As they meet in Poland for the next steps, nations are struggling to agree on how the ambitions of the Paris Agreement can be realised



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The Spodek complex in Katowice, Poland, will host this year’s UN climate summit.
Shutterstock.com

Edward Morgan, Griffith University; Brendan Mackey, Griffith University, and Johanna Nalau, Griffith University

International leaders and policymakers gathering in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th annual round of UN climate talks know that they have plenty of work to do.

They are hoping to make progress on the Paris Agreement Work Programme, otherwise known as the Paris Rulebook – the guidelines needed to guide implementation of the Paris Agreement. That agreement was struck three years ago, but it is still not clear how the treaty’s goals to curb global warming will actually be achieved.

The Paris Agreement was a diplomatic landmark, under which nations pledged to hold global temperature rises to “well below 2℃”, and ideally to no more than 1.5℃.

This requires all countries not only to slash global greenhouse emissions, but also to help the world adapt to the impacts of climate change. The agreement requires countries to develop national climate plans, to report back on their progress, and to ramp up their efforts in the coming years.

The ‘what’ and the ‘how’

Whereas the Paris Agreement talks about what needs to be done, the Paris Rulebook to be agreed at Katowice is about how nations can set about achieving it. Unlike the previous, more prescriptive Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement allows countries to choose their own approach to climate change. But it is important that actions taken by countries are done within an agreed, transparent framework of rules.

Rules need to be agreed about nations’ emissions targets, climate finance (including climate aid for developing countries), transparency, capacity building and carbon trading. Bringing all of this together is a huge challenge for negotiators. They need to establish a common set of rules applicable to all countries, while also maintaining the crucial principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” that underpins the UN climate process.

Already lagging behind

As well as being difficult, the task is also urgent. There is already evidence that countries are struggling to live up to their Paris commitments.

Analysis of the current emissions targets (known as Nationally Determined Contributions) shows that countries need to do more to reach the 2℃ goal. Meeting the 1.5℃ goal will be harder still and will need ambitious and swift action, as recently highlighted by a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Although much of the focus has been on the challenge of bringing emissions targets into line with the Paris goals, our research suggests that climate adaptation efforts are also lagging behind.

Climate adaptation involves managing climate-related risks and deciding on how to manage and prepare for unavoidable impacts, such as increases in intensity and frequency of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and extreme storms, along with slow-onset impacts from sea level rise.

Many countries have developed climate adaptation policies as part of their climate change response. Our recent research analysed 54 of these national adaptation plans to understand how they match up to the intent of the Paris Agreement (as outlined in Article 7 of the Agreement).

We found that most adaptation plans only partially align with the Paris Agreement. Plans were largely focused on the social and economic aspects of adaptation, and were broadly aligned to countries’ existing policy priorities, especially around disaster management and economic development. For developing countries, there was a strong focus on linking adaptation and development.

However, countries are struggling to include environmental considerations into their planning. While the Paris Agreement clearly emphasises the important role that ecosystems play for climate adaptation, most plans are silent on this point.

What’s more, developed countries tended to take a less participatory approach to adaptation planning. Planning in developing countries was hampered by limited access to scientific knowledge but they made more use of local and traditional knowledge. The issue of resourcing and support for developing countries remains a challenge for climate change adaptation.

More work needed

Our results suggest that countries need to build on their existing adaptation plans to meet the ambitions in the Paris Agreement. There are good opportunities to better balance social and economic aspects with environmental and ecological considerations to improve planning.

Many countries, including Australia, have ratified the Paris Agreement, but few are delivering the ambitious action it requires. Besides pursuing deeper cuts to greenhouse emissions, countries need to revisit and update their adaptation strategies. Australia is well positioned to do so, given its economic wealth, its technical abilities, and the extensive climate adaptation research it has already undertaken.

Increasingly, we know what needs to be done to combat climate change. The Katowice summit will hopefully advance an agreement on how countries can do it. But actually doing it on a globally coordinated scale will be the biggest challenge, and there is some way to go to catch up.The Conversation

Edward Morgan, Research Fellow in Environmental Policy and Planning, Griffith University; Brendan Mackey, Director of the Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University, and Johanna Nalau, Research Fellow, Climate Adaptation, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Europe’s oldest forest is threatened by a beetle infestation – let nature take its course


Lucinda Kirkpatrick, University of Stirling

Białowieza Forest is the kind of place you imagine from the Grimm fairy tales. Huge firs, oaks and ashes tower over you, woodpeckers and other birds call all around you and the guides who work there know the intimate history, and names, of many individual trees.

For anyone, it is a magical place – and, as a forest ecologist, visiting it was a dream come true. However, the features that make it so unique may be under threat thanks to new plans for large-scale logging.

Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, Białowieza is the last remainder of the vast primeval forest that once covered most of Europe. It is a hotbed of biodiversity, home to nearly 20,000 plant and animal species including wolves, lynx and the largest remaining population of European bison. Rare birds, including several woodpecker species, provide a glimpse of the bird life that used to exist in European forests before humans transformed the continent.

The forest is home to around 800 bison.
Francesco Carrani, CC BY

Unfortunately, on the Polish side of the border, only one third of Białowieza Forest is protected. Outside of this area as much as 35% has been earmarked for felling and the fear is that this will result in an increasingly isolated small “island” of protected forest surrounded by fragmented and poorer quality woodland, which has already been shown to support lower bird populations than the protected park area.

Felling around Białowieza has been controlled in the past; quotas were set in 2012 to limit how much wood could be removed. However by 2015, 90% of that quota had already been logged – and the new proposals will triple the permitted volume of logging.

The proposal for further logging is controversial. Poland’s state forest department, Lasy Panstwowe, views the felling as necessary to combat outbreaks of spruce bark beetle, the larvae of which burrow under the bark of living spruce trees to lay its eggs. The developing larvae feed on inner woody layers and can eventually kill the tree.

Spruce bark beetles were here…and it didn’t end well for the tree.
Tõnu Pani, CC BY-SA

However, both local scientists and NGOs, such as Greenpeace Polska, argue that removing damaged trees will cause more harm than good and that further logging is driven by economic rather than management interests. Professor Tomasz Wesołowski, who has studied Białowieza’s birds for more than 30 years, told me it would be a disaster, as logging and replanting would completely change the quality of the forest habitat and threaten its UNESCO heritage site status. There is even a suggestion that this violates Poland’s environmental commitments under the EU’s Natura 2000 program.

The newly proposed logging areas cover 20% of the old-growth forest, as well as areas overgrown by endangered bog woodland habitat. Mass logging would dramatically alter the character of both the areas in question and the surrounding habitat – even more than the bark beetles.

In fact, across the world this form of “salvage logging” to recover economic value from damaged forests often causes more damage to ecosystems than the initial natural disturbance. After a bark beetle invasion hit Sumava National Park, that stretches across the border between Bavaria and the Czech Republic, evidence showed that salvage logging delayed forest recovery.

There’s life in dead wood

The proposed increased logging in Białowieza includes removing quantities of dead wood, yet this dead wood plays an important role in the functioning of a healthy forest. Forests are often built from the bottom up, with dead wood as the foundation.

While aesthetically they may not be that pleasing for us, dead trees are a vital habitat for saproxylic insects which feed on dead and decaying matter. Białowieza supports large populations of endangered saproxylic beetles and invertebrates which rely on dead wood and, in turn, these provide food for birds, small rodents such as shrews and voles, and bats including the rare barbastelle. In turn these animals are eaten by larger predators such as owls, wolves and lynx.

The forest food web starts here.
Aleksander Bolbot / shutterstock

Dead and dying spruce stumps are almost exclusively used by some woodpecker species as nests and also act as great hosts for lichens and mosses, some of which are facing extinction in Europe. If the dead wood is removed, the entire forest ecosystem will suffer.

Logging is unnecessary

Logging is not the only solution to the spruce bark beetle problem. Pheromone traps, for instance, effectively attract large numbers of beetles while outbreaks in the UK are controlled by unleashing a specific predator beetle, Rhizophagus grandis, that targets the spruce beetle. Due to its widespread use in commercial forestry, R. grandis is relatively cheap and readily available, and Forestry Commission research showed it was more effective at controlling outbreaks than salvage logging.

In any case, a beetle infestation might be disastrous for individual trees but it won’t necessarily harm the forest itself. Like many ecosystems, Białowieza is vulnerable to climate change. As species such as Norway spruce are weakened by changing climatic conditions, the bark beetle is able to take hold. This is an invaluable part of the forest regeneration process, allowing deciduous trees that are better able to cope with changing climatic conditions to grow in the gaps left by dying spruces. In the long run it may be better for Białowieza Forest to let nature, and regeneration, take its course.

The Conversation

Lucinda Kirkpatrick, PhD Researcher in Forest Ecology, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

U.N. climate talks: Four countries behaving badly


Grist

There have been more disappointments than encouraging signs at the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, which have just passed the halfway mark. They’re intended to lay the groundwork for a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, but it’s not going well so far. Rich countries are not outlining how they will fund the planned $100-billion-a-year Green Climate Fund. Discussions involving agriculture have been taken off the table, even though farming reforms could substantially reduce global carbon emissions. And nobody can agree on how best to protect carbon-soaking forests.

But of the 190 countries that have sent delegates to Warsaw, four in particular have been the target of international anger over recent announcements, acts of obstructionism, and failure to commit to protect the world from global warming.

Japan

Japan is the fifth biggest greenhouse gas polluter, but it had committed to reducing its carbon emissions 25…

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Article: The Białowieża Forest


The link below is to an article (with a large number of photos) on the Bialowieza Forest between Poland and Belarus. It is well worth a look – great photos.

Fore more visit:
http://www.kuriositas.com/2012/07/biaowieza-forest-remarkable-remnant-of.html