The Cancun Agreements

Agreements were made. This is important. The process did not fail and the UNFCCC will continue in the long term quest to achieve internationally binding targets.

 I have seen several achievements consistently mentioned in the media. (1) Commitments made by global economies for 2020 were recognized/the Copenhagen Accord was adopted, (2) a global environmental fund was established, and (3) an agreement was reached on REDD+, improving protection of tropical forests. See What happened (and why): an assessment of the Cancun Agreements, by Robert Stavins from for a great summary of achievements. 

 There are a few important issues which have not been as readily reported…

 Indigenous People and REDD+: While Bolivia was the only state to object to REDD+  there were many interest groups protesting the language of the REDD+ agreement.  In fact, most protests regarding COP 16 were not related to the overall lack of binding commitments, but related to a specific provision in the REDD+ agreement regarding land tenure. Many indigenous groups worried that the new agreement, which requires monitoring and verification would affect their ability to continue their livihoods on lands that they have lived on for centuries but don’t actually ‘own.’ According to a popularly circulated pamphlet at COP 16 “Why REDD is Wrong,” “Over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for some aspect of their livelihoods, but only about 9 percent of the world’s forests are legally owned by forest-dependent and Indigenous communities. People without land rights have no legal power to influence REDD projects.”  There are other advocates who say that REDD+ agreements aren’t planned for any regions where these specific protestors are from.

From the Indigneous Environmental Network

Advocates of REDD also point to the fact that the Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention is the first document “Taking note of relevant provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry: The  loophole continues. During an earlier blog, I mentioned that there are several options on the table to decide how to account for forest management emissions during the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol including… (1)  Tuvalu proposed text to use the first commitment period as a mandatory historical baseline. (2)  The Africa Group proposed a compromise text which combines historical baselines with projected baselines and (3)  Developed countries propose a continuation of voluntary accounting.

Although not a surprise, it seems the developing countries “won” and now can set their own reference levels…The current text “Requests each Annex I Party to submit to the secretariat, by 28 February 2011, information on the forest management reference level.”

The Global Environmental Fund: While the fund has targets of over a 100 billion per year, many developing countries have not been receiving money already promised by developed countries. The World Bank will be the trustee for this fund, but the World Bank doesn’t have the best track record at delivering money in an efficient manner (see blog post President from Guyana wants his money).

Dan at 4th meeting of the COP

Nicholas Stern of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change talks about the impact of agriculture on deforestation

Bharrat Jagdeo – President of Guyana wants his money.

After committing a Guyanan forest the size of England, in exchange for a billion dollars from Norway, Jagdeo needs this $ to keep political will with his people. Norway delivered the money to the World Bank but it has yet to be delivered where needed. Jagdeo promised all indigenous people solar panels. He promised to accelerate the process of determining land tenure and promised the availability of grant funds to several communities. Jagdeo said, if this REDD+ project cannot work in Guayanaa where he does have the will to make this work, and with Norway as a generous partner, it will not work anywhere.

Students Protest REDD+ with REDD+ Herring

Indonesia #3 in emissions because of peatlands

I didn’t realize the significance of peatland carbon till George Soros (Founder, Open Society Foundations) broke it down with an example.

Vrilly Rondonuwu from the Republic of Indonesia, Ministry of Environment and Prof. Garvey

Indonesia has 1,000,000 acres of forest. ½ of this forest was logged. Not only was it logged, but canals were developed to float logs out of the forest. The water drained nutrients out of the peatland beneath the forest which subjected the forest to fire. Peatland can be 20m to 30m deep and is very carbon dense. The loss of this peatland has contributed to Indonesia being the number 3 carbon emitter after the US and China. When recently in Indonesia, Obama committed his support to Norway for partnering with Indonesia to protect the remaining peatland, but it is yet to be seen how the US will help finance these types of projects. Dan has been talking some about finance, this is the little I know about it. The US Center has had several side events related to fast start financing. The US claims they are “ramping up” financing for climate 300% and spending 10 times more on adaptation projects then previous years. The ramping up numbers are talking points that are repeated consistently esp. by Joe Alba.  Many observers claim this money is double counted from other aid programs. Johnathan Pershing responded to this by claiming it is unclear how to define “new & additional money” but that the US is spending more than last year. Supposedly they will spend 1.7 billion over the next 3 years, 250 million devoted to forestry projects, but the word on the street is that only 20% of committed and expected funds are available on the ground.

Rob Walton gets mixed reviews on Walmart’s progress

In a conversation with Achim Steiner (Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme) & Peter Seligmann (Chairman and CEO, Conservation International) Walton describes progress Walmart has made in the sourcing of their products.

Walmart UNEP & Conservation Intl. conversation

Given the focus on Indonesia at this COP, Walton describes how Walmart stopped sourcing palm oil from recently deforested areas – such as those in Indonesia. This started in England, based on consumer preference and now the same more sustainable suppliers are being used throughout the world. Walton also described how Walmart is no longer sourcing Brazillian meat from areas recently deforested.

I almost felt bad for the guy because as he walked off the stage, some guy yelled ‘make Walmart vegetarian” and then the media went after him because it is easy to raise cattle on recently deforested land for 80% of their life and then bring then to sustainable land at the point of sale. Obviously they can do more, but I think its nice they are making some baby steps. According to Walton, they thought they would go after low hanging fruit but ended up taking on the whole enchilada.

Check out this line-up

Being on the CIFOR (center for interntational forestry research) listserv, I was invited to a very special, 400 people – including press, event…

Advancing REDD+: New Pathways and Partnerships

Ban Ki-moon -UN Secretary-General

By Invitation Only

*    *     *     *     *     *     *
Special honored guest:
His Excellency Ban Ki-moon – Secretary-General of the United Nations
And other distinguished speakers, including:

His Excellency Felipe Calderón – President of Mexico*
Hon. Jens Stoltenberg – Prime Minister of Norway
His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo – President of Guyana
Wangari Maathai – 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (video message)
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE – Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace (video message)
Linda Adams – Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency
Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto – Head of Indonesian President’s Delivery Unit for REDD
Jonathan Pershing – U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change
George Soros – Founder, Open Society Foundations
Achim Steiner – Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme
Peter Seligmann – Chairman and CEO, Conservation International
Steve Kline – Vice President, Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation
Hon. Juan Sabines Guerrero – Governor, Chiapas, Mexico
Hon. Timothy E. Wirth – former U.S. Senator & President of the United Nations Foundation
Rob Walton – Chairman, Walmart
Robert Zoellick – President, World Bank

UN starts seriously working with cities.

My very last “low-level” side event, I ended with some positive news about progress in cities throughout the world. Not only are cities making progress, but they are starting to get recognition and assistance from the international community. The representative form the World Bank said, “We realize we need to partner with cities” For the first time the CDM finance will be used for a proposal in Amman Jordan.

The Phillipines also have a new law, the Phillipine Climate Change Act of 2009 in which local governments are recognized as frontline agencies. The law also requires that in the formulation of plans cities shall conisider climate change adaptation as one of their regular functions. In addition Phillippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act requires cities to integrate DRR and CC adaptation into comprehensive local land use and development plans.



Prof. Burleson, Dan Mill_r & Prof. Garvey at Cancunmesse

Dan and I were e-introduced to Elizabeth Burleson from USD Law School by Betsy Baker. The three of us were able to meet in person at Cancunmesse and had an opportunity to exchange thoughts on the COP. Prof. Burleson was one of many observers who told us that in the specific negotiations she observed, delegates were working from different texts. In contrast to Rio, which was a signing ceremony, here the delegates are practically creating text from scratch in some cases.

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wikileaks at COP 16

It is  impossible to know how the wikiLeaks regarding the US strategy during COP 15 will affect the outcome of COP 16. There are certainly more disussions about democratic process and trust.

Not only have the WikiLeaks affected the level of trust, but they have also distracted some delegates from the work at hand. Even during side events, the Q&A session involves more questions from the audience about trust and transparency from the U.S.

Some NGOs are taking advantage of the leaks and using info from the leaks to offer recommendations to the ‘spied on’ country. For example see this article about wikileaks and Saudi Arabia,

LULUCF (Lu-Lu-C-F) Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry: what will COP 16 do about unaccounted emissions from logging?

During the first commitment period of the KP, countries are only required to voluntarily account for emissions from logging. This means that countries can determine their own baselines, including the use of a baselines based on future instead of historical data. There are several options on the table to decide how to account for forest management during the second commitment period.

(1)      Tuvalu proposed text to use the first commitment period as a mandatory historical baseline.

(2)      The Africa Group proposed a compromise text which combines historical baselines with projected baselines.

(3)      Developed countries propose a continuation of voluntary accounting.  Continue reading

Forest Day panelists believe an agreement may be reached on REDD+

Forest Day started off with a  speech by President Calderon, who said we must “empujar todos” (“push all”) towards a REDD+ agreement. An agreement on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is predicted by many high level panelists to be one the biggest outcomes from COP 16.

Forest Day 4: Photo courtesy of

“REDD + is an enormous prize within our grasp” –  John Ashton, the special representative for climate change at the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office.

Tony La Vina, Chair of the REDD working group, said there are “exceptionally good dynamics at the REDD+ negotiation.”

During Forest Day, attendees were surveyed on a variety of topics. Here are 2 interesting results:

Q: How important is it to monitor the co-benefits of REDD+? Response: 65% of attendees support monitoring even if it effects emission reduction effectiveness.

Q: How should forests be included in a post-Kyoto climate agreement, through a REDD ++ agreement? Response: There was very low support to support additional measures post-Kyoto, likely based on the fear that additional requests now would affect the success of  the current REDD + negotiations.

The “Uhn”

T-Rex as UN Soldier in Idiocracy


After COP 15, the level of frustration is so high many people are asking whether this process is worth the billions of dollars and energy going into it. The best overused quote of the conference so far: “A little less conversation, a little more action” – Elvis.   Continue reading