Sunday, December 13, 2009

Forest Day in Copenhagen

Nicholas Stern From the London School of Economics talks about sustainable forestry.

Today is forestry day. Behind me the buffet is set up, and I need it. Hours of listening to up to the minute analysis of the discussions and the future of forests have made my tummy empty and my head full. It is not an overstatement to say that here today the people I have been listening to are deciding the fate of millions of hectares of forests all over the world. There is a buzz, and a very open and clear discussion about how to incorporate forests into the carbon trading system.

The UK government says that they will put up 10 billion dollars to fund sustainable forestry practices under the new UN system that countries are putting into place here this week. The talks where those discussions are happening are called the REDD negotiations. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. The current budget for the REDD program is 54 million dollars, so even lip service for ten billion dollars shows how seriously developed countries are taking this issue. The Minister of Environment in the UK, Hilary Benn, also made a pledge to push for the banning of any timber imports into Europe other than sustainably harvested wood.

Eduardo Braga, the Governor of Amazonas in Brazil explained how, through sustainable forest use, they had reduced the destruction of rain forest in his state (which is twice the size of France) from 100,000 square kilometers per year to 400 kilometers per year. He made am impassioned plea for the people who live in forests to be respected and involved in future projects, because without these people’s support, the projects will be doomed to failure.

Inside the REDD negotiations, which are by far some of the most important decisions being made here in Copenhagen, the head of the negotiation team, Tony Lavinda explained: “All parties all agree that respect for indigenous people’s rights must be respected, and especially women’s rights must be protected”. Women are often on the front line of forest destruction because they are the ons who collect firewood, and control this energy use in their households.

Lavinda, from the Philippines, help draft part of the original Kyoto Protocol, and ended his talk with the most uplifting words heard all day: “Dealing with markets will be difficult, so the ministers will be busy deciding. But we expect a deal will be made at the minister level this week. It’s just a question of timing on when to send up the negotiations to the political level, but I am optimistic, I think we will have an agreement that is good for climate, good for finance and good for people and communities.”

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