal goals.
A rethink of the balance between adaptation and mitigation is appropriate, the more so because global mitigation efforts fall far short of what is needed to contain climate change. In that sense, a focus on adaptation demonstrates the failure of achieving collective action and is the "second best" option for local stakeholders. The NAMA's have to become NAAMA's, or. nationally appropriate adaptation and mitigation actions, and the LAMA's to LAMAA's.
In conclusion, the prominence for NAMA's in the Copenhagen Agreement opens doors to go beyond the more limited REDD+ discussions and include all land use in the emission reduction plans. The dual challenges of NAMA's not adding up to GAMA, and NAMA's not based on LAMA's, require a consistent approach to the fairness versus efficiency challenges encountered at both levels. We have the methods to engage in these debates and will need to rapidly recharge our batteries to be ready for the 2010 debates: climate change will not disappear from the global agenda until reasonable agreements for both types of challenges have been found.
The writer is chief science advisor of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), Bogor.
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