Forests and accounting are the big deal at Cancun

While there was never a great expectation for a legally binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the Cancun climate talks, there is hope that the talks will see progress in stopping deforestation, which was calamitously overlooked by the original Kyoto Protocol. The scheme to watch for is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), which will enable investment in forests to be incentivised through carbon credits.

However, in an arcane accounting negotiations process, it seems that there is a logging loophole being supported by all of the rich Annex 1 countries (including New Zealand) that would allow huge emissions from future deforestation to go uncounted.

The incentive would allow rich nations to ramp up logging without accounting for the greenhouse gases that result, in effect hiding emissions increases. It takes the form of a proposed revision of the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) rules under the Kyoto Protocol.

In fact, we stand to increase our emissions because of this loophole more than any other country.

“The crazy one is New Zealand,” Chris Henschel, policy manager at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, another group involved, told SolveClimate News.

New Zealand aims to slash emissions across its economy by 10 to 20 percent by 2020. But the LULUCF incentive would allow the logging giant to cut down more trees and keep the emissions rise off the books.

The result would be a 45 percent increase in New Zealand’s emissions, instead of a reduction, the analysis said.

Nearly every Annex I nation backs the loophole, though none would benefit as much as New Zealand.

Our brilliantly informed youth delegation representatives at Cancun have been very active on this issue, and clearly explain the position New Zealand is advocating to be able to cheat on emissions reductions:

New Zealand is also advocating a projected baseline approach to LULUCF. What this means is that countries will be able to predict what their forestry industry will look like in the next few years and then make their own predicted baseline. If they emit less than this, they will be eligible for credits. The problem here is that a country could inflate predictions of how much will be emitted, and therefore gain credits for doing nothing at all to reduce emissions.

It is irresponsible for the New Zealand Government to support accounting loopholes that undermine our policy and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially if it lets us cheat the most.

You can do something before talks finish this Saturday! Sign this petition today to tell NZ to stop supporting this potentially disastrous loophole.

1 Comment Posted

  1. The logic of the idea was presumably to encourage commercial use of the rainforests – assistance to use the wood AND replant enables economic growth and maintenance of the forest. That reduces local pressure to use the land for non forestry purpose.

    What is happening now is the measuring standard – the rainforests are declining and there is no decisive economic reason (yet) for this to change.

    The obvious resolution is not to allow first world nations – to account in the same way – and make this lax accounting method one for the rainforests of developing countries only.

    For first world nations – a method that is at least carbon emissions nuetral allows forestry continuance (and the continuing forestry enables pressure on rainforest supply to be reduced).

    A more general comment.

    New Zealand should support the Indian idea – that all large players in global production (developed and developing) contributing more than 1% of the greenhouse gases should report their actions (to reduce their emmissions/combat global warming) and the level of their emissions to the UN every 3 years.

    I would add a longer term reform in the way we look at the issue.

    Globalisation and new technology consumption is increasing emissions and the west meeting, or failing to meet, its 5% cut target is a sideshow to this.

    One significant issue that is too often overlooked is whether it is right to measure domestic production emissions rather than the emissions to provide for domestic consumption. With global production transferring to cheaper labour nations some western countries have and still are losing production offshore while claiming to be reducing local emissions. But their consumption demand may not be falling at all and the production offshore may be less emissions clean that their own had been earlier.

    New Zealand for example will have been increasing its methane emissions with the increase in dairy production – but the increased production is being exported. Should the producer or the consumer be meeting the “Kyoto cost” of this production?

    IMO what is required is a new agreement that is focused on best practice (energy efficiency/low emission wise) industry standards in production and it’s inefficiency here that needs to be penalised to create an incentive for improvement (wherever the production occurs). This is best done through a tariff regime on internationally traded goods based on their industry production rating.

    The money from the tariffs given back to developing world nations (based on how much tariffs they paid in – but the money only available to buy energy efficient/lower emission production technology). That should boost the business of cleaner tech development.

    The tariff money from developed nations used to provide poor/undeveloped nations with clean technology as part of development project assistance.

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