The climate agreement reached Saturday in Paris is a triple win: good for the climate, for development, and for forests.
CGD Policy Blogs
Québec does it with California. Mexico wants to do it with California too, while California wants to do it with a Brazilian state. European countries have been doing it with each other for years, and China's started doing it with itself. And while some find it icky, the future of our species depends on it happening. It, of course, is carbon trading.
Next week, nations gather in Paris for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) with the goal of establishing a global plan to address climate change. That includes coming to agreements about how to both reduce and adapt to climate change, how to finance those measures, and how to share accountability. That’s a pretty big goal, but my guest this week on the CGD podcast, CGD senior fellow Frances Seymour, is cautiously optimistic.
California is looking to tropical forests to help slow climate change. After years of delays, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) appears to finally be moving ahead with plans to finance tropical forest protection through “sectoral offsets” to its cap-and-trade program, in which California companies could meet part of their climate obligations by buying offset credits from states in developing countries that reduce emissions from deforestation.
When Indonesian President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) meets with President Obama on October 26, climate change will certainly be on the agenda, with the Paris 2015 summit only a month away. Obama should use the opportunity to praise and offer support for the steps Jokowi announced earlier today to address the underlying causes of fires currently consuming vast areas of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. In particular, Obama should hail Jokowi’s plans to end the opening of peatlands for cultivation and to promote community-based restoration of those already disturbed. Neither head of state should allow his vision to be clouded by spurious claims that proposed solutions will hurt small farmers or infringe on Indonesia’s national sovereignty.
If you want a simple explanation of why climate change is a development issue, Juliana Santiago can provide it. The head of the Amazon Fund department at Brazil’s national development bank BNDES tells me “we identified that our economy was dependent on the maintenance of the forest,” and that, with 29m people living in the Amazon, many in poverty, getting rural landowners to “understand that deforestation might be a threat to their business was part of this engagement in protecting the forest and thinking about sustainable development.”
Unless the world acts to reduce deforestation, an area the size of India will be cleared by 2050. That is the stark finding of a new CGD paper by Jonah Busch and Jens Engleman. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by that level of destruction is equivalent to “running 44,000 American coal-fired power plants for a year,” says Busch in this CGD Podcast.
An area of tropical forest the size of India will be deforested in the next 35 years, burning through more than one-sixth of the remaining carbon that can be emitted if global warming is to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius (the “planetary carbon budget”), but many of these emissions could be cheaply avoided by putting a price on carbon.
The story of climate change and development can be told in three simple pie charts: Developing countries are hurt most by climate change (chart #1). Historically, developed countries were most responsible for climate change (chart #2). But now, developing countries are most responsible for climate change (chart #3). That shift may be what leads to a successful climate agreement this December in Paris.
In 1989, I was asked to give the “Earth Day” sermon at the Jakarta Community Church. While there are more than 25 years and an infinite distance between Frances’ sermon and Francis’ encyclical, I was curious to see what the Pope would do with a similar assignment.