Meena Menon, Mumbai, India – The Hindu
While REDD plus has been hogging the limelight, a significant agreement which is in the throes of negotiation – land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) – has been sidelined. The ad hoc working group on further commitments for Annexe 1 parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) is discussing changes in the accounting rules for the second commitment period of the Protocol, and it may need massive overhauling. Peg Putt, ex-member of Parliament, Tasmania was quite forceful in her pointed analysis of the need for a comprehensive accounting system and not excluding harvest wood in that system.
The five year commitment period was unsuitable. The LULUCF rules were controversial, and environmental NGOs were very concerned. If forests were to be managed sustainably, the rules which have been recognised to be inadequate need to be revamped. Under the current rules, countries have chosen to highlight their successes and hide their failures. Logging is termed a forest management, she pointed out. The rules have to be transparent. “We need to be transparent and incentivise emissions. We need a land-based accounting approach and not an activities-based accounting approach. If natural forests are cut down for plantations as in Tasmania it must be reflected as such. Now this large scale transformation of forests is not accounted for by Australia,” she said.
Emissions and carbon sequestration were important in a climate world. Besides the rules, we must take into account biodiversity protection and rights of indigenous people. Also, the reference level approach allows countries to decide their own baseline, which is meaningless, especially when we are setting targets.
In the fourth assessment report, the IPCC has said that a sustainable forest management strategy would sustain the largest mitigation effort for climate change, and in this context, Lisa Martin from Australia said the current rules are far from achieving that end. A decision on this issue at Cancun could give certainty to the forest products industry. In addition, the rules should take into account natural disturbances. Forest fires in Australia caused 8.5 million tones of carbon to be emitted.
Giacomo Grassi from the EU says that right now there is no real incentive for saving forests and no real punishment. Harvested wood is not taken into account for emissions, and doing so would send an important signal that Annexe 1 countries are sincere. “The perfect solution doesn’t exist, but we shouldn’t lose the wood for the trees,” he quipped. LULUCF should not be the obstacle in the climate negotiations and should instead be used to sustain forests.