As the dust settles, some cause for optimism…

Blog from Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness

The fall out from the debacle that was Copenhagen will take some time to settle, but there is a glimmer of hope to be seen amidst the toxic debris: REDD is not dead! In fact the negotiating text on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation is more advanced than most other areas of the climate change negotiations, and Global Witness and our colleagues in the Ecosystems Climate Alliance can see a lot of the language we wrote represented in the latest drafts. This is a testament to the relationships we've built with key negotiators, who now ask for our inputs on specific text and on the broader forest context.

Of course, the negotiations didn't reach an agreement on REDD, because they didn't reach a legally binding agreement on anything, but the Copenhagen Accord does acknowledge the importance of REDD, and specifies that it will benefit from a share of the $30 billion that developed countries have committed for climate change mitigation between 2010 - 2012. This is, of course, still a paltry amount when compared to the task in hand, and especially when compared to the gargantuan sums thrown at the global banking and automotive industries, but at least there is a commitment.

The latest REDD language still reflects the advances we made last week. These include recognition that forest dependent peoples are an essential part of the process, that safeguards are needed to protect natural forests against conversion to agriculture and plantations, and that monitoring is important (though this is still the subject of debate). The pro-logging lobby failed in its behind the scenes lobbying attempts to include the term ‘sustainable forest management' (SFM) in a future REDD agreement. Sustainable Forest Management is effectively double-speak for industrial scale logging. It seems arcane, but the phrasing in the current text - ‘sustainable management of forests' - does not ‘lock in' the logging sector as the other term would. These negotiations are all about legal language and such distinctions are critical.

On the down side, there are still no targets for overall reduction of deforestation or degradation. An earlier version of the text had a target of 50% reduction of deforestation by 2020 but this was removed. And of course, the text is still unfinished. But this is a double-edged sword: the talks will now continue throughout 2010 with the hope of a final agreement at Mexico in November or December. This gives us more time to try and fine tune the language and hopefully to prevent any retraction of the progress we've made thus far.

On a broader note, it was fascinating, if not disturbing, to see the biggest and most important international negotiations of our age collapse into acrimony, logistical chaos and macro-political manoeuvring. Personally I think we are witnessing the seismic shifting of the tectonic plates of the political order, as the emerging economies of Brazil, India and China flex their new and growing political and economic muscles. Political fault lines lead to political earthquakes, and Copenhagen just suffered the first big one.

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