Monthly Archives: October 2010

Ecuadorian indigenous community takes forest conservation into own hands

The Shuar community is an indigenous group in the Ecuador Amazon Rainforest that is fiercely independent and has successfully kept mining and petroleum exploration off of its lands.  In that sense, the Shuar people have always been conservationists, and they’re now looking into how reducing deforestation can help them continue to conserve their homeland.

Indigenous community’s innovative conservation program goes national

Ecuador deforestation

Ecuador’s Shuar community developed its own program to prevent deforestation, a serious contributor to global warming pollution. (photo credit: Max Nepstad, WHRC)

A number of years ago, a Shuar community developed a conservation project in which the community could be compensated by the Ecuadorian government for conserving the group’s lands.

After successful implementation of this pilot program, Shaur leaders are now examining how this type of program might be translated into a larger project of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) for their entire territory.

The Shuar presented their pilot program to the Ecuadorian government, which then used it as a basis for the current Socio Bosque program that pays forest communities and individuals throughout the country to protect its forests.

Locals become leaders in protecting forests

Ecuador REDD training session

Workshop participants practice using a GPS device, which will be used, along with satellite imagery, to determine the density of the forest. (photo credit: Max Nepstad, WHRC)

A critical part of any REDD project is measuring the carbon in trees; that’s because the amount of compensation communities receive for conserving their forests is directly related to how much carbon the trees are estimated to hold.

In order to determine how much carbon the trees hold, certified technicians are sent into the forest to take necessary measurements, such as trees’ diameters and forest density.  Because the technicians generally are from urban areas, they often hire indigenous guides to help them find the specific locations required for measuring most efficiently.

But that’s changing, thanks to growing interest among indigenous communities in taking a greater role in conservation of their land, and the help of groups like Environmental Defense Fund and leaders like Juan Carlos Jintiach, a Shuar and the Chief of Economic Policy and International Cooperation for the Coordinating Organization for the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA).

Juan Carlos recognizes the opportunity for indigenous peoples to perform the measurements themselves.  Instead of having outsiders come in and measure the carbon in the community’s trees, indigenous communities can measure it themselves, earn good wages, and learn to value another resource in their forests: carbon.

Workshops offer paths to greater conservation, participation

Ecuador WHRC measuring trees

Workshop participants look on as Wayne Walker from Woods Hole Research Center (EDF’s partner) shows how to measure a tree’s diameter, which will help in estimating how much carbon the forest stores. (photo credit: Max Nepstad, WHRC)

Two weeks ago, EDF, with Woods Hole Research Center and COICA, co-hosted a workshop to train the Shuar on measuring carbon in forests.

The training workshop, which has been adapted for numerous other indigenous groups in the Amazon Basin, teaches and empowers indigenous peoples with technical skills needed for measuring carbon trapped in forests, like using a GPS to find specific coordinates; measuring out a 40 x 40 meter “parcel” of forest; and measuring the diameter of each tree in that area.

At the end of the three-day workshop, it was clear to me and all those involved that there is a great opportunity for indigenous peoples to use forest carbon measuring to contribute to REDD.

The indigenous leaders at our training left with a solid understanding that there are also opportunities for indigenous peoples to play a key role in and gain economically through conservation.  We hope this can, in turn, act as a catalyst for more indigenous participation in REDD, and potentially increase input by indigenous peoples into the development of government REDD policies.

But most importantly, indigenous peoples with forest carbon measuring skills will be able to generate not only good jobs for locals based on conservation, but also generate important information regarding the amount of carbon in their lands that will help them make better land management – and conservation – decisions for the future.

Learn more about our work with indigenous peoples protecting forests and livelihoods in the Amazon Basin.

Posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, REDD | Leave a comment

Cancún talks must put paralyzed U.N. climate negotiations back on track

The following is cross-posted from Reuters AlertNet.

It seems a familiar story, these days: while heat waves break historical records and we suffer more of the floods, hurricanes and droughts that experts warn will only increase with climate change, the United Nations climate negotiations come and go with few expectations and even fewer constructive outcomes.

So it is not surprising to those following the climate talks that the recent meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Tianjin, China, sputtered to a close, highlighting deep-seated disagreements that continue to impede progress.

Late next month, ministers from the nearly 200 countries of the United Nations convene in Cancún, Mexico, to take up issues left unresolved in last year's Copenhagen talks. But their senior negotiators have managed to run out the 2010 clock through repeated unproductive negotiating sessions resembling a Bill Murray "Groundhog Day" movie plot.

(On the positive side, Tianjin's talks were the first that China has hosted, reflecting a more serious engagement by that country in the process.)

In Copenhagen's wake, countries should be motivated to rebuild confidence in the U.N. process by delivering concrete results at Cancún's Conference of Parties (COP-16). But instead, countries are still struggling with some major overall structural issues, and have made disappointing progress on important forestry and land-use policies.

Now it's unclear whether their negotiators will be able to rise far enough above these issues by Cancún to produce a meaningful outcome.

Historical problems stymieing progress

Since the 2007 Bali conference (COP-13), countries have locked themselves in two separate negotiating tracks, often with developing and developed countries pitted against each other. Now they find themselves groping for the keys to bring these tracks together.

The negotiations have also been plagued by distracting bickering among major players, and troubling progress – or lack thereof – in critical policies.

Much attention recently has been given to policies regarding deforestation and land-use practices like forestry, ranching and wetland restoration. Setting a troubling precedent, the parties appear poised to finalize in Cancún accounting rules for emissions from forest management that would allow developed countries to claim carbon credits or avoid debits without changing their activities.

Although negotiators spent the week in Tianjin crafting a mechanism to make this accounting method more transparent, the review process would do little more than make a bad approach transparently bad.

Similarly disappointing is the lack of progress in the REDD-plus Partnership, which 50 countries launched in May 2010 to provide billions of dollars toward reducing deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries. It's particularly dismaying that a process launched with such high hopes earlier this year is being bogged down by debates over procedural hurdles.

REDD policies are crucial, since deforestation and forest degradation account for 15 to 17 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Donor countries must stop dickering and start releasing the funding needed for this partnership to make REDD-plus a reality.

Global talks not the only way forward

Success in Cancún will be measured by adoption of a strong and balanced set of decisions, as well as a work plan for a way forward to South Africa's COP in December 2011. Cancún must put us back on a track to an eventual comprehensive approach to reducing global emissions and achieving climate safety.

But to reach climate safety, we may not be able to wait on the U.N. process. We're in a critical period: emissions must start to decline between now and 2020.

While efforts toward a comprehensive approach are being made, it is incumbent on major emitters – as well as on other areas like shipping and aviation that don't fit neatly into individual countries' responsibilities – to begin now the shift to a low carbon economy.

And while it is easy to make the UNFCCC process the scapegoat for the current paralyzed state the negotiations are in, it's highly doubtful that simply shifting the talks to another forum would resolve the problem.

Until major economies are prepared to put in the hard work needed to find genuine solutions for all parties, countries will continue treading water, no matter which forum's banner hangs over the conference center.

Posted in Cancún (COP-16), UN negotiations | Leave a comment

Tianjin climate negotiations sputter amid deep structural problems

The UN climate talks wrapped up today in Tianjin, China, but with little progress made toward narrowing countries' differences in preparation for next month's meeting in Cancún, Mexico.

UN climate negotiations in Tianjin, China

UN climate negotiations in Tianjin, China; photo credit Miriam Chaum

Prospects for Cancun

A team of EDF experts attended the negotiations this past week, and noted that countries are struggling with major structural problems.

In a statement after the meeting concluded Saturday, EDF's Managing Director for International Policy and Negotiations Jennifer Haverkamp said:

This meeting exposed the deep structural issues of the UN climate negotiations, and it’s unclear whether countries will be able to rise above these issues by Cancún.

Cancún must put us back on a track to an eventual comprehensive approach to reducing global emissions and achieving climate safety.

Success in Cancún will be measured by adoption of a strong and balanced set of decisions, as well as a workplan for a way forward to South Africa in 2011.

Forestry management

The EDF team also noted disappointing progress in important forestry and land-use policies.

For accounting rules for emissions from forest management, countries look poised to finalize a troubling precedent in Cancún that would allow developed countries to claim carbon credits or avoid debits without changing their activities on the ground.  Haverkamp said:

Although negotiators spent the week crafting a mechanism to make this accounting method more transparent, the review process would do little more than make a bad approach transparently bad.

Reducing deforestation

Similarly disappointing was the lack of progress in the REDD+ Partnership, which 50 countries launched in May 2010 to provide billions of dollars to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.  EDF is "dismayed" with how bogged down by procedural hurdles the process has been, Haverkamp said, adding:

Donor countries must stop dickering and start releasing the funding needed for this partnership to make REDD+ a reality.

Read EDF's full Tianjin press release.

Posted in Deforestation, Forestry, REDD, UN negotiations | Leave a comment