– Protestors flood Copenhagen
By Neil Marks in Copenhagen
Text leaked to observer groups late last night on REDD, the portion of the proposed climate treaty meant to reduce the approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, has removed all targets for ending deforestation and significantly weakened safeguard language.
The news came as tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Copenhagen in a “Day of Action” of climate rallies. They came from Australia and the United States, but violence flared at one stage when demonstrators smashed windows and set fire to cars.
Riot police are said to have arrested some 1,000 persons. Anyone dressed in all black was promptly pulled to the side and thoroughly searched.
Inside the Bella Centre, it was scoping day for the negotiators as heads of government began to arrive. Yesterday, the controversy surrounded REDD.
“Without targets, REDD becomes toothless,” said Peg Putt of the Wilderness Society. “The so-called safeguards will be nothing but fancy window dressing unless they are given legal force.”
President Bharrat Jagdeo, who has been a leading voice for a REDD scheme arrived in Copenhagen yesterday, and is expected to very early make his position known. Jagdeo is among some of the first of 110 leaders to come to Copenhagen to push for an agreement in REDD.
Targets for deforestation in the prior REDD text, which is expected to be one of the stronger parts of a climate deal, aimed to cut deforestation by 50 percent by 2020 and eliminate it by 2030. Start-up costs for REDD are estimated to be between US$22.4 and US$37.3 billion from 2010-15 to support preparatory activities, although some experts challenge those figures as far too low.
“It’s hardly surprising that developing countries won’t commit to global targets for deforestation when rich countries haven’t yet provided the necessary financing for REDD or global targets for deep reductions of industrial emissions,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Rainforest Foundation UK.
Of equal concern, language ensuring critical safeguards for biodiversity, forest conversion, indigenous rights and monitoring has moved from operational text into the preamble.
“Limiting safeguards to the preamble weakens the agreement and deprives it of any assurance of compliance,” said Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness.
Despite the support of key countries, current text on the underlying drivers of tropical deforestation is among language moved to the preamble, recognising consuming countries’ role in fueling deforestation but putting no obligation on them to address the problem.
“Global demand for forest commodities like illegal timber and palm oil is one of the leading causes of tropical deforestation around the world,” said Andrea Johnson of Environmental Investigation Agency. “If we don’t address the causes of the problem, how can we find a solution?”
Protection of natural forests appears explicitly in the text for the first time, and a safeguard on conversion of natural forests to plantations has reappeared, but both are still not required actions.
Still missing in the text is any provision to protect and restore the world’s peat soils, which account for six percent of all global C02 emissions.
“Peat soils are a key part of many countries’ plans to reduce their emissions, including large emitters like Indonesia,” said Susanna Tol of Wetlands International. “If peat soils are not in REDD, these efforts will go unsupported.”
A weak REDD deal will fail to reduce emissions from deforestation, threaten the indigenous peoples who rely on forests for their livelihoods, and have severe negative impacts on biodiversity.
“Currently, an acre of forest is cut down ever second, depriving the world of critical carbon reservoirs and creating huge emissions bursts into the atmosphere,” said Stephen Leonard of the Australian Orangutan Project. “A REDD without global deforestation targets or safeguards makes it much more likely that the orangutan and other critical species that rely on the forest will become extinct.”
While text can still be changed, ministerial level actions beginning next week may be required to reinsert targets and safeguard language.
“Clearly, everyone agrees that the world’s tropical forests need to be protected,” said Bill Barclay of Rainforest Action Network. “But good intentions aren’t enough, they have to be paired with action. Ministers must act to strengthen the REDD text next week if we have any hope of a REDD that will be effective in protecting tropical forests.”
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