The Carbon Footprint of Products: a powerful tool to support existing market dynamics in favour of a low carbon economy

ENEA

The international political negotiation on climate change shows that a top-down approach is not the only way to effectively fight the anthropogenic climate change: also the market can substantially contribute. The existing mechanisms (ETS, CDM and JI) and the carbon tax have been able to generate a new economic value through the carbon price but it shall be considered only the first step towards this direction. Another important economic contribution is expected by the CFP, with its capacity to create new dynamics between producers and consumers.

A fair implementation is needed to fully exploit the CFP opportunity, to carefully take into consideration risks of any possible market distortion, in order to facilitate the creation of a low carbon path, both in developed and developing countries.

A specific interest is expected by the food sector, where the CFP may play a central role to facilitate the promotion of low-distance consumption, also known as “0 km supply”

La Carbon Footprint dei Prodotti (CFP): uno strumento potente a supporto delle dinamiche di mercato a favore di un’economia a bassa emissione di carbonio

Le trattative politiche internazionali sul cambiamento climatico mostrano come l’approccio calato dall’alto non sia l’unico modo per combattere efficacemente il cambiamento climatico antropogenico: anche il mercato può contribuire in maniera sostanziale. I meccanismi esistenti (ETS, CDM e JI) e la tassa sul carbonio hanno generato un nuovo valore economico mediante l’attribuzione di un prezzo al carbonio, ma sarà solo il primo passo in questa direzione. Un altro importante contributo economico è atteso dalla CFP per la sua capacità di creare nuove dinamiche tra produttori e consumatori.

Per valorizzare appieno l’opportunità offerta dalla CFP di tener conto di tutti i rischi di qualunque eventuale distorsione del mercato, al fine di facilitare la creazione di un percorso a bassa emissione di carbonio sia nei paesi industrializzati sia in quelli in via di sviluppo, è necessario che venga applicata correttamente.

Un interesse particolare è previsto nel settore alimentare, dove la CFP può avere un ruolo chiave per facilitare la promozione del consumo dei prodotti cosiddetti “a km zero”

Daniele Pernigotti

A top-down approach is not enough

Climate change seems to be a problem of eyesight defect.

On the one side scientists may be considered “far-sighted”, as they concentrate on what it will probably happen far from now, in the next decades or, more likely, at the end of the century. That will happen when it is virtually certain that nobody among who is writing or reading this article will have the opportunity to experience the correctness of any climate model projection.

On the other side, politicians are strongly affected by myopia, considering that they generally focus their attention on what it may happen during the few years of their mandate or, in the worst case, on the results of daily polls[1].

Out of focus in between, there is the destiny of billions of people, partially responsible of global warming with their behaviour as well as affected by the consequences of the ongoing changes.

In 2009, during the preparation of COP15, the former UNFCCC Executive Director, Mr. Yvo de Boer, repeated as a mantra that the solution for the climate crisis had to be found right there in Copenhagen because “there is not a Plan B”[2]. Nonetheless, the call for a deeper commitment of the Parties did not work and the plan A failed without excuses[3].

Today, the three-year track of the Durban Platform[4] (which was agreed last year) roughly reproduces the aim of the two-year Bali Road Map (2007) and it seems very similar to the kind of Plan B mentioned by Mr. Yvo de Boer.

The hope is to achieve plan B: that would be enough to stop the most dangerous consequences of climate change by maintaining the increase in temperatures below 2° C. Observing the negotiation process of the latest years, it is easier to find difficulties rather than a substantive will to move together towards a global, ambitious, effective and comprehensive international agreement[5].

In the meanwhile, CO2 emissions are continuously registering new records, year after year (30.6 billion of tons in 2010[6], 31.6 in 2011[7]) such as its concentration in the atmosphere, today close to the symbolic threshold of 400 ppm. The discussion about the Arctic Pole is now more oriented to who has the right and how to use its more easily achievable natural resources[8], rather than if the ice surface reduction should worry the planet. In the media, the extreme weather events are nowadays becoming almost a normal and accepted condition.

In this framework, there is no doubt that an international agreement is fundamental but not enough to solve climate change[9].

The market is already moving

It is not possible to apply an effective solution to climate change without a deep and extensive involvement of people in their double role of citizens and consumers. The first kind of involvement is necessary to create the fundamental bottom-up pressure needed to foster any government towards an ambitious global deal.

Consumers are equally important to facilitate the drastic change in the market dynamics in order to realize the revolution expected in the next years.

Something has already started to change in the last decade. The Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) operating from 2005 in the EU, together with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Joint Implementation (JI) under the UNFCCC umbrella, introduced the CO2 as a new economic value[10]. At the beginning of May, with almost unanimity, an ETS was approved also in South Korea[11]: in this way the country exceeded the tactical moment existing in Asia, where Japan and China are slowly moving forward on this topics, but avoiding to do the first step in order to control what has been done by the respective big economical competitors. The voluntary movement of China in this area is however interesting, taking into account that it is not part of the group of countries formally committed under the Kyoto Protocol (KP) with greenhouse gas (GHG) targets reduction. In fact, a pilot ETS should be implemented in six provinces of China by 2013 as well as at the national level by 2015[12]. According to Bryony Worthington and Terry Townshend,[13] the reasons why China is moving towards ETS are threefold: to maintain social cohesion through a sustainable growth; since command and control policies applied to date do not stimulate innovation nor encourage enterprises; and, finally, because after the 2011 Durban Conference, China knows that it is expected to take part in an international agreement to cut global emissions from 2020.

In Australia the situation is more complicated:[14] the attempt to introduce ETS was one of the main reasons which pushed Kevin Rudd to resign in favour of the party’s colleague Julia Gillard. She moved straight towards the ETS, despite the strong opposition of the important national lobby of the coal industry[15]. The aim is to introduce ETS after 3 or 5 years from the launch of the carbon tax[16]. The law has been approved in November 2011[17] and a new tax will be on place from July 2012 with a value of A$23 (almost €19) per ton of CO2. An ETS is already on place in New Zealand too, from July 2010[18].

The carbon tax has also been discussed for quite a long time in the EU. France renounced to its carbon tax when the project was already announced[19] because the government was worried that competitiveness might possibly sink[20]. Ireland introduced a carbon tax of 4c a litre in 2010[21]. Italy is ready to introduce a carbon tax of a not yet defined value, included between 4c and 24 c[22].

For many countries (i.e., Norway, Australia, New Zealand) the availability to commit for more ambitious targets in the UNFCCC context is subject to the availability of a market-based mechanism[23].

The Norwegian climate policy is based on the principle to put a price on emissions, through economy-wide measures. From 2013, about 80% of emissions in Norway will be covered by economic instruments (CO2 taxes or emissions trading).

The same applies to the Switzerland, which approved a legislation in December 2011, for the 2013–2020 period, setting several instruments, such as a CO2 levy on fuels used for energy and an ETS for large industries.

A new market-based mechanism has been agreed in the UNFCCC context, although modalities and procedures are yet to be elaborated and a decision is expected by the end of 2012.[24]

The existing and evolving ETS and carbon tax at the international level are confirming the prospect of a growing and extensive CO2 price, which gives extra value to the investments in energy efficiency and facilitates the introduction of low carbon technologies and solutions.

The actual development of the Carbon Footprint of Products

A further and powerful market mechanism is growing very fast with regard to products at the international level, acting on the important producer-consumer relationship.

The crucial importance of the Carbon Footprint of products (CFP) is found in the capacity to condense in a single number the GHG emissions arising from the entire life cycle of a product. Through this tool the producers may have a double set of advantages: internally, they achieve a detailed description of the amount of GHG emitted in the product life cycle, mainly linked to its energy content, besides knowing in which phases this happens. The “external” advantages are probably even more attractive, based on the possibility to use the CFP as the preferred way to communicate the product’s climate characteristics to clients.

This is exactly what consumers are increasingly looking for at the international level, with the awareness that their purchase choices have a central role in the market dynamics in order to address the transition to a low-carbon economy. The idea that, in the near future, there will be a great spread out of information about the CFP, also has a strong potential to increase the consumers’ awareness related to choices and behaviours in daily life.

In June 2012 more than 27.000 products have obtained the CFP Carbon Trust certification in 21 countries[25]. Different national schemes for CFP have been created in several countries, such as UK, Japan, Sweden, Korea and Thailand, and it is expected that several more will be developed in the next few years.

Also in Italy the situation on this topic is changing very quickly and the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Corrado Clini, is showing particular attention to the CFP as may be understood by the creation of a pilot project involving 22 different products of large use (Table 1). It is not excluded that the forthcoming months may lead to the creation of a National scheme of CFP.

All these examples of strong attention already achieved in so many countries may be explained only taking into account the combination of opportunities for producers and consumers and the consequent possibility to create new market dynamics among these actors. Nevertheless, a single international standard reference is still missing.

ENEA-tab1

An international standard by summer 2013

The first reference document on CFP has been the PAS 2050, published in 2008 by BSI, the British Standardization Institute. Technically speaking this is not a standard but a Public Available Specification. The difference between the two levels of documents is mainly related to the involvement of stakeholders in the development process and the time needed to complete and publish them. Both kinds of documents may introduce specifications and requirements and, probably for this reason, now everyone calls the PAS 2050 a CFP “standard”.

The choice to develop a PAS has been related to the awareness of an already existing market request for this kind of tool. Therefore, the “time” factor has been considered crucial for the success of the project and, as a matter of fact, the PAS 2050 has been produced only in one year. Carbon Trust – a private company created in 2001 by the UK government to foster low-carbon technologies and solutions – and DEFRA – the UK Environmental Agency – promoted the document. The revision published in 2011 has been sponsored by different actors, all part of the UK national departments: DECC (Department for Environment and Climate Change) and BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), together with DEFRA[26]. This is a clear evidence of the UK Government’s attention to the market opportunity for the CFP.

ENEA-tab2

Also in 2011 the PAS 2050 revision has been published and another CFP reference document has been issued by WRI (World Resources Institute) and WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development). The publishing of both documents has been delayed with regard to the original time schedule due to the focus that the two processes reserved to the ongoing decision on ISO 14067. The high level of attention to this standard is justified by the awareness that this will become the main standard reference, once published. However, the development path towards the ISO standard is not so easy. In the past there have been more stops to its mandatory development steps (WD, CD, DIS and FDIS), documented by the three revisions of the Working Draft and the three revisions of the Committee Draft. Nowadays, the balloting to move from DIS to FDIS failed with a 33% of negative vote against the maximum accepted threshold of 25% (Table 2)[27] forcing to a second DIS 2 stage.

A tool facilitating low-carbon economy rather than building up trade barriers

Why such an important and expected standard is finding all these difficulties in its development, being forced to repeat time after time the same development steps (WD and CD) and then failing the ballot from DIS to FDIS? Probably there exist some internal causes in ISO because this process has not always been managed in an effective way. However, the main reasons are related to the number and importance of different interests, rather than lobbies, acting around this topic. It is normal to expect that any powerful tool may generate big opportunities as well as big risks. There is no doubt that ISO 14067 will play a very powerful role in the international market and the level of pressure influencing the Standard’s text and its requirements becomes evident.

There are, for example, different expectations on ISO 14067 among fossil and palm oil companies, concrete and wood industries, or the view of the consumers and the industrial associations. Yet, probably one of the most crucial factors that will decide the future success of the Standard is its potential role in the market relation between developed and developing countries.

For a deeper understanding of this area of interest it might be useful to describe a couple of examples.

The first one is already 5 year old. In 2007 Tesco, the big UK retail company, decided to evaluate the CFP of a set of products. Among them, there were flowers produced in Kenya. The most important contribution of the CFP on these flowers was connected with the aircraft transportation. For this reason, Tesco decided to halve the amount of flowers supplied by Kenya. A broad discussion followed these decisions in the UK, due to another kind of considerations, such as the role of agriculture for a sustainable development path in Kenya[28] or technical considerations about the environmental impact evaluation during the cold season, when the flowers coming from the Netherlands have a CFP 5 times as bigger as the African one[29], due to the additional energy input for their cultivation in greenhouses.

Anyhow, the Kenya Flower Council called for a risk of creation of trade barriers[30].

Probably this situation forced the developing countries to ask and obtain the introduction of the requirement to report separately the aircraft emissions in the current version of the ISO 14067, despite the complete absence of technical reasons to treat this emission differently than the ones arising from sail and road transportation.

The other crucial example happened before the Oslo meeting in June 2011, when a decision had to be taken on the possible upgrade of the ISO 14067 CD2 to the DIS level.

In the official balloting before the meeting, Egypt voted to move the document from CD to DIS. After that, the India Foreign Minister wrote a letter to the Egyptian Foreign Minister to claim for the positive vote of the Mediterranean country. It is really unusual, almost surely the first time in the environmental sector, that such a high level politician takes part directly in an ISO technical process.

As a consequence, Egypt expressed a negative vote in the following ballot in June 2012 (to decide if moving the DIS to FDIS), although it is possible that additional causes contributed to this change of position. Informal confirmation of a broader lobby activity from India pushed other countries to decide for a negative vote. For example, Armenia expressed, with its negative vote, full support to the Indian position[31] and, on the “secondary data” item, India and other three countries expressed exactly the same comment. The large majority of negative votes from other countries were justified by the concern that ISO 14067 would have created a new kind of trade barrier (Table 3).

ENEA-tab3

To give an answer to this concern, in the same month, at the Bangkok meeting, a specific clause was been proposed (4. Application) in the ISO/DIS2 14067, improving the previous Oslo’s version[32] and specifying that the standard shall not be adopted or applied in a manner that results in barriers to trade that contradict WTO requirements, aiming at solving the developing countries’ opposition.

Carbon will play an important role in future markets

The CFP is, therefore, just in the middle between the risk to facilitate the creation of an unattended trade barrier and the strong need to use the market potentiality to build up the needed pressure from the bottom, in order to complement (or substitute, in the worst case) the necessary international top-down new political deals.

As a matter of fact, bottom-up and top-down approaches have a complementary role and the hurdle of politically achieving an international deal may force some countries to ask for the introduction of different kinds of market tools. In this respect, the choice of Mr. A. Montebourg, the France Minister of Industrial Renewal, to introduce a carbon tax on goods imported from outside Europe should be understood [33]. This was thought in order to balance the European situation with other developed countries, whereas the absence of any commitment on GHG reduction may generate a different structure of costs for goods’ production hence creating a clear market distortion.

The possibility to create trade barriers is therefore deeply connected with the existence of strong, comprehensive and effective international agreements.

Within this framework, the possible role of CFP as trade barrier should be considered more connected with external factors and political choices rather than with technical characteristics, such as requirements introduced in an ISO standard.

Global and local food

The CFP may play an important role in the food sector to facilitate the development of local markets as possible alternative of the globalization. This may generate large discussions on the implication of this case in terms of lack of economic opportunities, but it is fundamental to always keep in mind the dimension of the challenge that climate change is asking to face.

This implies that strong changes in consumer behaviours are not more deferrable. Just last year, on the occasion of the ISO meeting in Toronto to develop the ISO 14067, in a restaurant a maitre served me a bottle of water produced less than 100 km from my house in Italy. And this happened in a country that does not have any problem of water availability. H

ow is it possible to imagine 50% of global GHG reduction by 2050 (compared with 1990) without changing this kind of market pattern? This personal experience could be probably replicated for large part of the food sector, where the main contribution of foods and beverages to CFP may be due to their long transportation distances.

In order to reduce the importance of this kind of GHG global emissions and to promote local agriculture, several movements promoting the “0 km products” approach in the food sector were initiated in the last years . In this context, the CFP could play an important role to support with objectivity this evolution that started to be part of the market dynamics before the idea of CFP was launched.

ENEA-Biblio

A radical change from the globalization to the localization approaches may seem today unlikely considering the actual market dynamics. Reality is also expected to change radically in the next years to build up an effective answer to the anthropogenic global warming, and it is very likely that what today seems impossible in few years may become simply the reality.

Conclusion

The high level of attention paid to the development of the CFP standard ISO 14067 shows the important role this document will have at the international level when published. Some developing countries are worried that the new standard may create undesired trade barriers but this seems to be related more to the international political negotiation than to the content of a technical standard. The ISO 14067 development process has been largely delayed, as evidence of the large level of existing interests, but it does not seem possible it will fail considering that other CFP standards are already present in the market. The CFP will probably play a key role, particularly in the food sector, where it may objectively support the already existing dynamics in favour of the local agriculture production.

Per informazioni e contatti: infoEAI@enea.it

Daniele Pernigotti – Italian delegate to ISO/TC 207/SC7/WG2, National Coordinator of UNI WG on GHG

Annunci

The role of forest in the international negotiation process of UNFCCC

AAA-ENEAForests are crucial for climate change. The deforestation process is one of the main greenhouse gases emission sources in developing countries and it is also greatly important at the global level. New mechanisms to fight this process are under development and implementation at the national and international level. At the same time, the UNFCCC negotiation process seems to go through one of the main crises ever seen before. The real risk is that the Kyoto Protocol and maybe the entire UNFCCC process may collapse. In this context, forests may find a new role to move from one of the main causes of climate change to one of the most important potential solutions. In the view of the Rainforest Coalition, REDD+ could be the right key for this change

INTRODUCTION

The forest sector is one of the main causes of climate change and also one of the main driving forces towards the solution path.

Through photosynthesis the flora removes the carbon present in the atmosphere as CO2 and fixes it as organic carbon in its vegetal tissues. With crops this process takes a year cycle, consequently carbon may still be available as CO2 for the next cycle, after biomass is burned or used as energy in biological systems. A tree lives for several years and this implies that the atmospheric CO2 is fixed for a longer period, introducing the important aspect of carbon storage in the forest biomass.

The quantity of stored carbon is very important in the carbon cycle’s dynamics. The European forests are per se able to remove around 870 million t of CO2 annually, a quantity approximately correspondent to 10% of the GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in 2008[6].

With deforestation this capacity is lost and the result is an indirect increase of CO2 in the atmosphere: for this reason deforestation could be formally considered as a source of CO2.

FOREST IN THE UNFCC NEGOTIATION PROCESS

Not only may the forest cause a reduction in the net capacity to fix CO2, but also the whole change in land use (i.e., from forest to graze or from graze to agriculture) These situations are considered as LULUCF (Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestation) in the UNFCCC context, the United Nations negotiation process on climate change. At the global level the emission generated by LULUCF is almost 20%[1] of the global GHG emissions.

Therefore, it should not surprise to know that LULUCF played and is still playing a key role for an international climate treaty, but probably it is not as much known that it was very important for the first Kyoto Protocol process too.

The opposition of the USA to the Kyoto Protocol started before the negative vote of the Senate that blocked the ratification of the document. During the process of development of the Protocol, the USA negotiators clearly demonstrated their disagreement about the way it was decided to account the biomass carbon stock in developed countries, the so called Activity Based approach. The USA preferred the Land Based approach, asking all developed countries to consider their entire national area, in order to have a reliable description of the reality.

The Activity Based approach allows developed countries to decide which area to initially take into consideration during the definition of the baseline for LULUCF. The area under activities shall be monitored during the years in order to track any increase or decrease in stored amount of CO2. On the one side, this approach could be helpful in a first phase of implementation due to the lack of data that can make hard a complete account of all emissions and removals from the whole territory of the country.

On the other side, the risk is that each country applies a sort of selection on the areas where they may obtain benefits. As a consequence, when a country accounts areas where the forest has grown but it doesn’t consider where the situation has worsen it will describe a better situation than it actually is. The creation of a benefit in the total GHG amount of a country that does not correspond to the real situation is called “hot air”.

The decision to apply the Land Based or the Activity Based approach was very crucial during the development of the Kyoto Protocol but Kevin Conrad, the chief negotiator for the Papua New Guinea delegation in UNFCCC, believes this problem is not yet solved in the actual critical phase of the negotiation for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. In an interview of June 2010 he declares: “LULUCF is the biggest escape clause in the entire UNFCCC. It is a very serious issue. You can call it fraud or you can call it whatever you want, but the fact is that the rich countries are allowed to pick the area of forest they want to account and ignore the area of the forest where they are cutting trees. This has such significant impacts that Russia has said: “If you make me honest on the forest we have to cut our target from 30% reduction to 15%”, so they have to make a 50% change. We say they are cheating in the forest area. We, as developing countries, have to pledge to be far more honest than the rich countries. We agreed already on the international accounting, whereas the rich countries have not”[16].

MECHANISMS TO FIGHT DEFORESTATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

In developing countries the context is different because in their case the risk is not to hide the real situation in order to have a benefit in the reduction target as it is for developed countries. Here the problem is normally the high deforestation rate and the need to establish an economic tool able to stop or reverse the deforestation process. The financial support from developed countries is fundamental because it is not enough to spread out the idea that forests have an international value for climate change if this idea is not economically supported in order to help populations living in those areas in view of poverty eradication.

It is important to introduce a new and more effective system to financially support developing countries to preserve their forest.

In the past, often the financial support was directed to reforest areas previously interested by deforestation activities. As usual, working on the outcomes of a problem is not so effective as acting on its cause and this approach was not really able to reduce the international deforestation dynamics.

Therefore, a new approach was suggested in Bali during COP 13, the annual Conference of Parties in the UNFCCC. During this meeting, in 2007, it was decided to reduce the deforestation activities through a proactive approach. The basic idea is that forests have a worldwide value and that developed countries shall help developing countries to avoid any deforestation activity that may reduce the capacity of our “planet’s lungs”.

This mechanism is called REDD+ (Reduction Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)[5] and will be applied in developing countries. In Bali COP 13, Norway was very active and gave a big contribution to mould the REDD. In order to better show their intention and push the international context towards the creation of REDD+, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg launched the NICFI, Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative[8], during the UNFCCC Conference. Through this initiative, Norway offered 500 million dollars per year in bilateral agreements with some developing countries which have a very important coverage of forests like Mexico, Brazil, Guyana, Tanzania and Indonesia, through a multilateral cooperation with the UN-REDD Programme, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF), Forest Investment Programme (FIP), Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), as well as with scientific institutions and NGOs, such as ITTO REDDES and the Civil Society Support Fund[9].

This project turns out to be crucial in order to actively fight deforestation activities in developing countries and move the international negotiation context, although it doesn’t seem to be so effective at the moment.

This is also the thought of Carlos Ritti, Responsible for WWF Brazil of the Climate Change and Energy Programme: “Until now the international cooperation is still moving slowly because the system is still very bureaucratic and the Brazilian banks lost time to give their approval to the projects”[18].

STRONG DIFFICULTIES FOR THE UNFCCC

In June 2011, Norway hosted two important meetings in Oslo that confirmed the strong commitment of the Scandinavian country on the forest sector[17]. The first meeting was the European Ministerial Conference on Forests that achieved a very important result. In fact, during this meeting it was agreed to launch a negotiation process for the creation of a legally binding accord level and to adopt European target for 2020 in this sector[5]. The second one was an international meeting to update on the REDD+[10] progress.

Nevertheless, all these initiatives lose an important part of their effectiveness if they are not part of a larger international agreement and the only potential context for them at the moment is the UNFCCC. But times are not so healthy for the Convention and in the last few years it seems to have been rather a sick patient on the deathbed. In this situation the forest may play a very interesting role to assure a future to the Kyoto Protocol (KP)[7]. To better describe this potentiality it is, therefore, necessary to draw an overview of the negotiation process during the last five years.

The definition of the new reduction targets for developed countries in the second commitment period of the KP is a crucial item and it has been planned to start in 2006[11]. But during the COP 12 in Nairobi it was not possible to start any discussion on this matter, because positions of the parties were too distant. The only significant decision during COP 12 was to put the oxygen mask to the sick patient, postponing any decision on the KP at the next COP. In 2007, at the Conference in Bali, the situation started in the same way than in Nairobi, but at the end a decision arrived: to create a two-year period of specific negotiation, the Bali Road map. The two-year track should permit the definition of new reduction targets for developed countries, creating, at the same time, a new context, called LCA, where to define commitments also for developed countries that didn’t ratify the KP (USA) and some adequate actions for the main developing countries. Another positive output was, indeed, launching the idea of financing the fight against deforestation through the REDD and the NICFI of Norway.

In Autumn 2008 G.W. Bush, probably the main opponent to a new legally binding agreement, lost the elections, but the new President Barack Obama was not yet in charge in December during the COP14. The USA went to Poznan with a delegation that followed the old USA Presidency’s instructions and the real consequence was that a progress was not possible and another year was lost.

Later on, in 2009, the COP 15 took place in Copenhagen with very high expectations, if considering that it was the conclusion of the Bali Road Map[12]. The entire world was waiting for a new international agreement but the Conference was able to produce only an enormous failure[13]. The only positive thing was the attention that all the media and citizens paid to climate change and the attendance at the COP of almost the totality of Prime Ministers and Chiefs of State of the world. At same time, this was part of the reason why the Conference failed. In fact, all expectations were addressed to the actions of Prime Ministers but some of them started a parallel negotiation process and discussed the solution in very small groups, without taking into consideration all the work done in the past by the official delegations.

At the end, the mountain roared and brought forth a mouse in the Copenhagen Accord[14], somehow more an obstacle rather than an improvement for the negotiation work in the following years.

During 2010 not only the KP, but the entire process of UNFCCC could have, in some way, collapsed because it seemed unable to produce any effective results[15].

Probably this situation helped reach a partial agreement[2] in Cancun, during the COP 16, where a positive output arrived for technology transfer and financing, with some progress for the REDD+ too, but still nothing for the future of the KP.

The next step is the COP 17 in Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011, and it should be the final stop for the KP. The first commitment period expires in 2012 and if a decision for the second commitment period for the KP doesn’t come, our patient will not survive. The actual perspective seems not to be so positive for the strong opposition of Canada, Russia and Japan. What seems possible is that some Parties, probably the EU and maybe Australia, can offer some extra time to the KP. A new oxygen mask of two or three years to our patient, expecting some more positive changes in the USA, where now the Senate doesn’t show any intention to come to any kind of legally binding agreement, or the result of the V IPCC Assessment Report, where it is highly probable to find a strongest message of urgency.

A SOLUTION MAY COME FROM THE FOREST

The “extra time” option is not so attractive for developing countries interested in having a full agreement for the second commitment period of the KP, the only internationally legally binding document on climate change, and they are trying to find some other solutions to revitalize the KP.

In such context, space was given to the proposal of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations[3], a worldwide group of countries inside the UNFCC particularly interested in forests.

Federica Bietta, Deputy Director of the Coalition, thinks that their proposal may be the bridge between who is in and who is out of the KP. “In Mexico started Phase 1 of countries’ preparation for REDD+, now we are in the implementation phase, but it is with Phase 3 of full application that forest may play a strategic role for the future of KP. It is now important to move forward to the idea to have formal commitments only from developed countries, but there is no doubt that developing countries should be helped with financial support. Our idea is to introduce in the second period of KP the commitment to fight deforestation adopted at national level. In this way it is possible to obtain the double result to have more transparency in the developing countries commitment and more ambitious emission targets from the rich countries.

Actually we have several positive feedbacks and we are looking with optimism to the next COP in South Africa”[19].

Ms. Bietta does not meet the requests of the most problematic countries in the direction of this proposal, but it is possible to imagine that the emerging economies, as China, could in some way be worried that a big flow of money may move from the existing projects like CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) to the forest sector.

BUT DEFORESTATION IS STILL ON THE DAILY AGENDA

Whilst negotiations on this issue is frenetic and may open a new door for a successful future to the KP, some troubles are involving other emerging economies, like Brazil.

A new proposal of law, the Forest Code, has passed by the Low Chamber and it is now stopped before being voted by the Senate. A big movement of associations, including the 10 previous Environmental Ministers, is fighting in order to obtain the withdrawal or a strong modification of the law, because otherwise there is the serious risk that deforestation, after the minimum level achieved in 2010[4], starts growing again.

And what is on the table is something really critical to the planet. “The destruction of the Amazon forest could cause a strong consequence for the fight on climate change”, says Carlos Ritti, “with the risk to nullify the strongest commitment of developed countries”[18].

The option for President Dilma Roussef to use the veto power for this law is supported from 79% of the Brazilians, but everyone hopes that in the end she won’t have to use it, the law having been changed in advance.

At the end of 2011, it seems that forests are playing a crucial role in tackling climate change as they have never done before. The last months of the International Year of Forests will show if this will happen in a positive way, giving forests the role they deserve.