Saving Forests May Fast Track Climate Resolutions

Saving Forests May Fast Track Climate Resolutions

As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delegates meet this week in Tianjin, China to iron out technical issues and overcome differences between developed and developing nations, the real news may be coming from the parallel discussions on avoided deforestation. And from Indonesia comes the report that a major avoided deforestation project, led by Carbon Conservation’s Dorjee Sun, is going ahead to save 15,600 hectares of rainforest.

Report from Steve Zwick in Eco system Marketplace (4 October 2010):

Most Parties to the UN Climate-Change Convention agree that we can slow climate change in the short term by saving tropical rainforests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).  They don’t, however, agree on how to finance that reduction in a fair and equitable way.  The REDD+ Partnership is supposed to unveil its proposals this week at Climate-Change talks in China.

Negotiators from all 194 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are meeting this week in Tianjin, China.  It’s the last major meeting before year-end talks in Cancun, and officially they’re trying to iron out technical issues and overcome differences between developed and developing nations.

The real news, however, may be coming from the REDD+ Partnership, which is meeting in a parallel track in close cooperation with the UNFCCC.

The Two Official Tracks

Differences between developed and developing nations were institutionalized in 2006, at talks in Bali, which split negotiations into two tracks.  One track, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), focuses on tweaking the existing Kyoto Protocol.  The other, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) , focuses on creating a completely new protocol to replace Kyoto once it expires in 2012. 

The two tracks were supposed to converge in Copenhagen, but each has instead taken on a life of its own.  Generally speaking, developing countries support the AWG-KP, under which they have no obligations, while developed countries support the AWG-LCA, which aims to bring  developing countries into the process.

Because Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) was not included in the Kyoto Protocol, its role in policy is discussed in the AWG-LCA, which formed a “subsidiary body”, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), to discuss the technical aspects of REDD.  Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrial countries can write off emissions captured through Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) against their industrial emissions.  Because LULUCF is covered by the Kyoto Protocol, talks take place in the AWG-KP track.

The Copenhagen Accord recognized the need to create funding mechanisms for REDD+, a contentious concept that combines REDD with biodiversity protection and safeguards for local livelihoods.  By some definitions, REDD+ also incorporates aspects of LULUCF.

The REDD+ Partnership

As negotiations stalled, Norway took the lead in establishing the REDD+ Partnership, which aims to develop funding mechanisms that will complement evolving UN procedures.  In June, the Partnership released its interim partnership agreement, and co-chairs Junya Nakano of Japan and Federica Bietta of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations told Ecosystem Marketplace that they would spend the summer developing financing schemes and working on a plan that incorporates the needs of indigenous people.

Since then, however, details have been hard to come by, and scores of indigenous rights groups say they’ve been excluded from the process, while a Partnership spokesperson says it’s the groups that have shunned the process.

Either way, the Partnership is holding its own meeting parallel to formal negotiations this week, and promises to address critics before the event wraps up on Saturday.

Indeed, as the week progresses, it’s likely that more attention will focus on the REDD Partnership proceedings than on formal negotiations – even as UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres spoke of a growing convergence between the two tracks, but seemed intent on tempering enthusiasm.

“The agreements that can be reached in Cancun may not be exhaustive in their details,” she said.  “But as a balanced package they must be comprehensive in their scope and they can deliver strong results in the short term as well as set the stage for long term commitments to address climate change in an effective and fair manner.”

Steve Zwick is the Managing Editor of Ecosystem Marketplace. 


Radio Australia report (6 October 2010):

One of Indonesia’s most notorious logging companies has teamed up with a Time Magazine environmental hero to set up a carbon reserve on the island of Sumatra. Asia Pulp and Paper will join forces with Carbon Conservation, a company headed by Dorjee Sun, whose campaign to save Indonesian forests was the subject of the documentary ‘The Burning Season’. But some environment groups say the Kampar Carbon Reserve is all part of an ongoing process of ‘greenwashing’ at APP.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Dorjee Sun, chief executive officer, Carbon Conservation; Aditya Bayunanda, coordinator for World Wildlife Fund, Indonesia Pulp & Paper

COCHRANE: For years, Asia Pulp and Paper has been seen as one of the environmental bad guys in Indonesia.

Greenpeace has been sharply critical of its logging operations, and the paper produced by APP was taken off the shelves at Woolworths, Staples and Office Depot because they thought APP’s claims of sustainability were dubious.

At the other end of the spectrum is Dorjee Sun, the charismatic environmental crusader who started the company Carbon Conservation as a vehicle to protect Indonesian forests.

Together, the unlikely partners have announced a plan to protect a 15,000 hectare area of peat forest in Riau province of Sumatra.

The forest was set to be cleared, drained and planted with fast growing timbers for pulping into paper products.

But Dorjee Sun has encouraged APP to rethink its approach.

SUN: They’ve made the commitment, working with us, to stop the logging and stop the plantation development. And in exchange, protect it and develop the local community for preservation rather than exploitation. And that creates carbon credits from protecting that carbon, which we trade to create the financial transaction.

COCHRANE: The idea is that major carbon emitters – that’s big companies in the developed world – should buy carbon credits, based on the amount of carbon that would have been lost if forests had been cleared and burned.

Europe already has a UN sanctioned carbon credit market that sells a one carbon credit – which is equal to one tonne of CO2 emissions – for around US$17.

Other carbon trades operate on a voluntary basis with much cheaper carbon credits – sometimes just US$2 per tonne.

Dorjee Sun says the Kampar Carbon Reserve has value beyond just trees.

SUN: The area that we’re protecting has tigers, it has tapirs, it has a lot of endangered plant species. So, to us, we’re hoping to be able to sell it for an amount obviously much higher, as high as possible, because the more money we get into the project, the more resources we have to protect that land.

COCHRANE: The project is billed as the world’s first privately funded carbon reserve initiative and a test of the concept’s financial viability.

But it has also attracted scepticism.

Aditya Bayunanda is the Indonesia Pulp & Paper coordinator for World Wildlife Fund.

He says the project might just be part of an ongoing public relations campaign to improve the environmental reputation of APP.

BAYUNANDA: This could be part of a greenwashing [at] APP because at the same time they’re opening natural forest and draining peat lands with an area that is larger than the area they set aside for this carbon reserve.

COCHRANE: Mr Bayunanda says many companies in Australia, the US and Europe have boycotted APP products because of their environmental record.

But other buyers do still source their paper from APP.

BAYUNANDA: Markets that are insensitive, or not yet sensitive to environmental issues, are still open to do business with them, mostly maybe in China, India, those other countries where environment issues are not yet mainstream.

COCHRANE: Dorjee Sun acknowledges there were, initially, deep doubts within his company about working with APP.

SUN: What we realised, from a pragmatic perspective, is that if you want to change the economy, there’s no denying you have to engage, you have to change the biggest multinationals, the biggest companies in the world. And if you want to change the multinationals, you have to work with them. You can’t just yell at them alone.

COCHRANE: He says he has great respect for the work done by Greenpeace and WWF, but wants to try a different approach.

SUN: In these circumstances, you need to get the poacher, to know the ways of the poacher, to become the protector.


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