Climate change itself may be a feverish nightmare, but figuring out what countries' climate plans mean is an environmental economist's nerdy dream.
Since June, 10 new countries – Morocco, Ethiopia, Serbia, Iceland, China, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, and the Marshall Islands – have submitted their carbon-cutting intentions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (They join previously submitted plans from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Russia, and Gabon.) Determining whether these climate plans, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or "INDCs", will keep global temperatures from rising by no more than 2 degrees Celsius is the key task of this year's upcoming negotiations in Paris, France – and it's no easy math problem.
Even less straightforward is the role of forests and land use in the global carbon equation, but some of the latest INDC submissions shed light on countries' positions ahead of the Paris negotiations.
China's target to peak emissions by 2030 was expected given its previous deal with the United States, but the leading global emitter did throw in a couple of surprises, including a goal to "vigorously enhance afforestation" by 4.5 billion cubic meters by 2030. Forest and land use experts were at first perplexed by this number since China did not provide a hectare equivalent. But by early July the World Resources Institute crunched the conversion, estimating that China's forest goal would translate to between 50 and 100 million hectares of reforestation – creating a 1-gigatonne carbon sink.
Japan also set a concrete goal for land-use and forestry within their target, aiming to cut 37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2e) through the land-use sector. This contributes a 2.6% reduction within an overall goal of slashing emissions 26% under 2013 levels by 2030.
Across the Sea of Japan, South Korea unexpectedly bumped up its target to a 37% cut under business-as-usual. The country launched a cap-and-trade program this year with a forestry-inclusive offsetting mechanism but its INDC remains undecided on whether or not it will cover land-use sources and sinks.
Morocco became the second country, after Mexico, to set both a "conditional" and an "unconditional" target, saying it will reduce emissions 13% under a business-as-usual scenario by 2030 but could cut an extra 19% with support "on the order of USD 45 billion." The country set a goal of afforesting 50,000 hectares annually and advocates for an international carbon market.
New Zealand on the other hand became the first country to set an entirely conditional target, saying that its goal to cut emissions 30% under 2005 levels by 2030 is "provisional." The country won't commit until it knows it has "unrestricted access" to global carbon markets and "confirmation of the approaches to be taken in accounting for the land sector."
More news from the forest carbon markets is summarized below, so keep reading!
Calling all forest carbon developers
If your organization develops forest carbon projects for voluntary or compliance markets and has not yet responded to Ecosystem Marketplace's 2015 survey, we need your help! We're collecting data for two exciting new reports this year: Tracking Forest Carbon Finance in 2015 and Forests in the Anthropocene. The first is a new collaboration with Forest Trends' REDDX initiative to offer a comprehensive picture of forest carbon finance ahead of the Paris negotiations. The second is a deep dive into the "beyond carbon" benefits of forest carbon projects. We rely on your response to ensure that our data is truly representative. Access our survey here (http://survey.ecosystemmarketplace.com/survey2015/) and contact Allie Goldstein at email@example.com with any questions, or if you are interested in sponsoring our forest carbon work this year.