In the forthcoming issue of Washington Monthly, within the context of discussing the saving of tropical forests, the chances of securing an agreement on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) at Copenhagen in December are assessed. To a large extent, the success of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) proposed by President Bharrat Jagdeo, and now under national discussion, depends in general on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) crafting a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
More specifically, it also depends on whether any new Protocol will not only incorporate the reduction of deforestation goals of REDD but extend the concept to cover those countries, like us, that have standing forests without a history of deforestation.
What will make this outcome very difficult is the fact that under the UNFCCC rules, all countries must agree on everything for the Copenhagen meeting to produce a new treaty, which means that the fate of a forest management scheme, such as REDD, is tied to wider agreement in Copenhagen. Since the breakthrough in Bali in December 2007 when REDD was accepted for consideration, progress has not been uninterrupted.
According to one report in WM, “When climate negotiations resumed for the first time since Bali in December 2008, in the Polish city of Poznan, hopes were high that agreement on deforestation offered a relatively easy win for nations eager to prove they were taking climate change seriously.
In fact, the discussions were quickly soured by an argument about the deletion of a reference to the rights of indigenous people in the draft text, for which campaigners blamed New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Amid protests and accusations, no decision was reached.” While the issue will be brought up at the two remaining preparatory meetings before Copenhagen, “indigenous rights” is likely to prove an insurmountable barrier to any agreement. The other barrier will be the present standoff between the USA and China, the two largest polluters at present. As the report notes, “For a new deal to succeed, both countries must be included.
China wants the U.S. to acknowledge its responsibilities, while the U.S. points out that Western efforts to cut emissions will be pointless if Chinese emissions soar as predicted, and wants China to at least make an effort. “For them to sign up in Copenhagen, both will want to be able to claim victory.”
While it is hoped that President Obama may want to break the deadlock, he would face the same opposition as did President Clinton, who signed the Kyoto Protocol but backed down from submitting it to a hostile Senate, opposed to pollution limits not being set on the developing world, mainly China. President Bush never even tried to get the protocol approved, deeming it “flawed”.
Another hurdle that has to be overcome is the necessity of incorporating the US into the Kyoto agreement before extending its mandate beyond 2012.
While it may appear that jettisoning the Protocol may be an easier way to proceed onto a new agreement, “The developing world has voiced fears that rich countries would use that as a chance to escape from Kyoto’s existing binding targets.” They do not want to lose “corn and husk”.
The assessment of WR is pessimistic on the chances of any new treaty in Copenhagen, much less REDD and its extension that would benefit Guyana’s LCDS. “With the talks heading toward the finish line, there remains much to do, and many senior figures in the field of climate change are already privately playing down the chances of a breakthrough at Copenhagen. The talks have come too soon for the new Obama administration, they warn. Others are pessimistic about the chances of serious targets being set, never mind being met. The preparatory meetings may help clear the table, but the serious emissions targets that will form the backbone of a new treaty are unlikely to appear until the closing days of the Copenhagen meeting.”
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