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A historical institutionalist view on merging LULUCF and REDD+ in a post-2020 climate agreement

Abstract

In the context of the UNFCCC negotiation process on a global climate agreement, policy makers are looking for approaches on how to significantly raise the mitigation ambition of all relevant sectors, including the land use sector. Aside of the formal negotiations some Parties to the UNFCCC have started an informal dialogue and discuss how to merge the fragmented accounting rules for mitigation relevant land use activities, in particular those concerning forest-sector emissions. Stressing that ‘history matters’, we use a historical institutionalist perspective to assess the institutional pathways of the different accounting rules for developed and developing countries, their mutual relationship, and in how far they are supportive or counterproductive for this endeavour. Our empirical analysis shows that Parties tend to use any modification phase in the negotiation process to water down already achieved agreements, and that negotiating modalities after targets have been agreed is not conducive either. In the efforts of specifying the Paris agreement, merging existing rules into a common accounting framework is likely to further compromise the exisiting weak rules and modalities, and potentially what negotiators consider as ‘environmental integrity’. With this, a formal negotiation of common rules for the accounting of the land use sector may yield an outcome below what has been achieved since the negotiations on a post-2020 agreement started in 2005. We conclude that politically acceptable approaches for the land use sector that also contribute to the overall objective of raising ambition should avoid reopening already agreed decisions on rules and modalities.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    LULUCF rules and modalities have been modified for the second commitment period.

  2. 2.

    REDD+ is the acronym for “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”.

  3. 3.

    Transparency, consistency over time, comparability (among countries and over time), comprehensiveness and accuracy.

  4. 4.

    Accounting rules determine what counts, i.e. measures and activities, a country can use to meet its responsibilities and commitments. Accounting is intricately linked to rules for measuring and reporting (MR); they specify eligible activities, how baselines are determined and how aspects as leakage or permanence should be addressed (Parker et al. 2014).

  5. 5.

    Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the USA (http://unfccc.int/parties_and_observers/parties/negotiating_groups/items/2714.php).

  6. 6.

    i.e. ‘capped’ at 15 % of the estimated sink in the year 1990, listed in Annex Z of the Bonn Agreement of 2001.

  7. 7.

    Emissions and removals are compared with a defined base year.

  8. 8.

    The amount of RMU is based on carbon stock changes during the CP (Macintosh 2012).

  9. 9.

    Accounted either as instantaneous oxidation or using decay functions.

  10. 10.

    Biotic (pests) and abiotic calamities (fire, storms).

  11. 11.

    FCCC/KP/CMP/2010/12/Add.1.

  12. 12.

    FCCC/KP/AWG/2011/INF.2.

  13. 13.

    The latter three being referred to as the ‘+’-activities Decision 1/CP.16 §70.

  14. 14.

    For instance, for “forest degradation” or “sustainable management of forests” and how these activities are to be distinguished from each other.

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Acknowledgments

This study is an outcome of the research project “Integration of REDD+ into a post-2020 climate agreement and linkages to the CBD”. This project is financially supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), with funds from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

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Correspondence to Till Pistorius.

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Pistorius, T., Reinecke, S. & Carrapatoso, A. A historical institutionalist view on merging LULUCF and REDD+ in a post-2020 climate agreement. Int Environ Agreements 17, 623–638 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-016-9330-0

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Keywords

  • UNFCCC
  • LULUCF
  • REDD+
  • Land use sector
  • Post-2020 climate agreement
  • Historical
  • Institutionalism