Leaders from the environmental and business communities have released the most comprehensive recommendations yet on the role that forests should play in the next climate change agreement.
The Forest Dialogue's Initiative on Forests and Climate Change, a 250-person coalition of governments, environmentalists, timber companies, trade unions, financial institutions, and indigenous peoples, released five "guiding principles" [PDF] in a joint statement at the World Conservation Union (IUCN) World Congress in Barcelona on Wednesday.
Among the recommendations, the initiative said negotiators must address the factors that now complicate halting deforestation, including agriculture production, population growth, and unclear land rights.
"Perverse incentives that encourage the clearing of land that would otherwise have remained as forest should be identified and removed," the statement said.
Deforestation is reponsible for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet forest management is not included in the Kyoto Protocol, the current international climate agreement. The exclusion was due in part to disagreement within the environmental community about how such a forestry policy should work, or whether it should exist at all.
At December's United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, however, negotiators from Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea said it was unfair that countries that have been actively protecting their forests were not being rewarded for this effort. Conference delegates agreed and included a policy that would compensate nations for forest protection, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), in the final "Bali roadmap" [PDF] report.
The policy's ambitions, however, are no easy task. Billions of dollars will likely be necessary to persuade loggers to change their ways. The policy also raises the questions: Who will receive the funds? How will they be distributed? And how will people who depend on forest clearing for their livelihood be compensated if tree felling is prohibited?
Several critics have also raised concerns about the general concept of REDD. "Reward the destroyers to stop destroyin g- isn't that encouraging those who are doing wrong instead of those who are trying to protect the forests?" said Kanyinke Sena, Eastern Africa representative for the Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee.
While the initiative's statement does not provide specific answers to these questions, it emphasizes that sustainable forest management must be central to the REDD agreement.
"Unless development issues such as poverty and corruption are addressed... a revenue stream to reduce deforestation might not do the trick," said Warren Evans, senior director of the World Bank Environment Department.
The guidelines also call for climate policies that respect the "importance of mapping and securing the tenure, property, and carbon rights of Indigenous Peoples, family forest owners, and local communities." These groups have often been excluded from climate negotiations both in their own countries and in international negotiations.
"For a long time we have been kept out - the people really doing work [of traditional forest management]," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. "It's good that we are finally being heard through the Forest Dialogues."
The initiative's consensus is similar to what environmentalists have been saying since sustainability became a popular talking point nearly two decades ago. Yet the collaboration provides the first comprehensive guidelines on REDD for climate negotiators. "The huge step is having a unified statement from businesses to indigenous groups," said Daniel Birchmeier, senior program officer for Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). "That can't be ignored."
The consensus also suggests that the environmental community as a whole is more willing to include forestry in a climate agreement than it was in the past. The initiative was organized mainly by IUCN and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, but leaders from the largest environmental organizations all participated in the process.
While the REDD policy has still not been finalized, several countries are already accepting funds to support anti-deforestation measures. Earlier this year, Norway became the first donor to Brazil's voluntary forestry fund, which the government hopes will collect $1 billion annually to help protect the Amazon forest from further destruction. And the World Bank's Carbon Finance Unit selected 14 forest-rich countries in July to receive grants for policies that they hope will avoid further deforestation.
Leading our children down a "primrose path"
Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 2008-10-12 09:03.
How could one generation go so wrong? Evidently, the leaders in my generation of elders wish to live without having to accept limits to growth of seemingly endless economic globalization, increasing per capita consumption, and skyrocketing human population numbers; our desires are insatiable. We choose to believe anything that is politically convenient, economically expedient and socially agreeable; our way of life is not negotiable. We dare anyone to question our values or behaviors. We religiously promote our widely shared and consensually-validated fantasies of 'real' endless economic growth and soon to become unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, and in so doing deny that Earth has limited resources and frangible ecosystems upon which the survival of life as we know it and the success of any manmade economy depend. My not-so-great generation appears to be doing a disservice to everything and everyone but ourselves.
Never in the course of human events have so few members of a single generation stolen, consumed and hoarded so much wealth at the expense of so many other people. We have mortgaged the future of our own children. We are the "what's in it for me generation". We demonstrate precious little regard for the maintenance of the integrity of Earth; shallow willingness to actually protect the environment from crippling degradation; lack of serious consideration for the preservation of biodiversity, wilderness, and a good enough future for our children and coming generations; and no appreciation of the vital understanding that humans are no more or less than magnificent living beings with "feet of clay".
Perhaps my not-so-great does live in unsustainable ways in our planetary home; but we are proud of it nonetheless. Certainly, we will "have our cake and eat it, too." We own fleets of cars, fly around in thousands of private jets, live in McMansions, exchange secret handshakes, frequent exclusive clubs and distant hideouts, and risk nothing of value to us. We will live long, large and free. Please do not bother us with the problems of the world. We choose not to hear, see or speak of them. Remember, silence is golden. We are the economic powerbrokers, their bought-and-paid-for politicians and the many minions in the mass media. We hold the much of the world's wealth and the extraordinary power great wealth purchases. If left to our own devices, we will continue in the exercise of our 'inalienable rights' to outrageously consume Earth's limited resources; to recklessly expand economic globalization unto every corner of our natural world and, guess what, beyond; and to carelessly consent to the unbridled global growth of human numbers so that where there are now 6+ billion people, by 2050 we will have 9+ billion members of the human community and, guess what, even more people, perhaps billions more in the distant future, if that is what we desire. We never lie but also never tell the truth as we see it. The "thing" that matters most of all to us is "the only game in town". We are the reigning, self-proclaimed masters of the universe. We enjoy freedom and living without limits; of course, we adamantly eschew any talk of the personal responsibilities that come with the exercise of personal freedoms and any discussion of the existence of biophysical limitations a finite planet naturally imposes.
We deny the existence of human limits and Earth's limitations. Please understand that we do not want anyone presenting us with scientific evidence that we could be living unsustainably in an artificially designed, temporary world of our own making....a manmade world filling up with gigantic enterprises, virtual mountains of material possessions, and boundless amounts of filthy lucre. Most of our top rank experts appear not to have found adequate ways of communicating to the family of humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the rapacious dissipation of Earth's limited resources, the relentless degradation of the planet's environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding at breakneck speed toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world's colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global political economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic 'wall' called "unsustainability" at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth's ecology is collapsed. Who knows, perhaps we can realistically and hopefully hold onto the expectation that behavioral changes in the direction of sustainable production, per human consumption, and propagation are in the offing.....changes that save the global economy, life as we know it and Earth's body.
Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,