International treaties threaten affordability of climate action: new report IIED
A new IIED report shows how key international legal measures could risk an increase in the cost of shifting to green energy and tackling climate change.
A complex set of international legal measures protecting the fossil fuel industry risks significantly increasing the cost of moving to green energy and tackling climate change, a new IIED report has revealed.
ISDS could require governments – effectively the country’s taxpayers – to pay large compensation sums to fossil fuel companies.
And with previous research having shown that the value of potential stranded assets in the power sector alone is nearly US$2 trillion, and valued at $3-7 trillion for oil and gas reserves, the cost could be substantial.
IIED director Andrew Norton said: “Ending dependence on fossil fuels is crucial to being able to tackle climate change, and our research shows that rethinking investor-state dispute settlement is a key part of making that possible.
“It is vital that people are not made to bear the costs of compensating fossil fuel companies and that the state instead invests in clean, green alternatives.”
Obscure but powerful
There are more than 2,600 bilateral investment treaties and preferential trade agreements that protect foreign investors’ assets.
And while these treaties may be obscure, they are powerful; ISDS enables foreign investors, including shareholders, to sue states over conduct they believe breaches international investment protection rules, such as vital action to cut emissions.
Examples could include the early retirement of coal-fired power stations and oil refineries, not exploiting coal, oil and gas reserves, and scrapping pipelines and other fossil fuel transport infrastructure.
These are the measures that governments need to take to fulfil the climate commitments they have signed up to under the Paris Agreement.
The report was released to coincide with the latest meeting by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law’s working group on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) reform, taking place from 5-9 October. The working group was set up to review possible reforms to ISDS, particularly procedures for settling disputes between investors and states.
And in the study, authors Kyla Tienhaara, Canada research chair in economy and environment at Queen’s University, and IIED’s Lorenzo Cotula, urge a range of measures to address ISDS.
These include terminating old treaties, developing innovative drafting approaches for any new treaties and radically modernising the Energy Charter Treaty, which plays a significant role in protecting foreign-owned coal power plant assets.
Coal-fired power station focus
To date, huge pay-outs have been made based on ISDS tribunals’ estimation of what an investor could have earned over an installation’s lifetime. However, these projections often do not consider the volatility of fossil fuel prices as renewables have become more competitive and as other factors have impacted the market.
‘Raising the cost of climate action?’ includes a focus on coal-fired power stations. ISDS protects most of the world’s 257 foreign-owned coal plants, which must be retired early in order to put the planet on track to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
In Indonesia, one example highlighted by the report, the estimated value of 12 coal-fired power stations protected by ISDS could be up to $7.9 billion. The cost of ISDS compensation could be even greater.
For developing countries who are part of the UN’s REDD+ scheme (to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), establishing baseline forest reference emission levels (FREL) is essential obligation to track progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. FREL covers emissions from deforestation and – in some countries – from forest degradation and peat decomposition. In countries like Indonesia, Peru, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Republic of Congo (RoC), that have large amounts of standing forest – and which can contribute significantly to a country’s emissions due to land-use change – these reference levels are particularly critical.
Ghana has become the second country in Africa after Mozambique to receive payments from a World Bank trust fund for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, commonly known as REDD+. The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) paid Ghana $4,862,280 for reducing 972,456 tons of carbon emissions for the first monitoring period under the program (June to December 2019).
Paris, 27 February 2023 – The One Forest Summit will be held in Libreville, Gabon, on 01-02 March, with the goal of making progress on climate action and protecting biodiversity by promoting solidarity between the three major forest basins of the world. Director General Audrey Azoulay will attend to highlight UNESCO’s unique mandate to protect forest areas and numerous conservation programs.
Mungu Amurinde Jeanne d’Arc, a resident of Rubavu District in the Western Province of Rwanda has expressed special gratitude to the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame for the positive impacts brought by the Sebeya Catchment conservation project.
Baroness Scotland is head of the Commonwealth Secretariat - the organisation's main intergovernmental agency. Getty Image. The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, will be in Gabon from Wednesday 1 March to highlight the importance of protecting global biodiversity at the One Forest Summit in Libreville on Thursday.
The SOF 2021 four-part report highlights facts and figures on the Congo basin forests recognized worldwide for their essential role in carbon sequestration and the conservation of biological diversity. It also provides considerations that will guide decisions on forest management.
Following an initial call for proposals launched in March 2022, the RESSAC coordination committee is calling on scientific and academic institutions from Central African and European countries, as well as on forest and environmental resource managers from Central Africa, to form a grouping and submit research proposals for RESSAC funding. For this second call for proposals, the RESSAC programme will favour research proposals relating to the social and/or economic sciences. Proposals should be sent by 15 April 2023 at the latest.
For decades, Lake Chad has remained a mainstay for the Basin’s 45-50 million people, most of whom are fishermen, farmers, herders, and petty traders who depend on the Lake for their livelihoods and economic well-being. However, over the years, the combined effects of the Lake’s shrinking and variability due to climate change has resulted in the increasing loss of livelihood for the region.
Niamey is hosting a high-level international conference on the Lake Chad Basin since 23 January 2023. Co-organized by Germany, Norway, the United Nations System (OCHA, UNDP) and Niger (host country), this two-day meeting brings together the governments of the region (Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon) as well as international donors and partners, multilateral and international organizations.
The commitment was made during the High-Level Conference on the Lake Chad Region held in Niamey from 23 – 24 January 2023. The two-day Conference brought together over 30 countries, international organisations, and more than 100 civil society organisations in the capital of Niger. The Conference aimed to ensure that the people of this hard-hit region have humanitarian assistance and protection and foster solutions for durable solutions, including the voluntary return, reintegration, and resettlement of returnees and displaced persons (refugees band internally displaced persons) in a dignified manner.
Should the international community pay tropical forest countries for services to humanity? The countries concerned frequently request such payments to compensate for their loss of revenue as a result of being unable to convert forest areas to farmland and mining operations. The authors of the latest IDDRI Issue Brief are calling for "payments for environmental services" schemes to be included in a broader co-investment for sustainable development approach.
Agroecology sets out to make use of biodiversity and boost soil health to make farming systems more resilient. How can we apply those principles to crop protection? Can we do without ? What sort of research is still needed? An international team of around 50 researchers gives some answers in a reference article in the journal Advances in Agronomy.
The Carbon & Biodiversity Commission regularly reviews relevant news and information on carbon and biodiversity and prepares a summary. We share with you here the main points of the 6th watch. The newsletter is available on request for ATIBT members.
The threshold of 10 million hectares certified as being under sustainable management should be crossed in 2025, according to the analysis of forest certification data in the Congo Basin carried out by the ATIBT Certification Commission. This is also an opportunity to look at the incentives for certification in the different countries.
Over a decade from the adoption of seven safeguard principles for REDD+ by the United Nations 2010 Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP16), the national implementation of two safeguards that address Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs) remains a work in progress.
Wild mammals, reptiles, birds and insects are eaten by people worldwide. But overhunting – driven mainly by the demand for wild meat in urban centres – is threatening hundreds of wildlife species with extinction. It also risks cutting off millions of families from a critical source of nutrition, especially Indigenous Peoples and local communities in tropical and subtropical regions. Widespread commercial trade further complicates the issue.
On 9 March 2023 representatives of the European Parliament’s Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) Working Group, the Greens/EFA and Fern will host an event “How Partnerships complement the EU Deforestation Regulation: A discussion on the EU Strategic Framework for Partnerships”. Speakers will include representatives from Tropical Forested countries, European Policymakers and civil society actors and the discussions will focus on the elements that would make Partnerships a success.
Caught between climate change and ever-growing global demand for wood, natural tropical forests are more vulnerable than ever. We urgently need to find new sources of timber, particularly since the current sustainability criteria are failing to guarantee stand renewal. Plinio Sist, Head of CIRAD's Forests and Societies research unit, looks at the alternatives.
After several decades in Cameroon, and despite their significant contribution to agricultural research and development in Cameroon, the CGIAR Centers and their achievements are still not well known in the country. The centers organized an open day in Yaoundé on 19 January to amplify CGIAR and its partners’ actions to transform food systems in Cameroon and beyond while enhancing environmental health and biodiversity, despite the ongoing climate crisis.
International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on 11 February, recognizes the often overlooked contributions of women scientists. Research shows that despite a shortage of skills in most technological areas, gender disparity still exists in the field. Women make up less than a third of the workforce across science, technology and engineering. Women scientists are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues, and their work tends to be underrepresented in high-profile journals.
Drought is one of nature's costliest disasters – across the globe, more frequent and prolonged droughts are up nearly by a third since 2000. No country or region is immune to their impacts, which cost the global economy billions of dollars each year and range from the loss of life, livelihoods and biodiversity to water and food insecurity, disruption in the energy, transportation and tourism sectors, as well as forced migration, displacement and conflicts over scarce resources.
Gracing every continent of the Earth, wetlands are essential to the planet’s health, often compared to its vital organs, acting as arteries that carry water and as kidneys that filter harmful substances. Wetlands serve as the watchful sentinels of our wellbeing: they form protective barriers against tsunamis and sponge up the excess rainfall to reduce flood surges.
Bonn, Germany, 10 February 2023 – Today, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Korea Forest Service of the Republic of Korea signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to further support Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA), UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted his priorities for 2023. Describing 2023 as “a year of reckoning,” he urged Member States to change the mindset of decision making from near-term thinking to long-term thinking and develop a strategic vision to act decisively “in deep and systemic ways.”
The resumed first meeting of the ad hoc Open-ended Working Group on a Science-Policy Panel for Chemicals, Waste, and Pollution (OEWG 1.2) continued its task of developing a science-policy panel, which will help scientists and policymakers inform one another on these issues. Delegates agreed on capacity building as a new function of the panel.
Permanent Representatives of Ireland and Qatar to the UN convened an informal meeting to hear delegates’ preliminary views on the scope and substance of the political declaration to be adopted by the 2023 SDG Summit in September. The co-facilitators also outlined their approach to the consultation process and timing of future meetings.
Peru has recognized the role of Indigenous Amazonian Peoples for ensuring the sustainable use of one the world’s most biodiverse biomes and realising its climate and conservation plans. However, community forest management, or CFM, has struggled to deliver on its promise of environmental and livelihood improvements. In Peru, as in many other tropical forest countries, communities are often unable to comply with forestry regulations and are pushed to the informal sector, where unjust commercial relations and unsustainable practices predominate.
The annual planning workshop of the Agenda for Agricultural Transformation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ATA-DRC) program activities took place from 23 to 25 January in South Kivu. The meeting’s objective was to review the activities of 2022 and plan for 2023.
The research and innovation division of the Nova Alliance Group, Nova Genetic, visited IITA–CGIAR on 18 January to explore establishing ties with Nigeria through a partnership with the Institute. The team from the seed company, with several vegetable breeding programs, was received by the Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell; Senior Director, Plant Breeding and Pre-breeding, John Derera; Molecular Geneticist and Breeder, Ismail Rabbi; Product Manager-Grain Crops, Dean Muungani; and Postdoctoral Fellow, Soybean Breeding, Abush Abebe.
A recent collection of essays, "Buon Vivere (Good Living) as relationship economy", looks at various aspects of the Good Living* concept. It includes an essay by two CIRAD researchers, detailing how agricultural research for development could help people live better in every sense, particularly in the global South, where living conditions and wellbeing are still highly dependent on primary production (food and other goods).
The actors of the forestry and wood sector now have at their disposal six video capsules on the professions of sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin. The forestry-wood sector does not generally attract vocations in the Congo basin region. However, there is a real need for skills at all levels of qualification, to meet the growing demand for quality finished wood products, as well as the desire of countries to develop further local processing.
Can we bring wildlife back to productive oil palm plantations? This is one of the questions posed by the TRAILS project, coordinated by CIRAD, in Malaysia. It associates the local authorities, a private firm, a university and an NGO, working to build innovative agroforestry strategies that combine biodiversity restoration with local socioeconomic development. We look at the initial results.
While women have made immense advances in scientific fields in recent years, the numbers still don’t tell an equitable story. Across the world, they’re typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues, and researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers; their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals and they are often passed over for promotion. They represent about a third of all researchers – and only 12% of members of national science academies.
The Climate Change Action Plan 2021–2025 aims to advance the climate change aspects of the WBG’s Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID) approach, which pursues poverty eradication and shared prosperity with a sustainability lens. In the Action Plan, we will support countries and private sector clients to maximize the impact of climate finance, aiming for measurable improvements in adaptation and resilience and measurable reductions in GHG emissions. The Action Plan also considers the vital importance of natural capital, biodiversity, and ecosystems services and will increase support for nature-based solutions, given their importance for both mitigation and adaptation. As part of our effort to drive climate action, the WBG has a long-standing record of participating in key partnerships and high-level forums aimed at enhancing global efforts to address climate change.
What the Future Has in Store: A New Paradigm for Water Storage is an urgent appeal to practitioners at every level, both public and private, and across sectors, to come together to champion integrated water storage solutions—natural, built, and hybrid—to meet a range of human, economic, and environmental needs for the twenty-first century. Closing storage gaps will require a spectrum of economic sectors and stakeholders to develop and drive multi‐sectoral solutions. The proposed integrated water storage planning framework is grounded in sustainable development and climate resilience, with the potential to pay dividends for people, economies, and environments for generations.