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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

International Forestry Issues in Climate Change Bills: Comparison of Provisions of S. 1733 and H.R. 2454

Deforestation releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide, about 17% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Legislation has been proposed for U.S. targets to reduce GHG emissions. The two primary bills, H.R. 2454 and S. 1733, include provisions that would reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; these activities are referred to as REDD. Both bills would use allowances to build capacity in developing countries and supplement U.S. emissions reductions; both would allow offsets for U.S. industries; and both contain a reserve to stabilize carbon prices.

The bills are generally similar on allowances for REDD activities, but significant differences exist. H.R. 2454 would rely on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for implementation; S. 1733 would use the U.S. Agency for International Development. H.R. 2454 contains eligibility criteria and implementation standards for the supplemental emissions reductions, and identifies the types of activities that could be funded. S. 1733 would rely on federal agencies to issue regulations for these details. H.R. 2454 also contains more details on monitoring and reporting.

The bills are similar on REDD offsets, although H.R. 2454 generally contains more details for implementation. Both would limit the quantity of international offsets—1 gigaton or billion metric tons (GtCO2) in H.R. 2454, and 0.5 GtCO2 in S. 1733—but would allow some additional international offsets if domestic offsets are insufficient. Both contain guidelines that require agreements with the developing country, and national baselines and strategic forest plans by the developing country. However, neither defines the types of REDD activities that qualify. Both would allow project level and state or regional level REDD offsets, and both would phase-out such offsets to encourage national level REDD offsets, but neither bill describes how the transition from project level or state level REDD offsets to national offsets is to proceed. Both bills also address the rights and needs of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities, requiring due regard to indigenous and local rights and directing consultations with and the participation of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities.

There are several concerns about REDD allowances in the bills. H.R. 2454 provides significant details for supplemental emissions reductions, but eligible forests are undefined and the criteria and standards might be insufficient for effective implementation. The bills contain no penalties or consequences for failures to achieve the anticipated reductions in carbon release or to measure and monitor the activities. Both bills would use allowances for building capacity (e.g., personnel and equipment) to measure, monitor, and enforce REDD activities in developing countries, but neither bill defines capacity-building activities that could be funded, nor allocates funds between capacity building and supplemental emissions reductions.

There are also concerns about REDD carbon offsets. There are issues for carbon offsets generally—their verification (measuring, monitoring, and reporting carbon sequestration), their additionality (activities not already occurring or required), their permanence, and leakage (merely shifting deforestation to other locations). These issues are exacerbated for REDD offsets, because many developing countries do not have the capacity to address these concerns. In addition, many are concerned that REDD offsets may inhibit developing countries from committing to GHG reductions and from evolving to low-carbon economies.

Date of Report: December 22, 2009
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R40990
Price: $29.95
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