Wednesday, December 30, 2009

For 2010, let's forgive, move on, and reform the UNFCCC

The article by Grist's Geoffrey Lean hyperlinked in the blog title covers the accusations and finger pointing following the mayhemic Copenhagen talks. Every seems to be playing the blame game, even before the impact of COP15 is still unknown.

The ultimate negotiations on climate change are probably yet to come. What is clear is that the UNFCCC process, with six separate "tracks" and more than 190 countries (not to mention the new escalated antics of everyone else) needing to find consensus on every single piece, is simply not going to work in the future. Things will get even hairier as the framework takes place (next year to two) and the bare bone technical details and rules have to get put in place to support any new framework.

It is worth noting that after the Kyoto Protocol was "built" in 1997, it took until 2002 before the rulebook started to crystalize. So if we fast forward to a broad deal in Mexico (maybe 50:50) then look for a frantic fight on every major detail to get filled in before the expiration of the KP on New Years day in 2013. The UNFCCC even with the best staff, simply won't be able to mange the accelerated process of rules and regulations in just two years (2011 and 2012). Whoops, I forgot. The world will also probably need several months or years to ratify any international agreement in domestic processes. Which means the pace of climate change negotiations is probably not going to slow down any time soon. Book your tickets now for Bonn and Mexico City!

Simply, time is running out. The Copenhagen accords are messy and no one is sure where they will go, but there is some new potential there as well as some blatant omissions. And for the community of nations to have a continual UN process for handling climate change, we need reform to the UNFCCC process no matter how you slice and dice the coming years. Beyond the text and the interpretations and the recriminations, COP15 will hopefully be remembered for starting to change the rules away from a binary world of rich and poor and for demanding the wonderful, incredibly competent UNFCCC must get a tune up. The sooner the better.

Happy New Year TFG blog readers!

Monday, December 28, 2009

USDA press release on $1b for REDD+

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 16, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the United States, joined by Australia, France, Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom, agreed, in the context of an ambitious and comprehensive outcome in Copenhagen, to dedicate a total of USD3.5 billion as initial public finance towards slowing, halting and eventually reversing deforestation in developing countries. This funding will help facilitate immediate actions in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) for the years 2010-2012.

"Protecting the world's forests is not a luxury - it is a necessity," said Vilsack. This substantial commitment is reflective of our recognition that international public finance must play a role in developing countries' efforts to slow, halt and reverse deforestation."

The U.S. contribution to this effort will be $1 billion over the next three years. These funds will be available for countries that develop ambitious REDD+ plans for their forest sector, according to their respective capabilities.

Protecting the world's climate is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime and forests have a vital role to play in overcoming this challenge. The world loses more than 13 million hectares of tropical forests annually producing approximately 17% of global warming emissions. The loss of tropical rainforests is devastating to the protection and storage of water, the health of biodiversity, and the livelihood of rural populations.

The United States is already working with international partners to protect forests across the globe. The State Department¸ USAID, and USDA's Forest Service are starting to work with developing countries around the world to learn how REDD+ can be implemented on the ground and we expect to ramp up these programs in the near future. This includes improvements in carbon inventories, payment systems for ecosystem services, and assistance in helping forests adapt to a changing climate.

While REDD+ can make it possible for developing countries to protect their forests, developed countries must also recognize their responsibility towards their own lands. In the United States, the Obama Administration is taking steps to protect and restore our forests in order to sustain our climate and our water resources. This week, the US Forest Service will formally announce a process for development of a new forest planning rule to govern the way we manage our publicly-owned National Forests.

"It is imperative that we sustain our forests everywhere so that they, in turn, can sustain us," said Vilsack.

Reactions From NGOs To The U.S. Commitment:

"The President has taken the first step forward to bring resources to the table to break the deadlock in Copenhagen. Combined with the funding included in the clean energy and climate legislation pending in the Senate, this would amount to 10 billion dollars over three years. That's real money to preserve forests and the essential carbon capture they provide. That's a big step and an important first start on the long-term commitment we need." - Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council

"The President's commitment to jumpstart REDD+ is a powerful and timely signal of the US' commitment to protecting tropical forests and reducing climate change. It should help drive progress toward a successful deal here in Copenhagen," said Kevin Knobloch, President, UCS.

"The commitment of the United States announced by Secretary Vilsack today to spend $1 billion over 3 years for building capacity from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is exactly what is needed to begin to address the global challenge of deforestation. We encourage other nations to join with commensurate commitments to support taking the actions that are urgently needed to begin solving this global problem." - Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy

Reactions From Developing Countries To The Joint Contribution:

"The announcement is a major breakthrough, bringing us towards the estimated costs of fast-tracking REDD+ start-up through the first three years of an interim start-up phase. Gabon is committed to moving forward." - President Omar Bongo, Republic of Gabon.

"Colombia is committed to reduce its emissions from deforestation, as one of its ways to contribute to the global mitigation effort. We welcome initiatives such as this one that provides prompt start finance that will allow developing countries, and their communities, to start work on the ground." - Columbian Environment Minister, Carlos Costa

"Costa Rica has demonstrated that halting and reverting deforestation in tropical developing countries is possible, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks is feasible and cost-effective. Our country had 72 percent cover in 1950, it went down to 21 percent in 1987 and it has now recovered to 51 percent in 2005. Although this is an achievement, we aspire to do more. That is why we welcome the pledge for fast-start financing for REDD+ because it will allow us move forward as well as helping other developing countries to become effective carbon sinks." - Dr. Alvaro Umana, Ambassador for Climate Change and Chief Negotiator of Costa Rica


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Amazon Forest Carbon Credits

Five environmental trust funds in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have joined with Columbia University’s Center for Environment, Economy, and Society to establish the Amazon Forest Carbon Partnership, a collaboration to reduce carbon emissions and provide an economic alternative for forest dwelling communities and commercial enterprises in the Amazon.

final hours in Copenhagen described

Hyper linked in the title is John Vidal and Jonathan Watt's article describing the last few frantic hours to reach the Copenhagen Accords. Throughout it, and in other articles, it is clear many countries were putting up roadblocks, but arguably China took top honors.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Plan to protect forests suffers set back in Copenhagen

Rhett Butler's Mongabay article summarizing REDD in Copenhagen is hyperlinked in the title.

"The one issue that can unite governments and constituencies... is massive new incentives to arrest deforestation at scale in developing countries," said Niles. "This single positive will probably need to carry the day when a real binding and ambitious accord will eventually be drawn, sometime in the next 18 months."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tropical forest fnding falls short

The United States and 5 other countries pledge $3.5 billion over the next three years, well under the $10 billion/year that will be needed...

NGO Lockout

Yesterday, the United Nations announced that accredited observer non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would no longer have access to the United Nations climate change negotiation conference center. As a result, more than a thousand NGOs, working hard to advance issues critical to achieving an ambitious and equitable international climate change agreement, were shut out of the negotiations. The NGO lockout not only prohibits accredited observer organizations from viewing the negotiations in person; it also eliminates interface and dialogue between NGOs and party delegates and the media.

More than 5,000 chairs remained empty throughout Thursday at a designated offsite alternative location where NGOs were told they could watch the negotiations on video screens. However, no negotiation sessions were made available for viewing; instead, the arena streamed-in general party statements from a virtually empty plenary room. Indeed, protesting outside the conference center posed legitimate safety concerns, but permitting the negotiations to proceed in the absence of all its accredited participants is an extreme departure from the 15-year tradition of transparent negotiations.

Rare Cross River Gorilla filmed for first time!

The rare Cross River Gorilla has been filmed for the very first time, found only in the Cross River rainforest between Nigeria and Cameroon. This is the same forest that TFG is working on preserving with the governor of Cross River State in Nigeria, to enact permanent conservation through carbon-based financing. Without a REDD program, these gorillas don't have much of a chance...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A REDD Agreement Hinges on Funding

As the world stands by waiting to see if a post-Kyoto climate regime will emerge, one message remains loud and clear. Over and over again all nations across the world have declared that the climate change crisis cannot be solved without saving forests. Critical text of an agreement promising essential components of a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation (REDD) remains locked in brackets, reflecting ongoing debate and uncertainty largely due to the lack of essential financial commitments from developed and developing countries alike. With only 48 hours left to negotiate, the United States stepped up with a commitment of $1 billion as an initial contribution over the next three years. Soon after, five other nations said they would collectively dedicate additional funding, totaling $3.5 billion as a starting point for deforestation. It is estimated that a minimum of $10 billion is necessary to support initial implementation of a REDD mechanism. In these waning hours, the significant funding gap symbolizes an urgent call for other nations to step up to the plate. “We are in a challenging negotiation; I don’t know whether we’re going to succeed; and time is short,” said Kevin Conrad, Chief Negotiator for the Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

US annnounces $1 billion for tropical forests

at the avoided deforstation partners meeting a few hours ago, US Secretary of Agriculture announced §1 billion in funding for tropical forests. this is a major development on its own and may help facilitate negotiations on the agreement being worked out in the Bella Center where up to 140 heads of state are expected to sign a new climate change accord. At the first high level segment of the plenary yesterday, UN Secretary General called for more money and finance on the table for developing countries. TFG believes that if enough new funds for sustainable development can be collected, then removing the brackets around the agreement can start to be removed. The meeting also included several Heads of State (Guyana and Norway, which recently announced a major new fund to help Guyana to help conserve tropical forests), Jane Goodall, founder of Google Earth )announcing . The next meeting, the redd gala, starts in a few minutes. Here, we are likely to see other governments step forward with specific new funds for rainforests. If the developed world comes forward with more resources in the next few hours and days, chances for an overall agreement will greatly increase.

It was difficult to get to the meetings. As we left the Bella Center this morning, a large riot had just swept through and I literally was helped to get out by police who lifted me over a barricade of security vehicles. the metro was filled with many anarchists and other rowdies. Helicopters were in the air, the streets are filled with sirens as dignitaries move about and arrive and protestors block streets. there were rumors that some NGOs broke into backroom talks and other rumors that there was a bomb scare in the main station.

despite that all, the pieces are finally falling into place. Stay tuned for more announcements.

U.S. Cities and States Pave the Way to a Low-Carbon Future

Despite ten years of federal apathy to mitigate the United States’ contribution to climate change, governors and mayors across the U.S. have set the stage for a smooth transition into the next international climate change regime that we hope will set legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets.

The State of Wisconsin, under the leadership of Governor Jim Doyle, has set ambitious renewable portfolio standards; renewable energy sources will serve 25% of the state’s energy demand by 2025. One Wisconsin dairy is converting cheese byproducts into ethanol to fuel vehicles. A glass making company that supplies glass for solar panels provides green jobs for Wisconsin residents.

Cities contribute 75% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and New York City, under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, has initiated PlanYC to reduce the city’s emission levels by 30% by 2017. The Plan incorporates approximately 130 cross-sectoral initiatives to cut emissions, including planting one million new trees, implementing new energy codes that require energy efficiency retrofits for existing buildings, and installing sub-metering systems that provide transparency to tenants about their energy consumption.

Thanks to these innovative efforts, states and cities across the country are paving the way to a low carbon future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Copenhagen Paradox

45.000 people (according to new information) from around the world gather these days in Copenhagen in order to fight climate change. Politicians, researchers, specialists, lobbyists, realists and idealists. While the conference centre got more and more crowded during this second week, the discrepancy between message and reality increasingly imposed itself to the attentive observer. We denounce global warming, CO2 emissions, energy waste, deforestation and unsustainable development - and every group prints its denunciations on paper just as are being printed the hundreds of pages of draft texts, participants lists, daily programmes, and all kinds of information materials. From a total of 900 organizations present at COP15, probably about 400 - mostly NGOs - have their stands in the big conference hall where they promote their vision, work and projects - through tons of paper material and take-away gifts with logos. A big amount of the material lands in the garbage bins, once the participants who have served themselves so generously realize that they took more pamphlets, booklets and papers than they can actually carry and than they would ever be able to read. Garbage bins in the area are overloaded with paper.
While walking through the Conference centre during this week, I was shocked by the mess I saw. Formerly empty tables were flooded with all kinds of papers and booklets. Papers laying on the ground in every corner, around every table, occupying chairs and sitting areas, oozing out of the delegations' pigeon holes.
In the meantime outside the conference center, during the entire conference, an activist group has been distributing huge paper bags displaying the message to "Become a vegan" and containing a book with the promising title "The birds in my life". A book hilariously ridiculous, but not funny enough to be taken home. Therefore, exemplars of this masterpiece could soon be found all over the conference centre next to garbage bins (people didn't actually dare to throw a hard cover book into the garbage), on tables, on the ground...
The reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is expected to become the big, special and maybe the only outcome of this Conference. All the more it seems to me paradoxical and incompatible with these efforts that resources - and especially forest resources - are being wasted in such an unconscious and irresponsible way. Information material beyond any interest and importance, books below any level of intelligence...
I would wish for many changes in future COPs, from organizational matters such as restricting registration for everybody since the beginning (e.g. NGOs no more than 10 participants each, countries no more than 100 delegates each,...) to environmental issues such as a strong encouragement to publish all issues online and produce less paper material, and to limit the distribution of campaigning articles.

Success in Brazil as a Model for REDD Implementation

Brazil’s Amazon represents on-the-ground success in reducing emissions from deforestation. In 2004, under the leadership of former Environmental Minister Marina Silva, Brazil launched efforts to reduce rampant deforestation in the Amazon. Brazil identified and prioritized three critical features to reduce deforestation. First, the country's Amazonian states have nearly halted illegal logging by creating a transparent system that identifies illegal logging in real time and by holding illegal loggers accountable. Second, the country engaged in land use planning that designates land for protection and recognizes the rights of indigenous populations living in and around forests. Third, Brazil has identified funding sources that support legitimate sustainable forest activities. As a result of these efforts, Brazil’s four Amazonian states, which represent 85% of the country’s total forest cover, have achieved unprecedented reductions in deforestation rates -- from 27,000 square-kilometers in 2005 to 7,000 square-kilometers in 2009. Brazil’s success in combating deforestation will help to inform successful implementation of a REDD strategy.

Copenhagen climate summit negotiations 'suspended'

Talks ground to a halt here in Copenhagen, sending the entire circus into suspended animation. G77 finally the bluff of wealthy nations. Stay tuned.

Interview with The Gambia

Only at the COP can you be interrupted for translating a lunch menu in Danish to English-friendly Francophiles by a Gambian Minster of Forestry speaking Norwegian. Chances for this are of course quite low since, due to budget cuts and lack of REDD-financing, The Gambians have cut all Norwegian classes from their curriculum. They still, however, are the only country in the world maintaining an article in front of their country's name without words like "Republic of" to qualify it.

So perhaps it was destiny that I should run into Mr. Modouus. He told me about the plight of forests on the north bank of The Gambian river and wondered how the Tropical Forest Group might be able to help. He also hoped that I would communicate this to his whole country, which I was of course delighted to do. An interview was set up with The Gambian national TV, where I explained the methodology behind REDD-based financing, how one first needs to first ascertain total carbon inventory and deforestation rates for any program, and how this is something that TFG is able to help with.

So if you're in The Gambia and reading this blog, keep your eyes peeled!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Forests heal our spirits and lift our souls

Global views on forests and climate change-

a panel of speakers including Hilary Benn, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from the UK and Nicholas Stern, Chair if the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, presented the critical nature of saving forests both from the spiritual perspective to the blunt economics of the price of the carbon they sequester.

There were two questions posed- Why, and how? The why is easy, the long list of ecosystem services, including the preservation of biodiversity to climate regulation were obvious, Benn was preaching to the choir, but he also reminded us of the forest’s ability to heal our spirits and lift our souls and the myriad other social benefits afforded those who are blessed enough to live with, visit or just know that forests exist.

How to save them is a question of economics. Saving forests is one of the lowest cost mitigation strategies we have available to curb climate change. In order for this to work, however, we must act across the globe at the same time, in other words, leakage has to be avoided or the cost goes up. Stern stressed that policies need to be designed in the countries where the forests stand, but that the costs need to be shared globally. Also, the demand side of the problem needs to be addressed. The UK is pushing for more timber certification (to avoid purchasing illegally logged timber), but Benn called for an all out ban on the sale of illegally sourced timber (something the U.S. has recently done with the passage of the Lacey Act amendment of 2008).

The solution? REDD plus must be included in the new climate agreement that (may?) come out of Copenhagen at the end of the week…

Governor Blairo Maggi of Matto Gross COP 15 REDD comments

Mato Grosso Governor blog/paraphrase from WHRC dinner
Blairo Maggi
(heavily paraphrased due to translation and speed of delivery)
I am the governor of the state that is the largest produce of grain, beef and cotton in Brazil.

34% devoted to production
66% devoted to conservation.

This is the stew in which we are working – how doe we keep forets standing, how do we produce, supply food to a growing world and provide communities with decent lives (heavily paraphrased) . With the advance of technology from many government agencies, we can triple production without clearing more forests.

We can give the farmers and ranchers in the state that if they continue to increase productivity, they can still grow and expand but not with cutting more forests.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is called REDD. Van provide people of the state compensation for keeping forests standing while still having a productive economy.

It is not just about production, It is also local and indigenous peoples land and rights. Matto Grosso has everything in place to put a major solution to GHG into action.

There will be x governors tomororw. They all want REDD to work. it is like a big ship coming into the port. We must construct REDD so that funds will flow and the benefits can be distributed, For now, our main job is to make sure REDD works. We must build into REDD public funds, there has to be additional funding for state governments to do their job, and without this,it won't get done. Thank you.

Obama's Science Advisor says REDD important

Blogging from the Woods Hole Research Center/IPAM dinner at COP15

John Holdren speech before a dinner (the Customs House, Copenhagen)
paraphrased quotes only.

The President understands with great clarity the challenges of climate change and tropical forests.

And he understands we have a great opportunity. He knows REDD provides some of the greatest opportunities to get lots of early carbon emission reductions.

I have spoken with the president at length on climate change and the issue of REDD.The US will play its appropriate role. There have been some bumps in the negotiations. There always are. But we will move to a better outcome.

The Energy in Copenhagen

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in Copenhagen for the U.N. negotiations on climate change. Some 30,000 individuals are expected to descend on Copenhagen to negotiate, observe, protest, and advocate for the world’s next climate change regime, which could include meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions from the world’s largest emitters (U.S., China and India) and equitable means for developing countries to participate in an international carbon market.

In the weeks leading up to Copenhagen, there was a growing sense that no agreement would be reached by the close of negotiations, largely due to the reluctance of the largest emitters to arrive at the negotiating table with meaningful emission reduction targets. I too was becoming doubtful. Upon my arrival however, I was met with a renewed sense of confidence. Although significant uncertainty exists concerning critical parts of an agreement, we can expect the negotiators to burn the midnight oil (or something greener, let’s hope) in the days ahead. The pressure is on, with almost 100 heads-of-state, including U.S President Barack Obama, expected to arrive in Copenhagen by the end of next week. In the week ahead, we will likely feel hope and doubt many times about whether an agreement will in fact emerge. But one thing is certain – our world leaders aren’t coming to talk about a failed negotiation; they will want to speak about something they can applaud. Stay tuned…

Forest Day 3

Forest Day 3 opened with Elinor Ostrom, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri and Gro Harlem Brundtland all calling for the inclusion of a REDD + mechanism in the new climate agreement and stressed that funding is critical NOW.

Ostrom said that she strongly supports REDD, but stressed the importance of including communities in the process, particularly in monitoring. She pointed out that studies have shown a strong correlation between community willingness to monitor and forest density. She also called for clear assignment of property rights, community training and particularly stressed the importance of a general policy that can be adapted to local conditions.

The importance and range of forest services beyond just carbon needs to be highlighted according to Pachauri, particularly in the policy arena when it comes to issues like flood control and agricultural productivity. In terms of the climate, forests are critical for staying below 1.5 degrees (not 2 degrees) and also provide the least expensive mitigation option.

The overall message to negotiators was reiterated by Brundtland- that REDD plus needs to be part of the new agreement and must include; immediate upfront financing for REDD preparation, a phased approach, incentives and must be results based.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

REDD Progress (as of Friday night)

REDD is moving through negotiations relatively uneventfully. One sticky issue was whether sector activities would be built around national commitments or sub-national-based activities. The text as of yesterday night was still in debate with sub-national in brackets. But word is that this issue is moving toward a sub-national strategy with phased approach toward national commitments. Columbia has been arguing for this since they have civil war in their country and cannot control deforestation across national boundaries. The USA came on board with Columbia because a sub-national phased approach is compatible with the proposed U.S. climate legislation (Waxman-Markey).

Nikki's article on Nigerians at COP15

Yesterday, I walked the complex maze of halls and booths at the Bella Center with Odigha Odigha, Tunde Morakinyo, both part of the Nigerian delegation, and John Niles of the Tropical Forest Group. We were trying to track down possible donors to provide preliminary financing for what they describe as a “poster-child REDD project”. REDD, the UN program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Derogation, is widely acknowledged throughout the COP as one of the least controversial proposals on the table: Trees and forest soil store tremendous amounts of carbon; an estimated 15 - 20% of annual carbon emissions come from deforestation. There are large co-benefits - biodiversity, watershed protection - from saving intact rainforest. Plus it’s a relatively cheap way for nations to meet emissions reductions in the near-term. The REDD program would provide a mechanism for countries with tropical forests to reduce deforestation and to be paid by developed countries to do so.

Odigha comes from Cross River State one of the last forested parts of Nigeria, at the western border of Cameron. The area is rich in biodiversity, particularly primates, including the most endangered African ape, the Cross River Gorilla. Odigha was a mathematician prior to becoming a grassroots activist in the mid-1990s, stopping a massive deforestation project in his state and later winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. In a surprising twist, he now works directly for the government, as the chairman for the Cross Rivers State Forestry Commission. Recruited by Governor Liyel Imoke, whom Odigha describes as an emerging climate leader in Africa, Odigha now straps on a gun and bulletproof vest along with an ex-police task force to guard the local forests from illegal logging.

This work is being done under a 2-year state moratorium on logging and Imoke’s declaration of a shift from logging concessions to carbon concessions. The hitch is that there is not yet a market to support the carbon concessions that Nigeria can tap into. The REDD market will not appear until 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires. Projects like Cross River will not be likely to get much investment to prevent deforestation if they can’t first create the institutions, capacity, monitoring and other essential requirements to make investors feel secure and qualify for REDD funds. This stage of planning has been dubbed “REDD readiness.”

While a few countries have been able to secure funding and implement programs to prepare for REDD, for example Panama and Gyana, Nigeria has difficulty attaining resources for forest conservation, says Tunde Morakinyo. That is because donor funds tend to go for education, HIV, and governance, not the environment.

At a Conservation International and Nature Conservancy sponsored REDD side event, another Nigerian complained that the stringent requirements to qualify for REDD funds will limit the involvement of poor African nations. CI’s spokesperson responded “if the mechanism excludes countries, it must be flawed”. It’s the hope of the Tropical Forest Group that when the governor arrives at COP15 on Sunday, they will have succeeded in arranging some meetings and Cross River will be able to get the financing they need to prove the governor right -- that preserving carbon can pay.

Nicole Heller
Ecologist, Climate Central

COP 15 Approaches Capacity

On Saturday morning the lines to get into the Bella Center swelled again, security guards had to hold back crowds of frustrated participants who were trying to get to meetings. The secretariat announced that even registered participants (from NGOs and IGOs) may be denied entrance into the conference starting today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

letter to Obama

Letter to Obama from Kerry ,Liberman and Grahm

REDD in German development policies

Mr. Dirk Niebel, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, hosted a reception yesterday (friday) at the German stand. TFG sent its German team member to ask about the integration of REDD into German development cooperation.
According to Mr. Niebel, Germany will put forest protection at the core of its development efforts and provide major technical support and funding to REDD projects - most likely concentrating actions in Southeast Asia, inter alia Vietnam.
In negotiations earlier this month between Mr. Niebel and the President of Brazil, Mr. Lula da Silva, in Berlin an agreement including significant funding for the protection of the Amazon rainforest has been reached.
In the meantime, Mr. Niebel explained, the final elaboration of the new government's forest-related development policies will have to wait until the end of the negotiations in Copenhagen in order to take into account possible agreements.
It is available on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), a report from 2004 on National forest programmes supported by the ministry.

Central African Forest Commission reports...

COMIFAC, the Central African Forest Commission, presented their latest research on REDD projects throughout the Congo Basin.  There has been significant progress in the region for conservation in a post-2012 framework, yet actual preventative policies remain to be enacted.  

To date preliminary baselines deforestation rates are being gathered via the European Space Agency and Earth Observation technologies.  Several of the countries, including the Congo, Gabon, and Cameroon, showcased total forest hectares remaining and estimated deforestation rates.  The goal is to establish baseline deforestation and degradation levels, in order to facilitate future REDD financing.  All countries are anxiously awaiting the final verbiage of the treaty here in Copenhagen before true conservation is on the table...

Danish Text: What is All the Fuss from Copenhagen

With not the appropriate copyright and thanks to NRDC and Politico and Jake.

Danish Text: What is All the Fuss from Copenhagen

Danish Text? Yes the draft negotiating text that was “secretly” developed by the Danes to try to move the world forward on addressing global warming pollution.

Would that be the text that certain countries can’t remember having seen? The text shared with many of the key countries, including key developing countries prior to the beginning of the Copenhagen negotiations? Yes to all of those things.

Was that the “secret” text that no one knew about -- except those key developed and developing countries that saw the text together at the same time? Yes one and the same. Well I guess the “secret” was that it wasn’t leaked sooner.

So what is the big deal? I’m still trying to figure out why some people seem so surprised that: (1) such a draft document exists; and (2) a smaller group of key countries are sitting around the table to try to work through key differences in advance of a Heads of Government Summit.

That is how high-stakes negotiations are conducted and if that is what it takes to move the process forward to putting the world on a path to solve this challenge then I’m all for it. [The Financial Times hit the nail on the head with their story, while the Guardian totally blew up the story on the basis of some “conspiracy”].

These negotiations always have this kind of smaller process that tries to break down the differences outside the “theatrics” of the formal negotiations. After all it is hard to get consensus in a big room, with 192 countries wanting to make a point. They have different names -- "friends of the chair” or “friends of the president” -- but they are all characterized by one thing – they don’t include all 192 countries.

In my old job we used to conduct dialogues where we would try to get underneath a country’s stated negotiating position. We found that when you could question country’s stated position, you could understand where they were really coming from and find solutions. Often we found solutions that addressed the concerns of two countries that used to be at opposite ends of an issue. Without such a process you would never get into “problem solving” mode. All you would be doing is rehashing stated positions.

So we used to do three things:

1. Keep the meetings small (usually no more than 30 key negotiators);
2. Structure the dialogue to be a back-and-forth so we could really get to the bottom of a countries position (we put people around a square table and made them talk to each other and challenge assumptions about each others position); and
3. Developed “straw proposals” (draft proposals that took a position to get a reaction and then help force the group to flesh out their real concerns and hopefully agree to a path forward).

Sound familiar? Well it kind of sounds like the process that the Danes conducted to try to get us closer to addressing this challenge.

After all, we’ve had a number of negotiating sessions this year where countries have had draft negotiating text in front of them. And all that has produced is a process where proposals are shortened, rephrased, and reoriented on a page. That isn’t negotiating. Negotiating is where you say: “I can live with that if you do this”.

As a number of countries have told me privately:

“We weren’t negotiating. That process wasn’t going to produce an agreement.”

So the Danes tried to move the process forward in a different manner in order to move the world closer towards agreement. I can’t really blame them for trying this as going at the same problem in the same way isn’t leadership it is brainless. Thank goodness the Danish Presidency is trying everything it can to get a strong agreement out of Copenhagen that will lead to a treaty in a matter of months, not years (as I’ve discussed here).

It caused some “controversy” and maybe participants will get the grumbling about process out of their system early so we can get down to real negotiations. So maybe this is “the storm, before the agreement”.

There are now rumors that the Danes will introduce a new draft text on Saturday. And a number of other countries or groups have either developed their own draft or one is in the works:

* Africa is rumored to have produced a draft text;
* China produced one draft (now referred to as the “Beijing text”) which was supposedly done as a part of the effort with Brazil, South Africa, India, and China (reported here) but the detailed proposal seems to only be actually supported by China; and
* The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is rumored to be proposing one today.

That sounds like the back-and-forth of negotiations. And that is healthy. Propose something, other groups counter propose, narrow down the differences, and propose a new iteration. So stay tuned as this “negotiation” continues.

I hope everyone stays focused on the real action -- are countries taking action to address this challenge (as I discussed here and here). On that front we have very positive momentum.

We must do better than this kind of “made-up” drama if we are going to solve this challenge. Lead us to solutions not to more games.

Jake Schmidt International Climate Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council :


I’m not alone in sharing these views as you can see from these posts from other leading climate policymakers.

*More from Jake Schmidt at NRDC SwitchBoard.

Team TFG is still standing after week one...

Killer COP15 blog

REDD Hits Bumps in the Road After a Generally Positive Week of Negotiations

The overall message is that things are going well for REDD in the negotiations, that there has been clear progress. However, the lead negotiator for Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad, pointed his finger at the United States and Colombia for pushing for sub-national activities which he called “suicide” for small island states. He also stressed that this is a big issue that needs t be addressed here in Copenhagen before a REDD agenda can move forward.

Three additional points that are proving to be difficult to get into the text are; 1) the issue of conversion of natural forests to plantations 2) the rights of indigenous people, and 3) setting long term goals (short term goals are becoming well established).

There was positive news from Norway (who have been champions of rainforest financing, including their pledge of three billion dollars over five years that they announced in Bali in 2007), where the issue of deforestation as part of a successful climate agreement was part of a conversation between Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and President Barack Obama.

These issues are expected to push into the negotiations next week as over 100 heads of state are expected to arrive here at Cop 15.

Europe Pledges Billions for Climate Aid for Poor Nations

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Earth Negotiations Bulletin - Keep informed about COP 15!

IISD Reporting Services is producing daily reports and a summary and analysis from COP 15. The reports can be downloaded in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.
A good way to keep track of the Climate Change negotiations!

Tuvalu shuts down negotiations...

Tuvalu, the fourth smallest nation in the world, temporarily shut down negotiations (2:26:12) yesterday after objecting to proposals by China, India, and others to put off the goal of establishing a legally binding treaty by the end of COP 15.   

UN security seizes frisbee

apparently this is not the type of thing you are supposed
to bring inside the conference.

Tropical Forest Group (TFG) Position on COP15 REDD Text

TFG recognizes that there are a lot of pieces of the REDD text that are important, but we have decided to focus on two critical points, 1) setting a timeline for establishing baselines and 2) early action. Check out our position paper posted on the COP15 page of our website.

TFG talks with delegate from the DRC

TFG Director John-O Niles talks with delegate from the Democratic Republic of the Congo about REDD.

Monday, December 7, 2009

California-Based Forestry Carbon Offset Rules Go National

The Climate Action Reserve, an entity that verifies and manages trade in carbon offsets in California, is laying the groundwork to become a nationwide standard.

REDD events in Copenhagen during COP 15

With Copenhagen swarmed by over 36,000 registered participants, there is an exciting array of REDD-related activities for everyone...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama moves trip to COP15 second week

President Barack Obama is pushing back his trip to Copenhagen in order to be at the international climate talks during the critical negotiating period, reports

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CA's cap and trade program accelerates

The carbon scheme would cap emissions of large emitters including power plants, refineries, cement plants and other big factories at 15 percent below today’s levels by 2020, and allow companies to buy and sell emissions allowances to meet their goal, according to the article. The scheme would also allow limited use of high-quality offsets outside of capped sectors to cover a portion of the overall emissions reductions, according to CARB.

Obama to Copenhagen b4 Oslo.

President Obama will travel to Copenhagen Dec. 9, a day before accepting the Nobel Peace Price in Oslo, to help launch a U.N.-sponsored global climate change summit, a White House official said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

U.S. Will Propose Near-Term Emissions Cuts in...Days

Published: November 23, 2009

WASHINGTON — The United States will propose a near-term target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before the United Nations climate change meeting in Copenhagen next month, a senior administration official said Monday. President Obama, the official said, will announce the specific target “in coming days.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ethiopia PM: World Not Serious On Climate Change

Aid workers say a five-year drought, worsened by climate change, is afflicting some 23 million people in seven east African nations, with Ethiopia worst affected.

Meles has become Africa's most outspoken leader on climate change and has argued that European pollution may have caused his country's ruinous 1984 famine.

Reuters, Author: Barry Malone

Thursday, November 5, 2009

EDF's A Day in the Life of a Carbon Credit for Reduced Deforestation

An interesting story (hyperlinked in blog title) by Environmental Defense Fund on what a hypothetical REDD credit could look like in Brazil.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reuters article- REDD credibility Hinges On 10-Words

Amazing Grist article on US climate change policy

This is absolutely essential reading for anyone, domestic or otherwise, that wants to understand how our country now works. If you want climate or any type of legislation, you need 60 senators - an extremely high bar given the polarization of our politics in the past few decades.

Graph: The American

Monday, November 2, 2009

Aceh's Governor Irwandi birthday surprise visit

As far as birthday surprises go, my 40th birthday couldn't have been more exciting. One of my heroes in this world, Governor Yusuf Irwandi of Aceh Indonesia, is an icon in conservation, democracy and human rights.

Governor Irwandi and some of his senior staff (Wibi, Yakob, Rafli, and others) popped by unexpected to share some food, play with kids, and toast to a new year. TFG is looking forward to staying engaged in Aceh forest conservation and sustainable livelihood efforts in the coming months and years.

You can read a 2007 article about Yusuf Irwandi (that I wrote when I was still in the private sector) here:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Breaking News - Brazil will support REDD with conditions

This is a major development in the world of climate change and tropical forests. Brazil has long opposed REDD-like credits for reductions in deforestation. This evolution in a negotiating position suggests that if the talks at large can succeed, REDD will also happen. There are no other nations with such clout that remain opposed to REDD. This. Is. Mega.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

World Leaders meet in London on climate, REDD advances slightly again

The latest hope for a breakthrough in international climate change negotiations happened this past week in London. There was some progress overall and more signals that some funding mechanism for REDD must be kick-started before the compliance market arrives....see below excerpt from the official communication.

At a dinner of the Leaders’ representatives, it was noted that developing countries are developing ambitious REDD+ plans and financing their own efforts. The need for urgently and significantly scaled up international finance for REDD+ was discussed, ahead of linkage to the market. Such finance could be for capacity building, to leverage private sector investment and for payment by results, accommodating different national circumstances. It was suggested that existing institutions propose investment instruments and how to improve coherence.

For more background, please see:

Standard Bank Poised To Launch $230 Million Forest Fund

Another large new fund, which seems to be directed at reforestation and afforestation in Australia.

Guidebook on CDM legal issues

This Guidebook addresses a wide range of legal and regulatory issues arising from the domestic laws, regulations and policies of CDM Host Countries that can affect the development and implementation of CDM projects.

Many of the findings are pertinent to REDD and other coming environmental services.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Non-Paper 18 on REDD (latest negotiating text)

Several people have asked for the latest text from the Bangkok climate change talks on REDD. TFG will be providing an analysis of the text in coming weeks. The paper, or non-paper actually, is technically entitled:

Non-paper No. 18∗
08/10/09 @ 11:00
Subgroup on paragraph 1 (b) (iii)
of the Bali Action Plan
(Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions
from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries;
and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement
of forest carbon stocks in developing countries)
Revised annex III C to document FCCC/AWGLCA/2009/INF.2

Friday, October 16, 2009

NYT answers TFG question on governance and REDD

Andrew Revkin (Environment reporter) and Erica Goode (Environment editor) recently answered a series of questions on the environment as part of the "Talk to the Times" series. They even took one from TFG on REDD and governance. The link to the discussion is in the title bar of the blog.

Governors urge Presidents on forests

11 Governors from the US, Indonesia and Brazil have sent a letter to their respective Presidents (Obama, Yudhoyono, and Lula) asking them to form a new trasnational partnership on forests and climate change. This is a critical development, as many of the most innovative and at-scale REDD+ activities are occurring at the state, district and province levels. This smaller-than-national and larger-than-project scale is a natural place also to see innovation in rule making. Currently, there is plenty of excitement and opportunity for REDD in the world, but until there are compliant-grade rules, investors, donors, and AID investments in REDD will be on hold.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Excellent Ecosystem Marketplace article on REDD status

Old Issues Stagger REDD in End Game
by Unna Chokkalingam

Ecosystem Marketplace covers the latest breaking news on the text of REDD+ for Copenhagen. This is must reading for anyone following the talks closely.

Copyright © 2009, The Ecosystem Marketplace,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

IPCC Pachauri hints at possible deforestation deal

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a Reuters article, says talks in Copenhagen will likely go to the wire. That is obvious. Any possible deal will come late in the evening of December 18th, but even more likely in the early morning hours of the 19th.

What was most interesting about his interview was the notion that...

"Apart from possible deals on emission cuts by rich nations and finance for actions by developing countries to fight global warming, Pachauri said the world could also ink a pact to avoid deforestation.".

Given that REDD is far advanced ahead of other sectors in the UNFCCC process, given that international forest carbon is a major component of both House and Senate US legislation, and given the Governor's Climate Summits have a separate track for climate and forests, a deforestation deal would be the natural item that governments should be able to get across the line. The question is whether you can have a mechanism that uses carbon markets to arrest deforestation if the carbon markets themselves are not solved.

The original article is hyper-linked in the blog title.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Senate moves toward nuclear for Republican votes

NYT covers the latest negotiations in the US Senate on Cap and Trade.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Senate will introduce Cap & Trade tomorrow

Grist (hyperlinked in the title) is covering the expected development on cap and trade legislation in the US Senate tomorrow.

more evidence the world is changing

Monday, September 28, 2009

Important new commission on tropical forests

This is an incredibly important development. Many folks are thinking Waxman/Markey was great in theory, real tough to get passed, a total landmark/line in the sand. But Cap and Trade simply ain't in the cards this year or next. A new commission like this could be instrumental to make sure interim steps on energy and climate deliver on international forest carbon.

Pictured are Lincoln Chafee and John Podesta, co-chairs of the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests.

Monday, September 21, 2009

new reordered/consolidtaed text from UNFCCC

The UNFCCC secretariat has released the latest version of the text for a Copenhagen agreement (hyperlink in title). No new surprises, and it is still clocking in at av overweight 188 pages. The information on REDD is primarily (not only though) found 106-115.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sobering commentary by J. Drexhage at IISD

The piece is well worth reading. It begins ominously and doesn't get lighter...
"We are at the precipice of what is supposed to be a landmark global decision on climate change at Copenhagen in less than 16 weeks, and yet anyone with his or her eyes open cannot help but come to the conclusion that we are in seriously dire circumstances."

Intense and important meetings start at State Department

For those of us who are prognosticating on the likelihood of a Copenhagen deal, the place to be is C Street in DC (that is where the State Department is). If the major emitters can hash something out, there is still hope for a deal. If this group can not produce something tangible by the end of next week, when the G20 meetings are held in Pittsburgh, then he likelihood of a Copenhagen deal goes down to extremely tiny.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jake's blog on US position on international provisions

Jake Schmidt is again covering items important, quickly, and succinctly. In today's blog (hyperlink in title to, Jake shows how the lead US negotiator, Todd Stern, spoke in front of a House committee on the importance of the international provisions in the Waxman-Markey bill, including REDD.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Indonesia's REDD rules some years away

This story is quite important. Everyone realizes the importance of engaging the private sector, but rules for REDD projects will be needed at the national level. As this story and example show, REDD rules (particularly around carbon rights and benefit sharing) will take some time to develop. In the meantime, investors continue to be frustrated. This large new class of assets is likely to come on-line in both US and UNFCCC legislation. But without clear guidance on how private monies can be leveraged for conservation, it is likely that there will be continued enthusiasm, but little skin-in-the-game for private-financed REDD emission reductions. It should be noted that most other developing countries with substantial rates of deforestation are not as far along the process as Indonesia. Some countries essentially prohibited pre-compliant REDD projects from taking off.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good article on Copenhagen (100 things...)

This article has lots of good tidbits for anyone planning to go to Copenhagen or just following the talks.

In the article you'll find some good policy links (to good critical coverage of the politics behind the scenes) and absurdities (it is OK for women to swim topless in pools in Copenhagen, there is no plan yet to deal with a swine flu outbreak at the talks). Perhaps most frightening....? #19 according to the list says there will only be about one hour of sunlight per day during the talks.

TFG will be sending a COP15 delegation of about 25 people, mostly volunteer scientists and policy advocates. At latest count, our team will be coming from 8 countries, speaking probably 15 languages.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nigerian illegal logging task force gets serious

This is one of the most interesting tropical forest stories of our times. Cross River State is finally getting very (some say, too) serious about stopping illegal logging. The Tropical Forest Group is working with local organizations to bring more stable international support to their heroic efforts to curtail illegal logging in one of Africa's most important forests.

Radio sparring on tropical forest carbon credits

I had a fun but tough radio interview with Green Patriot Radio about the concept of can and trade legislation as well as the particulars of REDD credits. The link is in the title and the interview is about 2/3 the way through the program.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Brazilian researcher calls global deforestation "grossly overestimated"

Solid numbers for tropical deforestation are notoriously hard to come by. The director of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research in the article (hyperlinked in title) speaks of deforestation rates (and thus carbon emissions) much lower than prevailing estimates. While he may be right, deforestation numbers may be lower, there is usually more to statements from Brazil on deforestation than meet they eye. This could be part of a strategy by Brazil to frame the debate on REDD in Copenhagen. One should also remember that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the authoritative international body on climate change science, believes that approximately 17.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from land use change in the tropics. So for a leading Brazilian researcher to be quoted as saying,

"I'm not in favor of conspiracy theories," Camara (the Director of the Institute) told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday. "But I should only state that the two people who like these figures are developed nations, who would like to overstress the contribution of developing nations to global carbon, and of course environmentalists." probably a good reason to be skeptical.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

India calls for forests as key Copenhagen plank

Could this be the start of a new trend to have forestry play a front and center role in the next phase of Kyoto? This represents an interesting turning point - India which does not stand to gain much from "avoided emissions" (it has very little deforestation) has been clamoring to open REDD up to more types of forestry credits. If other nations latch on to forests as something that can be highlighted in the post 2012 phase, we could see some interesting breakthroughs in coming months where forestry actually helps foster an overall deal.

The text of the article is in the title link...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Barcoding Tropical Forests to Save Them

LONDON - Deep in the world's tropical rainforests, workers are hammering thousands of barcodes into hardwood trees to help in the fight against illegal logging, corruption and global warming.

The plastic tags, like those on supermarket groceries, have been nailed to a million trees across Africa, southeast Asia and South America to help countries keep track of timber reserves.

Helveta, the British company behind the technology, says the barcodes will help firms comply with tough laws on importing sustainable timber into the United States and Europe.

They could also play a role in fighting deforestation, which accounts for about a fifth of global emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide. The issue will feature in global climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

"We bring transparency and visibility where historically that has probably been limited at best," Patrick Newton, Helveta's chief executive officer, told Reuters.

The company, which has just secured another 3 million pounds ($4.88 million) in funding from investors, has put barcodes on trees across the world, including in Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Malaysia and Peru.

The computerized system is less prone to fraud than traditional paper records, carries live data and can help governments to collect more timber taxes, Newton said.

While the barcodes can't prevent criminals from chopping down trees, the system makes it hard for them to process, sell or export the wood, Newton said.

Officials in remote forests use handheld computers to scan the tags from the moment a tree is felled to its processing and export, and the live data is put onto Helveta's secure database.

Every tree above a certain size in a plantation is given an individual barcode. When a tree is cut down, another barcode is attached to the stump and more tags are nailed to the processed wood to allow customs officials to audit exports at the docks.

Government officials and companies can track individual trees through the supply chain and view computerized maps of forests on the database. Timber leaving a forest or factory without tags will immediately be viewed as illegal, Newton said.


Illegal logging costs timber-producing countries 7 billion euros ($10 billion) a year in stolen wood, lost taxes and lower prices for legally-sourced products, the World Bank estimates.

It also takes an environmental toll. Damage to forests raises the risk of fires, flooding and damage to plants and trees that act as a "sink" to soak up carbon dioxide, Britain's Meteorological Office said in a report last year.

Helveta hopes its technology could help countries taking part in a proposed scheme to protect the world's forests as part of the fight against global warming. That is likely to form part of any global climate deal agreed in Copenhagen in December.

The scheme, called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), aims to increase forest cover to soak up carbon dioxide emissions blamed for rising seas, extreme weather and melting glaciers.

It may include a market-based element where traders buy and sell REDD credits from forestry projects that lock away carbon.

However, trading based on the number of trees in a forest needs close auditing if the market is to work, Helveta says.

"The problem with forests is that it is very hard to validate what is truly out there," Newton said. "If you are trying to back that need to be able to make sure that what you think is securitized is really there."

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Major Economies Forum (MEF) Advance Text of Agreement

The UK Guardian paper has received and published an advance text of the MEF agreement in L'Aquila.

If anyone had any doubt as to whether REDD and international forest carbon is on the main countries' agenda, it is the only specific mitigation that is mentioned in the first point of the communique. It also clearly marks out space for reducing emissions and enhancement of sequestration in forests. Here's the language:

"We will take steps nationally and internationally, including under the Convention, to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emissions by forests, including providing enhanced support to developing countries for such purposes."

In other areas, the text uses highly ambiguous language on the overall goal for international collaboration. "We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees C."

There was also a strong shout-out to the Mexican proposal on funding.

There was one key date (November 15) for "lead countries" to report on action plans and road maps and to suggest recommendations for further progress. (Note - this could be an important date if the suggestions are coordinated; in other words, this could be a powerful opportunity to inject some clarity in the the final lap of UNFCCC talks).

And at the end, thankfully, the group said it would be meeting over the coming months in order to "facilitate agreement in Copenhagen". Phew.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BIG REDD - great article by Rhett Butler in Washington Monthly

Rhett is a great writer (and nice guy to boot). His piece in the Washington monthly is an excellent article on REDD.

The piece is called "Big REDD" and starts...

Right now, there’s more money to be made cutting tropical forests down than leaving them standing. Environmental policymakers are trying to reverse that equation.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Obama will chair MEF climate change session

If BusinessGreen reporting and BBC reporting (in title link) are true, then this Thursday we will find out how weak or strong President Obama can be on climate change. According to both stories, President Obama has asked to chair a key climate change session in the MEF (which is running parallel to the G20 meeting). Hopes are running high for an agreement on key climate change issues this week in Italy. There is a growing sense the UNFCCC process needs some clarity and direction from either the G8 or G20 and the MEF is where that will happen. Maybe these talks in Italy will be President Obama's first (and quite dramatic) foreign policy success? Imagine if he could get all the countries to agree on the basic ambitions and language to help the UNFCCC focus?

We shouldn't get our hopes up too high - other news outlets are reporting major diplomatic problems and low expectations. And the diplomatically unappealing talk of a "chairman's summary" if things can't get hammered out. Such a summary would indicate there wasn't agreement...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

US & Indonesia sign $30million TFCA Sumatran conservation deal

The US State Department today announced the largest Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) deal ever in the ten years of the program's existence. TFG understands this marks a new direction toward fewer, larger deals by America's single largest dedicated funds for conservation of tropical forests.

As usual, TFG would like to see more details, which are always scant on these announcements, usually restricted to a press release. Specifically, it would be good to see more explicit expected conservation outcomes and more information on how the money will be spent. But for now, a toast to Indonesia and America for this important announcement!

Bureau of Public Affairs, US State Department
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 30, 2009

The Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Indonesia, Conservation International and Yayasan Keanekaragaman Hayati Indonesia (KEHATI) announced today that they have concluded the largest debt-for-nature swap under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) since its passage in 1998. The agreements will reduce Indonesia’s debt payments to the United States by nearly $30 million over the next eight years. In return, the Government of Indonesia has committed these funds to support grants to protect and restore the country’s tropical forests.

Indonesia is one of the most biologically-diverse countries on earth. Funds generated by this program will help Indonesia protect several forest areas on Sumatra, Indonesia’s second largest island. These forests are home to species found only in Indonesia, including the endangered Sumatran tiger, elephant, rhino, and orangutan. In addition, these forests provide important ecosystem services such as maintaining the quality and quantity of freshwater supplies and carbon sequestration.

The swap was made possible through contributions of $20 million by the U.S. Government under the TFCA and a combined donation of $2 million from Conservation International and KEHATI. Grants provided under the TFCA program will support activities such as conserving protected areas, improving natural resource management, and supporting the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities that rely on forests.

The Indonesia agreement marks the 15th Tropical Forest Conservation Act deal, following agreements with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama (two agreements), Paraguay, Peru (two agreements) and the Philippines. Over time, these debt-for-nature programs will together generate more than $218 million to protect tropical forests.

PRN: 2009/663

Monday, June 29, 2009

addendum on vote numbers

The early reports were not quite right. It appears the final vote was 219 to 212.

You can find the roll call of who voted for and against the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454) through the link in the title bar.

Friday, June 26, 2009

WOW!!! US House of Reps pass climate change bill with major tropical forest provisions

This is a day to celebrate. Several news agencies are reporting that the US House of Representatives passed by a narrow vote of 217-205 the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

A few years ago, this would have been absolutely laughable. America should be proud that such a bill could pass this chamber in such difficult times.

This vote will also give US negotiators to the UNFCCC some much needed credibility.

In celebration, I am posting one of my favorite photos for everyone to enjoy. You Bet! It's Mr T and Nancy Reagan.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waxman & Markey Have support all the way at the top

This from NYT today.

June 23, 2009, 1:34 pm
Obama Urges Passage of Climate Bill
By John M. Broder
(Jason Reed/Reuters)

President Obama on Tuesday gave a full endorsement to energy and climate change legislation now pending before the House, calling it “extraordinarily important.”

At a midday press conference, Mr. Obama said that the bill, sponsored by Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, “will finally spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet.”

He said the bill will be paid for by utilities and other industries that produce the bulk of climate-altering emissions and will help position the country as a global leader in clean energy technology. “And that is why I urge members of the House to come together to pass it.”

The president’s strong endorsement comes three days before a scheduled House vote on the 1,201-page measure that has as its centerpiece a cap-and-trade program to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that scientists blame for changes to the global climate.

As part of his lobbying efforts, Mr. Obama has dispatched cabinet officers and other top officials to a half-dozen states this week to tout the benefits of the bill and the administration’s spending on a variety of clean-energy projects, like wind power and loan guarantees for energy efficiency projects.

Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey are still negotiating aspects of the complex legislation and there is no certainty that they will assemble enough votes to pass it on Friday over near-unanimous Republican opposition. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday evening approved a floor debate and vote at the end of the week, a signal that she believes that ultimately supporters of the bill will prevail.

revised UNFCCC negotiating text for Copenhagen

The UNFCCC has released the latest 199 page negotiating text (hyperlinked in title). This text follows from the Bonn climate change talks and is crucial to the UNFCCC process, since there are provisions with the Framework Convention on Climate Change that require a 6 month notice of proposed amendments to the Convention. With Copenhagen now less than 6 months away, this 200 page hodge-podge of ideas (plus other submissions by Parties) will be the mud from which a new agreement must be drafted.

TFG has yet to go through the latest version for key REDD language, but we will soon and will report back here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

breaking news on US Waxman-Markey climate bill

NYT (hyper linked in title) has an excellent update on where the Waxman-Markey climate change bill is. It sounds like there will be efforts to try and wrap up significant changes over the weekend. Thus far, no news about changes to tropical forests components.

Global Canopy Programme's summary of REDD post-Bonn

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Greenpeace Fake Newspaper: Funny & Wrong on REDD

Greenpeace, the global Juggernaut of NGOs, produced a funny faux version of the Euro-popular International Herald Tribune (IHT) for European leaders gathering in Brussels to discuss climate change.

The main link is here:

(The IHT has apparently asked Greenpeace to remove the "fake pages" so this link may not be up for long...)

In this imaginary version of the IHT, Greenpeace reports on a Pretend Copenhagen Agreement (complete with France abandoning nuclear power and ExxonMobil converting all to renewable). As far as shock value and humor go, this is clearly a winner.

If you look at their upper left hand button "Historic Win for Amazon Protection", it'll take you to an article about REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries).

In the Greenpeace pretend world, a new "fund" is miraculously created by negotiators in Copenhagen to fund reductions in deforestation. Greenpeace slams the use of carbon credits for forests. This is a view Greenpeace has held for more than a decade.

Luckily, many do not agree with this viewpoint. Many countries, local communities, states and provinces and environmentalists see carbon credits as an imperfect, but critically important new tool to save tropical forests. This is because miraculous new funds for saving tropical forests just don't seem to be catching on like they used to...Norway being the exception.

Luckily, real negotiators in the real world are heading toward a real treaty where there are likely to be new funds AND carbon credits for nations that reign in deforestation. Funds are great, bring 'em on! But for real, sustained financing (decades, at many billions of dollars per year) tied to actual reductions in deforestation (unlike funds), carbon credits are an important solution that this planet cannot afford to ignore.

For more information, check out one of our older blogs here:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Precautionary tale of REDD in Peru

Clicking on the title will take you to a good blog by Ani Youatt with the Mexico and Peru BioGems project. The blog is hosted on NRDC's excellent blogsight, Switchboard.

It is a sad tale of all the right talk, and all the wrong (and deadly) walk when it comes to forests and local communities in developing countries. In this case, Bagua province in Peru exploded in deadly violence over the issue of forests and forest access just after the US government had certified a Free Trade Agreement (on the last day of the Bush administration) with Peru, including numerous forest governance safeguards.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summary Press Briefings from UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Talks

Here are links to videos of the press briefings by some key players at the most recent climate change negotiations in Bonn Germany.

US Briefing:

UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Chairs of the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA

Delegation of the European Union

Thursday, June 11, 2009

draft SBSTA REDD text: FCCC/SBSTA/2009/L.9

Here is the latest draft language from the Bonn climate change talks on REDD. This document (hyperlinked in the title bar) was not the final version of a SBSTA text adopted - that post is coming soon.

In this draft decision, there are no major fireworks that would accelerate or slow down the REDD process in the march to a deal in Copenhagen. Overall, this text is another indication that the UNFCCC is unlikely to be the process where a new climate change deal gets sealed. A general sentiment now is that the political will for a new post-Kyoto Protocol agreement will come from outside the UNFCCC process. There is significant buzz around the need for a bi-lateral breakthrough on climate change between China and the United States. And there are plenty of signals that if the US and China can hammer out something bold, a new deal could be announced in the Major Economies Forum or in the G8/G20 processes. If a new pact on climate change can be struck in time in one of these arenas, then the UNFCCC would hopefully be able to pull together a legally-binding agreement.

Key Points of the L.9 draft REDD text are:
1) The Chair of SBSTA is to report at SBSTA 31 on ways to facilitate coordination - which seems like it should give the Chair a fair amount of flexibility in deciding procedural issues.

2) Proposed an Annex on Methodological REDD Guidance with the following issues:
a) Indicative guidance" is in brackets - clearly a set back from the Bali decisions
b) Basic stuff it has covered before, including combination of remote sensing and ground-based forest carbon inventories
c) Has bracketed [undecided] that monitoring systems should be open to independent review as agreed by the COP

3) Suggests further IPCC guidance may be needed

4) As appropriate, guidance on effective engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities in monitoring and reporting.

5) Suggests reference emission levels and reference levels could take into account a whole host of variables (this is likely to slow eventual REDD implementation and make baselines less comparable)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Luke Cole, Thank You

Dear folks,

I’m sorry to bring this sad news to some of you.

Many of you know Tom and Linda Cole. Tom and Linda have been working in Africa for several years. Tom and I have been friends since we met in Cameroon in 1992. Tom is a wonderful person, Frisbee player and humanitarian. Linda is one of the most generous people in the world; she has been supporting women in refuge camps in northern Uganda for the past years through her organization, Community Action Fund for Women in Africa (CAFWA).

Tom’s oldest brother Luke, a world famous environmental justice attorney, was killed in a car crash in Uganda a few days ago. Luke was on sabbatical as the Director of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. He and his wife, Nancy, had just been to see the King of the Batwa (a heavily-persecuted pygmy tribe in Africa) when the accident occurred.

Luke was pure inspiration. His great intelligence and humanity were rooted with severe real-world, real-human, positive repercussions. The magnitude of his work has only begun to uncurl. Luke is on the order of, just below probably, Martin Luther King and Gandhi. He was a wonderful gift, remarkable goodness, filled with ferocious happiness and quirkiness. Luke, we bid you an only temporary farewell for now, and all of our gratitude for your life and your work. We miss you and will take care of your work now that you have evolved.

San Francisco, CA: The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE) is mourning the untimely loss of its founder, Luke W. Cole, who passed away in Uganda while on sabbatical on June 6, 2009.

Luke was a visionary leader who helped define the role of law and lawyers in the environmental justice movement. With the inspiration and support of his mentor, Ralph Abascal of California Rural Legal Assistance, he founded CRPE soon after his graduation from Harvard Law School. Luke saw that as a legal field, environmental justice could be a bridge between the traditional environmental movement and the traditional civil rights movement. Although he worked hard to bring lawyers into the environmental justice movement, he was always mindful of the secondary role they should play. Luke recognized that in the end, environmental racism is a political problem, not a legal one, and therefore that the ultimate end is to empower disempowered communities. In his view, no legal strategy was adequate unless it met the test of three questions: Will it educate? Will it build the movement? Will it address the root of the problem?

Luke came from privilege, and he often laughed about being called a “limousine liberal,” but in his life and his work he walked the walk. He used his education, his race and gender privilege, his “macho law brain,” his charisma, and his heart to help those who did not have a voice influence the decisions that affect their lives and health. His “from the ground up” philosophy of environmental justice advocacy has influenced an entire field of legal practice and scholarship, as well as built lasting relationships with the communities with which we work. While we feel his loss deeply, CRPE is committed to continuing his work and ensuring that his vision of justice and equity is realized.


Luke Cole directs the Center’s work. He represents low-income communities and workers throughout California who are fighting environmental hazards, stressing the need for community-based, community-led organizing and litigation. Through the Center, he also provides legal and technical assistance to attorneys and community groups involved in environmental justice struggles nationwide.
Cole has worked with dozens of community groups in local struggles across the United States. He represented Kettleman City residents in their successful efforts to stop Chemical Waste Management from building California’s first toxic waste incinerator in their community. Current cases include representing residents of the Inupiaq Village of Kivalina in northwest Alaska in a suit against the world’s largest zinc and lead mine, which has polluted the village’s water supply for years. Other recent cases include representing South Camden Citizens in Action of Camden, NJ, in a historic civil rights suit against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe of Death Valley in its efforts to halt open-pit cyanide heap leach gold mining in sacred ancestral lands; Desert Citizens Against Pollution in the group’s successful challenge to tire burning in several cement kilns; and Communities for a Better Environment in a civil rights challenge to California pollution-trading regulations. Cole has been instrumental in halting the proliferation of mega-dairy farms in California’s Central Valley, and a key player in forcing local jurisdictions in California to study dairies’ environmental impacts and mitigate them.
Cole was appointed by EPA Administrator Carol Browner to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), where he served from 1996 through 2000 (including chairing NEJAC’s Enforcement Subcommittee from 1998 through 2000). He also served as a member of EPA’s Title VI Implementation Committee. In 1997, the American Lawyer magazine named Cole to the Public Sector 45, one of “forty-five young lawyers outside the private sector whose vision and commitment are changing lives.” Berkeley’s Ecology Law Quarterly awarded Cole its 1997 Environmental Leadership Award for “outstanding contributions to the development of environmental law and policy,” and the American Bar Association’s Barrister magazine named Cole one of “20 young lawyers making a difference” for his pioneering legal work. Community organizations have also honored Cole for his contributions to the environmental justice movement.
Cole is the co-founder and editor emeritus of the journal Race, Poverty & the Environment. He recently published, with Professor Sheila Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (NYU Press, 2001). His legal publications include “Empowerment as they Key to Environmental Protection: the Need for Environmental Poverty Law,” in the Ecology Law Quarterly, as well as pieces in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, the Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation, the Fordham Urban Law Journal, and the Michigan Law Review, among others. He has taught as a visiting professor at UC-Hastings School of Law, and also taught seminars on environmental justice at Stanford Law School, UC-Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, and Hastings. Cole graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and with honors from Stanford University.