On 26 June 2009, the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Energy and Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, visited London Zoo to launch “The Road to Copenhagen“, a report outlining the UK’s vision of the climate deal to be agreed in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The report claims to be setting “ambitious” goals: “The UK believes that the over-riding goal of the Copenhagen agreement is to limit climate change to an increase in global average temperature of 2°C. This means the deal needs to establish a credible trajectory for reducing global emissions by at least 50% on 1990 levels by 2050.” But as George Monbiot points out in The Guardian, “a global cut of 50% offers only a faint-to-non-existent chance of meeting their ultimate objective: preventing more than two degrees of warming.” The 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that to have a high chance of limiting climate change to 2°C requires global cuts of 85% by 2050.
In addition to the weak targets, the report recommends “using the carbon market to support emissions reductions”. This includes trading the carbon stored in forests. In his speech launching the report, Gordon Brown said,
I believe there is a particular need for innovation in forestry. In time, as the Eliasch report I commissioned last year showed, forestry credits can and I believe should be brought into the carbon market, under appropriate conditions of monitoring, control and governance.
But in the meantime we cannot afford to delay in providing public finance, or deforestation will simply have proceeded too far. So we are working with both donor and rainforest country partners to see whether a mechanism such as forest-backed bonds could be established to bring significant early finance into sustainable forest management.
This sounds remarkably similar to the “emergency package” proposed by The Princes Rainforest Trust.
Three days after Brown suggested bringing forestry credits into the carbon market, the UK Environmental Audit Committee, produced a report titled “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation: No hope without forests“, which recommends keeping forests out of the carbon markets:
At this stage we believe that forest credits should not be permitted in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The Government must look at alternative sources of funding, including the hypothecation of EU ETS revenues. A forest payment mechanism will fail to protect rainforests, and hasten the global extinction crisis, unless effective safeguards exist to prevent primary forests from being converted to plantations. Protection of biodiversity and local communities should be a precondition of a country being eligible for forest payments; robust environmental safeguards need to be built into any international agreement on deforestation.
The UK’s plans for forestry and climate are outlined in a five-page section (pages 51-55) of the “Road to Copenhagen” report. REDD-Monitor received an anonymous critique on the forestry section of the report. The critique (available here) makes the following comments about the UK government’s proposals:
- proposed approaches to “financing forestry” rest squarely on the inclusion of REDD in carbon markets, without any analysis of the risks involved in trading forest offsets;
- estimates of the cost of REDD are based the Eliasch Review’s figures, which assumes global carbon trading. The focus is on the mechanism for raising funds, rather than an analysis of how much is actually needed to undertake necessary activities (policies, measures, etc);
- “sustainable forest management” is referred to uncritically, without defining what this term means and without discussing the impact of logging on the carbon stored in forests;
- rather than addressing the drivers of deforestation by suggesting that demand be reduced (as recommended by the UK Environmental Audit Committee), the report recommends increasing the demand for “sustainable” timber;
- communities appear to be an afterthought. While the report states that the concerns of indigenous peoples and local communities should be taken into account, there is no mention of their rights.
The critique concludes with the following comment:
The UK’s Road to Copenhagen lays out some important markers about the obstacles that remain to getting REDD right. Now the challenge will be to chart a course that addresses those obstacles head on and does not simply circumvent them on a fast track to the carbon market.