Rich Nations Accused over 'Logging Loophole' at Bonn Climate Talks

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The Guardian/UK

Rich Nations Accused over 'Logging Loophole' at Bonn Climate Talks

Bid by rich countries to change forestry rules would create accounting loopholes that would hide true emissions, developing nations say

by
John Vidal in Bonn

Tojo, Indonesia: A villager walks through a burnt forest. Forest management is key to climate talks because it is the biggest source of carbon credits and the biggest potential source of mitigation. (Photograph: Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters)

Rich countries led by Russia, Australia and the EU have been accused
of trying to cheat their way out of reducing their greenhouse gas
emissions by creating "dishonest" forestry accounting loopholes.

By
seeking to change the rules that govern the offsetting of emissions
from planting trees and ignoring those that are created by felling
them, these nations would give the impression that they were acting to
prevent climate change –
but a growing number of developing countries and environmental groups
say that in reality they would be undermining genuine cuts.

The
row surfaced at the resumption of the UN climate negotiations in
Bonn this week, but today became a major point of contention
between rich and poor nations. Diplomats from the G77, the Africa group
of countries, Pacific islands like Tuvalu and the coalition of
rainforest countries all demanded that the rich nations (so-called Annex
1 nations) make absolute reductions in emissions.

According
to the Climate
Action Network (CAN), a coalition of more than 500 environment and
development groups around the world, the revision of the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) rules
would falsely exaggerate emission reductions.

"It's a
disgraceful scandal. It would be disastrous for the climate," said Sean
Cadman, a spokesman for CAN. "This is a massive loophole. All rich
countries except Switzerland are now trying to avoid the consequences of
increasing the harvesting of forestry. They want LULUCF to drive
ambition [to reduce emissions] down. But it will increase the gap
between the cuts pledged and those that are needed."

CAN
and developing countries calculate that loopholes could account for
nearly 400m tonnes of CO2, or nearly 5% of the global total. Russia,
which wants to massively increase its forestry to pre-Soviet collapse
levels, stands to avoid making nearly 200m tonnes of cuts.

Yesterday
it emerged that Annex 1 countries will only adopt the high end of their
targets if they can get the emissions loopholes that they are seeking.

Russia
said that without new forestry accounting methods it would only be able
to cut overall emissions by 15%, as opposed to the 30% conditional
pledge it made at Copenhagen.

Forest management is seen as
key to the climate talks because it is the biggest source of carbon
credits and the biggest potential source of mitigation. Developing
countries fear that if the rich countries succeed in changing the LULUCF
baseline rules, there will be less international demand for carbon
credits, which would reduce their potential income from a climate deal.

"This
is fraudulent accounting," said Melanie Coath, climate change officer
at RSPB. "We are seeing a shocking race to the bottom. The forests of Europe could be an important
part of the solution to climate change. Instead we are seeing them being
used to undermine the integrity of a global climate deal."

Friends
of the Earth's international climate campaigner, Asad Rehman, said:
"When it comes to forests rich countries can't see the wood for the
trees - they're doing everything to get out of cutting their emissions
first and fastest and putting the climate negotiations in danger."

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