Dec 14, 2010 News
The UN Climate Summit in Cancun, which ended last weekend, has agreed on a deal that would get rich countries to pay poor countries like Guyana to protect forests, but explicit details on where the money would come from, who will get paid and how the scheme would be monitored were left out.
A decision on the forest protection scheme called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) was highly anticipated in Cancun, and when the meeting ended there was a decision, but not a clear enough one.
Apart from concerns about financing, key forest groups say threats to indigenous people and natural forests remain.
The talks between 194 countries also came out with a decision to set up a Green Fund of US$100 billion a year starting in 2020, but again, details were lacking. And so there have been mixed reactions to what has come out of Cancun.
The inclusion of REDD and financing in the Cancun agreement is a step in the right direction, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but the organisation said only an equitable, comprehensive and legally binding agreement will bring the much needed international commitment to manage the climate crisis.
“The decision addressing emissions from deforestation, also known as REDD+, did not include everything we hoped for, but provides a sound foundation for moving a credible REDD process forward and an agenda for the work ahead,” added Stewart Maginnis of the World Wildlife Fund.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time conserving forest natural resources on which millions of vulnerable people depend, is a win-win solution for people and nature,” added Maginnis.
“It has been one of the most promising developments in the negotiations so far, and now this further push by governments makes REDD an integral part of the climate deal.”
“If we compare the decision here on forests with what was on the table two years ago, important progress has been made,” said Lars Løvold, Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
“The decision reflects the growing understanding that a broad and participatory approach, based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and the many vital functions of forests, is needed to prevent deforestation and forest degradation.”
Rainforest Foundation and its partners said the real test is in whether the Cancun agreement will do anything about “the very real and already evident threat that REDD is posing on the ground to forest dependant peoples.”
On the question of how REDD will be financed, the organisation said that the agreement does not explicitly state where long term finance will come from, but requests governments to explore financing options before the next round of climate talks in South Africa.
“There is a fundamental split between parties over whether to allow REDD finance to be generated through a carbon market, which would allow developed countries to buy forest carbon credits through REDD rather than reducing their carbon emissions at home,” said Rainforest Foundation Norway.
“Many parties prefer that resource distribution occurs through a fund, rather than being left to market forces.”
The organisation further argues that the weakest element of the REDD decision is the potential loophole for sub-national accounting of emission reductions from deforestation, which observers fear could lead to an actual increase in deforestation if there are no requirements in place to account for ‘leakage’ – where deforestation moves from one part of the country to another.
“There is now an urgent need for an open discussion on the implications of different financing options for forest dependent peoples and for the effectiveness of the REDD mechanism itself. If the loopholes now in the REDD text – for offsets and for leakage – are not closed, this initiative will not reduce deforestation,” said Kate Dooley, Forest Campaigner at FERN.
”If emissions are not immediately and dramatically reduced in the wealthy countries, forests are at risk from an ever-warming climate. Without a commitment to adequate and binding emission reduction targets by developed countries, a REDD agreement will do little to halt climate change, and it could do harm if it allows developed countries to shift their emissions reductions obligations onto developing countries,” added Nat Dyer, Policy Advisor at Rainforest Foundation UK.
The UN said that the summit had ended with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world.
“Cancún has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored,” said UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.
“Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process that can create opportunity for all,” she said.
Countries agreed that they need to work to stay below a two degree temperature rise and they set a clear timetable for review, to ensure that global action is adequate to meet the emerging reality of climate change.
“This is not the end, but it is a new beginning. It is not what is ultimately required but it is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition,” said Ms. Figueres.
A sticking point in the talks was a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing climate pact which expires at the end of 2012. Parties meeting under the Kyoto Protocol agree to continue negotiations with the aim of completing their work and ensuring there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the treaty.
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