It is hard work to cut down a tree, let alone an entire forest. Swidden agriculture, the slashing, felling, and burning of forests for the conversion of land, requires epic sweat. Every year as the treaty is renegotiated, the reasons for and potential restraints on deforestation are both elaborated and clarified. When we talk about forested land, we are also talking about agricultural expansion and food security for a growing population. While an excess of carbon dioxide haunts our atmosphere, we have more than one problem to proactively and reactively solve. We are talking about livelihoods, family planning, land sparing, sustainable farming, the intensification of yield.
Ban Ki-moon arrived in Durban late in the second week of the conference. As Secretary General of the United Nations, he is the man in charge of haloing 194 nations around the singular agreement on climate change. When I saw him speak, he was deferent to his own stature, understating his vast importance to the world. Ban Ki-moon spoke of the forests and the noted improvements to the REDD text. Recently retuned from a visit to Kalimantan, Indonesia, he lauded the success of their pilot program for REDD. In particular, he praised Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Chairman of the Indonesian REDD+ Taskforce. Kuntoro himself was also at this talk. Later in the evening, a question was posed to him about Indonesia’s REDD program. “How far are you from being able to count the value of a tree standing as being more than the value of a tree cut down?” To which the minister of ministers replied, “It is not about each tree. It is about poverty. If you alleviate poverty, no tree will be cut down.” The ambition of this treaty is that it must address both the causes and the effects of global warming. Which makes it, perhaps, the most important international accord ever to be signed.