Forests “valued” in the climate negotiations

December 17, 2009

Forest related issues bring a lot of complexity to the climate change negotiations, and for a long time these where absent in the negotiations. Issues like carbon leakage, sequestration measurements, and additionality grew strong buttresses around the stem of uncertainty and sterilized the ground in which an opportunity to mitigate carbon turned into dust. Thus the future for the forests of the world was gloomy; many countries were disillusioned and worried that a new climate change agreement would once again leave forests out. Alongside, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and people livelihoods were being left out, too.

In 2005, after much debate, forests were put back on the agenda with the proposal for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries, a joint proposal from Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica. Later the so-called REDD proposal was broadened in the Bali Action Plan, to include national and international actions, policy approaches, and positive incentives on mitigation of climate change. It also included the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

Now, one day before the COP15 in Copenhagen is over, the final outcome may include some general agreement around broad political issues. The REDD proposal seems to be the only concrete product of the negotiations. This is beyond belief. It literally makes forests arise from the ashes to becoming the beacon of victory for the conservation and forest sectors. The proposal may not only be writing with strong and clear language; it may also be invigorated by the financial resources aimed at promoting the sustainable use of forest and its conservation in developing countries. For example, on Wednesday December 16, Mr. Thomas Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture announced the commitment of the United States to provide US$1 billion a year for the next three years to financing REDD. The announcement was made at the Avoided Deforestation Partners forum in Copenhagen.

Carlos inviting the Governor of Amazonia to our Considering Copenhagen roundtable March 4-5, 2010

Many of the Parties recognize the value of forests. Conserving forests is one of the most cost effective ways to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. Their maintenance and improvement also provide other numerous ecosystem services to society. However, nothing is firm about REDD until COP15 is concluded and the agreement is signed. Even then, there would be two new challenges. The first challenge is whether countries have sufficient capacities to implement actions and policies by which nearly 20% of the GHGs emissions would be avoided through REDD. The second challenge is the uncertainty about whether the additional funds committed by developed countries in fact are made available. Many parties are prepared to see a halt to deforestation in a near future, from Indonesia to Colombia, from Costa Rica to Suriname, from Brazil to China.  The world wants to be covered with forests.

Let the negotiators at least make this happen in the COP 15 Copenhagen. But let’s not forget the job for climate change is not done yet.

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