Rich countries 'set bar low' on cutting land use emissions

James Phillips

New report claims developing nations offer model approach to reducing emissions from the agriculture and forestry sectors

Some of the world's poorest nations are providing the strongest and most detailed commitments to slash emissions from land use, a new report claims, while richer countries are lagging behind with vague or even non-existent proposals.

A new report by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) yesterday examined the emissions reduction pledges, known as INDCs that China, Canada, Morocco and Ethiopia have submitted ahead of December's pivotal Climate Summit in Paris.

Research focused on countries' transparency, ambition, accounting standards and proposed actions related to agriculture, forest and other land use (AFOLU) sector emissions.

The finding echoes the conclusion of the group's previous report, which analysed seven INDCs submitted in March and also argued that developing nations had stronger and more detailed commitments to cutting AFOLU emissions than developed nations.

The group argues that while China details plans to increase its forest areas and reduce nitrous oxide emissions from its agricultural sector, it fails to outline whether this was existing policy or is a new initiative, thereby neglecting to identify whether the commitment represented a shift to the status quo.

Meanwhile, Canada's INDC omits naturally occurring emissions, such as the destruction of forests through fire or disease, from its calculation of AFOLU emissions, despite most of its forest-related emissions resulting from such issues, the research states.

On the other hand, UCS commended Ethiopia's pledge to improve its forest and agricultural management policies, particularly considering land use makes up 88 per cent of the nation's GHG emissions. However, the paper does express concern that the country may not be able to achieve much of its target without international financial support.

Additionally, the union states that Morocco's INDC was the strongest, with comprehensive commitments to modernise its agricultural sector and increase forest areas, in its bid to reduce all-sector emissions by 13 per cent by 2030. Furthermore, the commitment could be raised to 31 per cent, dependant on international funds being made available.

Doug Boucher, director of UCS' tropical forest and climate initiative, called on countries to make detailed pledges to reduce their AFOLU emissions, stating that it was important to ensure the global temperature does not increase by more than 2C -  a target that countries have agreed to prevent catastrophic climate change.

"With land use sector emissions responsible for one-fourth of total global emissions, it's essential that countries strive to realise their full potential to reduce carbon emissions in this area," he said in a statement.

"Their INDCs must also explicitly define their goals and establish a clear framework to implement their plan, monitor its progress and achieve its aims. Otherwise it won't be possible to reduce global emissions sufficiently to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2C."

However, with just 21 INDCs submitted, representing 48 sovereign nations, at the time of the report being commissioned in July, just 11 per cent of global AFOLU emissions were covered.

The INDCs of Brazil, Indonesia, India, and Nigeria, which represent almost half of the world's AFOLU emissions, are yet to be submitted and could include pledges to significantly reduce emissions from across all sectors.

The UCS states that it will continue to release analyses of countries as they are submitted over the next few months, before the major conference kicks off at the end of November.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC

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