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Brazil first to voluntarily submit key forest data to UNFCCC

Brazil first to voluntarily submit key forest data to UNFCCC

By Michelle Kovacevic
At a glance :
  • Brazil has submitted a forest reference emissions level for the Amazon biome to the UNFCCC for expert assessment.
  • Even for countries that don’t currently have the capacity to undertake complex FRELs calculations, they could follow Brazil’s lead and apply a stepwise approach to measuring emissions using available information and improving measurements as they build capacity.
  • Brazil aims to calculate national level FRELs, focusing on the Cerrado savanna and  land degradation in future submissions.

BONN, Germany (6 June, 2014)_Brazil has become the first country to submit a forest reference emissions level (FREL) to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change – an important step in implementation of a scheme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+)

The submission is focused on the Amazon biome, where Brazil has been collecting rigorous forest cover change data since 1988. Future submissions will address the Cerrado savanna, land degradation and eventually national-level calculations, said Thelma Krug from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) under Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Tackling deforestation has been “urgent” for the past eight years, Krug said. “We thought that it would be important to say… ‘though it’s not perfect, it’s as good as we can do now.’ We can start, any country can start.”

Source: FCCC/SBSTA/2013/L.33/Add.1 ¬¬¬

Source: FCCC/SBSTA/2013/L.33/Add.1

“Simplicity is the soul of REDD+, It doesn’t mean lack of quality, it means any country can initiate this work and build up [their capacity to report],” she said.

Brazil’s submission gives other countries an example to follow, said Louis Verchot, climate scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“Even for countries that don’t currently have the capacity to undertake complex FRELs calculations, they could follow Brazil’s lead and apply a stepwise approach to measuring emissions using available information and improving measurements as they build capacity,” he said.

After seven years of negotiations, last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw saw governments agree on a package of seven decisions which make up “The Warsaw Framework for REDD+”). To receive results-based payments for emissions reductions, the decision on reference emissions levels (i.e. the amount of carbon that would have been emitted in the absence of any intervention) stipulates that countries need to:

  • Submit emissions update reports to the UNFCCC every two years.
  • Submit a technical annex on the methodologies used to calculate the reference (emission) level and emissions for the reporting period
  • Have their report reviewed by a technical team of experts, including a developed and developing country expert from the UNFCCC roster who will assess it for transparency, consistency, completeness and accurateness.
  • Work with the review team to clarify issues and provide additional information

Encouraged by the adoption of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ in November, Brazil formed a technical group of scientists from universities, research institutes and government to calculate a reference emissions level for Brazilian Amazonia.

Brazil is considered one of the global leaders in climate change mitigation efforts, with its deforestation rate dropping by 70% over the past decade (representing 3.2 billion tonnes of C02 kept out of the atmosphere). 

According to a review by Daniel Nepstad and colleagues published in Science today, declining deforestation is thanks to a mixture of interventions including strong law enforcement, interventions in soy and beef supply chains, restrictions on access to credit, and expansion of protected areas and decreased demand for new deforestation.

Fig 2: The sharp drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon forest since 2004 is due to a mixture of interventions. Nepstad et al., 2014

Fig 2: The sharp drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon forest since 2004 is due to a mixture of interventions. Nepstad et al., 2014

With data collection on forest cover change in the Brazilian Amazonia starting in 1988, Brazil has strong baseline information to draw on for its current submission. However, for activities that would be required for national-level calculations (such as forest degradation), the data is not as rigorous, Krug said.

“We don’t have a long-standing timeseries for degradation in Brazil but we do have data that indicates that reducing emissions from deforestation is not leading to an increase in degradation,” said Krug who is also a co-chair of IPCC’s Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.  

“This did not refrain us from submitting and telling our story. We thought that it would be more important to say, ‘we can start, any country can start.’ We are seeking to improve continuously.”

Accepting the key data from Brazilian Head of Delegation, Minister Raphael Azeredo at a launch event at the current Bonn intercessional, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), commended the leadership of Brazil for this step forward.

“This is a further signal of countries’ commitments to address the drivers of climate change at the domestic level ahead of the new universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015, which must be consistent with domestic possibilities and globally responsible,” she said.

Editor’s note 15/6: For those interested in the numbers, Brazil’s FREL submission has now been posted here: http://www.mma.gov.br/redd/index.php/nivel-referencia

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