Friends of the Earth Reports from Ghana

Friends of the Earth International at Accra

Friends of the Earth International team in Accra, Ghana

Kate Horner, International Climate and Energy Campaigner, reports from Accra, Ghana, where she is working actively to influence the next round of the United Nations Climate Change negotiations underway there. Read Kate's reports from the talks below, describing Friends of the Earth's collaboration with our international partners to push for a just and effective global climate deal.  If you would like to know more about last year's climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, which set up the framework for this meeting in Ghana, click here to read Elizabeth Bast's reports from those meetings.

Click to jump to specific entry: Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Monday | Wednesday

Climate Talks Begin Today in Ghana

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Flag of GhanaGovernment delegations and civil society organizations from around the world will gather today in Accra, Ghana, to continue discussions on the Bali Action Plan - a roadmap set forth at the UN climate negotiations in December 2007 to achieve a global climate deal by 2009. Friends of the Earth is at the negotiations to push for a climate deal that is both just and effective - an agreement that fights climate change and protects the rights and livelihoods of people around the world.

Of particular importance both for the climate and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities throughout the world will be negotiations on the mechanism to "Reduce Emissions for Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries." Efforts to address and ultimately halt deforestation have been underway across the world for decades but the new focus on deforestation as part of climate deal has invigorated many in the forest community and brought an entirely new constituency to the table.  Deforestation, which accounts for 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, will be crucial to an effective deal on climate change.  But forests are much more than carbon - forests are vital to 1.6 billion people dependent on the forests for their livelihood and they safeguard the world's biodiversity. 

In the lead up to the meeting, Friends of the Earth forest and climate campaigners from around the world gathered to discuss our strategy for how to address this significant and long-standing problem.  With colleagues from South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, we developed a strong proposal for how to move forward on forest policy. Similarly, many of our allies gathered here in Ghana to do the same.  We have a strong and growing force ready to take on this challenge.

Throughout the week, we will track the negotiations and meet with representatives from both significant rainforest nations as well as developed Northern countries that have emissions reductions responsibilities - stay tuned to hear more.

Related: Land Grab Threat at UN Climate Talks

Climate Talks Tackle Tough Questions of How to Fund Forest Protection

Friday, August 22, 2008

Today in Accra, government delegations are gathering for a full day workshop on "policies and positive incentive options" to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation. This sounds complicated, but it really is simply the next in a series of ongoing discussions of what can be done to reduce emissions from forest destruction in the context of an international climate agreement. There is much to be done on this front to reach an agreement that is just and effective.

Perhaps most contentious at this stage is how to generate funds to support efforts to reduce deforestation. Specifically, there is contention about whether 1) to establish a fund that would collect contributions from a combination of wealthy, Northern country governments and innovative tax schemes or 2) to develop a carbon market that would sell forest carbon "credits" from forested countries to wealthy, Northern countries. Brazil has asserted quite clearly that they do not support the use of a carbon market while other countries, like Papua New Guinea have voiced support for carbon markets.

Forest carbon markets would enable Northern countries, like the United States and Europe, to avoid the steep emissions reductions obligations needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Developing carbon markets for forests would allow relatively inexpensive carbon credits to flow into carbon trading systems that are supposed to encourage a shift to cleaner energy and production in Northern countries. But this means that polluting industries in the North will likely find it cheaper to purchase "credits" than clean up their acts.

For Southern, rainforested nations, the threat of climate change is immediate and significant but it must be viewed in the context of the multiple other crises facing developing countries simultaneously - namely the food crisis, AIDS, and unjust debt. So it seems that many developing countries governments hope to use the discussion on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation to push forward not only a climate mitigation agenda but the vision for sustainable development. However, it is quite clear that many indigenous peoples and local communities, not to mention whole country governments, will be deeply and negatively affected if carbon markets gain control over their forests. Further, carbon markets will do nothing to address the underlying drivers of deforestation. Yesterday’s Guardian highlighted this tension.

Our colleagues here from Cameroon, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Chile - to name a few - will be engaging their country delegations to discuss the challenges they face in addressing the underlying drivers of deforestation and will push forward some proposals for how to effectively address forest destruction. And campaigners from Northern countries will speak to their delegations about their responsibility to reduce emissions deeply in their home countries and provide new and significant financing for development based on their climate debt. Today in the workshop, we will begin to see what concrete proposals countries have for addressing deforestation. Stay tuned.

International Mechanism for Forest Protection Must Be Equitable

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Yesterday's full-day workshop on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) produced new and significant proposals, with many countries voicing strong opinions and options for how to implement mechanisms for forest protection. Many developing countries were particularly concerned about finding an equitable mechanism to generate funds for actions to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation – one that will generate revenue to help with forest protection without undermining global emissions reductions.

The representative for Tuvalu, citing strong opposition to funds generated from carbon markets that allow wealthy, Northern countries to offset their emissions, instead proposed a tax on international aviation and maritime transportation to finance REDD activities. Tuvalu also pointed to the significant funds that could be generated for forest mitigation activities by allocating a portion of the revenue from the auction of emissions allowances.

Brazil reiterated the need for any emissions reductions resulting from a REDD mechanism to be completely additional to obligations from wealthy, Northern countries to reduce their emissions – that is to say that forest emissions reductions activities in the South cannot be used to offset continued pollution in the North.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) continued their vociferous support for a carbon market based approach – literally opening the presentation with calls of 'Show me the Money!' It even appears that PNG does not care much for the real, desperate need to stabilize the climate. When fellow negotiators commented that allowing REDD credits to offset Northern countries' emissions results in net zero emissions reductions, PNG responded by saying 'zero sum is a hell of a lot better than where we are now.' Clearly, this business as usual approach is insufficient for the deep emissions reductions needed around the world to avoid climate chaos.

As negotiations continue, we will closely monitor the discussion of carbon offsets. In particular, the question of whether selling carbon credits for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation to undermine Northern targets will be a major issue as discussions move forward for a global climate deal in 2009.

Wealthy Countries Must Accept Responsibility for Climate Change

Monday, August 25, 2008

Discussions specifically on forests and climate change have concluded for this session of UN climate negotiations in Ghana. But heated debates between developing and developed countries continue over global warming pollution reduction goals and the delivery of technology and finance to enable developing countries to support such greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

As a group, developing countries (also known as the G77 and China) have continuously stressed the distinction between 1) obligations of wealthy, industrialized countries to immediately make deep cuts in emissions because of their historical responsibility for climate change and their greater capacity to act, and 2) nationally appropriate actions by developing countries, as opposed to obligations, to reduce emissions on the condition that industrialized countries provide new and additional technology and finance.

Meanwhile, Northern (industrialized) countries are attempting to sidestep their responsibility and instead force a split among developing countries, pushing some developing countries to take on obligatory emissions reductions. In fact, Australia, on behalf of a group of industrialized countries that includes the US, appears to want to review the foundational principle of common but differentiated responsibility, which underpins the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and provides the structure for the climate talks in Ghana. The principle of common but differentiated responsibility is based on differing historical responsibilities among countries for climate change, and differing abilities to address climate change. Rich, developed countries have a legal and moral obligation to make deep emissions cuts; developing countries do not. Australia, the US, and others are attempting to assert otherwise. Their alternate interpretation of the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities within the UNFCCC will have significant consequences for both emissions reductions actions and the transfer of technology and finance, and may turn into a make-or-break issue for the negotiations.

Additionally, the G77 proposed the establishment of a new financial mechanism for wealthy, Northern countries to meet their obligations to provide financial resources to developing countries to "ensure the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention." A new global deal on climate change could fundamentally reorder the world economy – and the G77 has made substantial strides in proposing a mechanism that will benefit both developing and industrialized countries, after decades of unjust exploitation.

Campaigners in the global South - who daily push for sustainable development while simultaneously fighting multiple crises of AIDS, water, poverty and debt – consistently state that a global climate deal must not only deliver on emissions reductions. It must also fundamentally transform the unjust systems of economic exploitation and unsustainable consumption that have rained this climate tragedy upon us. Anything less simply won't cut it.

Ghana Talks Draw to a Close, Looking Ahead to Poland

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The United Nations climate talks here in Accra are drawing to a close today. Everyone has their sights set on laying the foundation for more substantive negotiating at the next set of talks in Poznan, Poland this December.

The discussions on 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries' show continued support for the inclusion of forests in carbon markets, but governments are now seeing strong push-back from civil society groups on this issue. We are also beginning to see understanding by some government delegations about the alarming and potentially irreversible consequences of including forests in carbon markets.

Discouragingly, there appears to be a major push toward financing plantations, which store at best 20% of the carbon and a fraction of the biodiversity of forests, instead of halting deforestation. Allowing plantations and, more alarmingly, genetically engineered trees into a forest market mechanism would be disastrous for the world’s last remaining forests and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Further, it has been very worrying to see these negotiations have sped along in a dangerous direction without any genuine participation from those communities most directly affected if their forests are put into carbon markets. Affected communities want their land rights respected and do not want their forests sold to allow rich countries to continue polluting as usual.

At today's wrap-up session, we will hear from the Chair of the UN climate body about the process for agreeing on negotiating text for the climate talks in Poland. Parties will submit their views on many of the substantive issues raised during discussions here on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation by communities to climate change impacts, technology to combat global warming, and financing for all of the above. We hope to see substantive proposals on the provision of new and extensive financial transfers to support emissions reductions in developing countries.