Adding to the many ‘unprecedented’ implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, we now know that 2020 will be the first year without a COP since they first began in 1995. In the 25 years since that first United Nations Climate Change Conference (which serves as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties: COP) took place in Berlin, the annual COPs have always been milestones for international action on climate change.
COPs have always acted as a metronome, dictating the pace and rhythm for climate action. Most climate change-related events have always been organised ‘in the run-up to COP’, as a way of creating momentum, or ‘taking stock of COP’, unpacking what was decided and preparing for implementation. Historically, we had more important COPs and less important COPs; depending on what was on the table and ultimately decided, we had really productive COPs and less productive COPs. We even had two COPs in a year once, but a year with no COP has never occurred in the past quarter-century.
This is even more significant considering that 2020 and COP26 were expected to be crucial milestones. They were meant to pave the way and finalise the work for the start of the first NDC commitments, which will become effective as of 1 January 2021. Even more crucially, COP26 will have some extremely important items on the table. Countries are expected to finally adopt implementing guidance for international market cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Countries are also expected to prepare and present new and more ambitious NDCs, which are meant to help close the ambition gap. With COP26 now likely postponed to November 2021, we will have to wait an extra 12 months to see those processes come to completion.
This obviously does not mean that the world can sit still for another year - we cannot afford that and action on climate change has to continue stronger than before. It’s encouraging to see countries already putting forward revised NDCs, many of which plan to leverage the power of international markets, and companies are continuing to announce more and more decarbonisation commitments.
We of course also plan to do our part! Our policy work is continuing stronger than ever and, with so many crucial policy files open in key jurisdictions and at the international level, the next few months will be decisive. Next to that, we are also adapting to the new (hopefully temporary) normal. We have recently launched a series of virtual events, replacing our usual roster of conferences and convenings, which we plan to expand as the year progresses.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to be part of this process!
Stefano De Clara
Director, International Policy
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The American Forest Foundation is a US conservation organization that protects and measurably increases the clean water, wildlife habitat, carbon storage and sustainable wood supplies that come from private and family-owned forests. The American Forest Foundation, with its partner The Nature Conservancy, has recently launched a new program, the Family Forest Carbon Program, that opens carbon markets for the first time at scale to small family-owned forest holdings. In the US, families and individuals own the largest portion of all forests – more than the Federal government or corporations. Owning smaller parcels of 20 to 1,000 acres, these owners have typically been unable to access carbon markets due to high upfront costs. The Family Forest Carbon Program takes a new approach – requiring forest owners to implement specific sustainable forestry practices that increase sequestration and storage of carbon, while also improving the health of the forest. To measure the carbon sequestered, the Program is using a newly developed methodology, being vetted by Verra. For companies, the Family Forest Carbon Program provides a method to offset emissions, improve the environment and support rural communities.
The American Forest Foundation’s expertise lies on the forest owner side – how to develop programs and approaches to working with private and family forest owners. We are interested in better understanding the needs and dynamics of the corporate side of carbon markets by plugging into the existing IETA conversations. As we scale up the Family Forest Carbon Program, it will produce a significant amount of carbon benefits, and understanding how to position them in various markets will be key to our success.
Vice President of Strategic Partnerships
American Forest Foundation