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Global warming and efforts to save forests

From the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen:

Global warming could undermine efforts to save forests

An Exclusive Report from Haider Rizvi, MediaGlobal Correspondent in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, 15 December 2009 [MEDIAGLOBAL]: The industrialized countries are facing heavy criticism for suggesting measures that would undermine global efforts to save forests.

Last night, negotiators failed to reach a deal on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), which is part of the UN climate conference agenda.

Sources monitoring Copenhagen talks on climate change told MediaGlobal that there had been major disagreements on many elements of the text, which is full of square brackets.

Those brackets include crucial safeguards to ensure that REDD funding is used for the conservation of natural resources instead of expansion of tree plantation, sources said.

The latest text, however, allows funding for large-scale monoculture tree plantation, an issue that, environmentalists say, would hamper local and global efforts to preserve biodiversity.

Environmental experts who are watching Copenhagen climate talks closely say they fear forests will disappear if rich countries do not commit themselves to emission reductions.

"Forests will decline rapidly due to droughts, forests fires, storms and other impacts of climate change if we do not succeed to halt global warming", said Andrey Laletin of the Global Forest Coalition, a network of environmental groups.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN treaty on biodiversity, shares that concern.

"The loss of world's forests is tremendous," he said in response to a question about the REDD agreement. "The loss of forests is loss of biodiversity, which is life. It also causes loss of means of living for indigenous peoples."

The indigenous peoples are the custodians of forests who have intimate knowledge about nature, he added. "Protecting forests means protecting indigenous peoples who are our partners in the fight against climate change."

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), clear-cutting of forests is now contributing close to 20 percent of the overall greenhouse gases emissions.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agenda item on "Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and approaches to stimulate action" was first introduced at the Conference of the Parties (COP11) in December 2005.

At the time, the parties agreed to establish a functioning international REDD finance mechanism that can be included in an agreed post-2012 global climate change framework.

Critics say the developing countries seem ready to put their money into forest preservation projects, but the way they want to deliver that money is not in the interest of communities living in the forests.

The biodiversity treaty requires those seeking to carry out development in forests to obtain approval from the indigenous communities and provide them with "fair" and "equitable" sharing of benefits. But, under the REDD agreement, that is not what is happening.

"The people of Africa are already facing devastating impacts of climate change", said Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim from the Indigenous Peoples Africa Coordinating Committee. "In Chad, animals die because of the drought and people have no access to water," he added.

Activists like Ibrahim fear that with the current draft, the world will see a rapid replacement of forests by monoculture tree plantations, including potentially genetically modified tree plantations.

"As industrial tree plantations are far more profitable than socially sound, community-driven forest conservation and restoration initiatives, most REDD funding will be snatched away by the pulp and paper industry if we do not explicitly exclude tree plantations from REDD," said Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, described the text on REDD as a "dirty deal." "Without emission cuts, it makes no sense at all as forests will be lost in a changing climate," she added. "If funded through offsets, it will become one of the biggest loopholes in the climate regime."

MEDIAGLOBAL is the global news organization, based in the United Nations Secretariat, creating awareness in the media for the countries of the global South, with a strong focus on South-South Cooperation. The media organization is one of the leading providers of information on global development issues facing vulnerable countries. MediaGlobal's news stories are read by leaders of developed countries, the global media, policymakers in donor countries, non-governmental organizations and key personnel in the United Nations Secretariat, its agencies and managers in the field worldwide. Please contact us at: UNITED NATIONS, 405 East 42 Street, United Nations Library Building, 2nd Floor, L- 221 K, New York, New York 10017. Telephone: 609.529.6129. Email:


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