Wednesday, December 23, 2009

REDD Agreement to Prevent Deforestation Postponed

I'm continuing to sort through the maelstrom of coverage coming out of the Copenhagen COP15 Climate Change conference.

The latest I've read is a bit of bad news -- that the plan to reduce emissions from forest destruction and degradation (REDD) was put off, postponing this crucial policy tool for making forest conservation a viable, respectable way for people to make a living.

Mongabay reports:

A plan to reduce tropical deforestation by paying developing countries to protect forests was postponed Saturday after world leaders failed to produce a binding climate agreement, reports the Associated Press.

Progress on the proposed REDD+ mechanism, which would compensate poor countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, had been seen as one of the only bright spots during climate negotiations in Copenhagen, but it appears to be on hold until there are more advances on a broader agreement. The postponement means that forests around the world may continue to fall, endangering biodiversity, depleting potentially renewable resources, and exacerbating climate change. Tropical deforestation is a larger source of greenhouse gas emissions than all the world's cars, trucks, planes, ships, and trains combined.

The final draft REDD text produced in Copenhagen was weakened from earlier versions. It includes mention of several hot-button issues including rights of indigenous people and the importance of protecting biodiversity, but emphasizes "sustainable management" (logging) over conservation, a disappointment to environmental groups.

While gloomy on the prospect of another year of negotiations, some REDD supporters remained optimistic that progress had been made in Copenhagen.

"The REDD text published is a major backdown from what almost everyone thought was an advanced text on many regards," John O. Niles of the Tropical Forest Group, a forest policy NGO, told "[But] REDD was by several orders of magnitude, the most technically and politically enlightened and advanced topic in Copenhagen." 

It can't be good that I just started thinking about Humpty Dumpty, but I did.  The earth is going to be here for a long long time, but as humanity destroys the earth's life support systems, which sustain civilization as we know it, what's at stake is our quality of life and...civilization as we know it.

Growing up reading and watching Tarzan, visiting zoos, and sitting in my parent's den watching shows like Wild Kingdom, I was spellbound by nature.  Even the word "nature" always had some kind of magical connotation to it.  It was inspiring to just know that these amazing places -- from the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo, to the grasslands and savannahs of the Serengetti, to the Ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA -- were out there.  I looked at all the people who had destroyed some of these special places and caused beautiful species to go extinct as backwards and cruel.  Surely, I thought, we know better now.

Now as a Ph.D. conservation scientist, I know that we do.  Yet, the power of greed always seems to superceed the power of knowledge, and is on course to be humanity's Achilles heel.

Can humanity wake up and turn things around, especially given that the solutions to our most urgent environmental problems will also make our lives so much better -- via an economy powered by clean technologies that offers more and longer-term jobs, more energy security, cleaner air to breathe, clean water to drink and swim in, and healthier ecosystems full of Mother Nature's wonders, not to mention 'ecosystem services' such as flood protection and pollination?

I'm in to do my best to make it so, all while being sure to have fun and enjoy life (which is so very important for maintaining the balance required to continue to offer my best effort)!

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