COP Impressions

My experience at COP so far has been phenomenal. The heat, which at first seemed unbearable, is a reminder of how far away from New Haven we are. I have been attending several different kinds of events – including official “contact group” meetings as well as side events which include presentations by NGO’s, IGO’s, and the private sector on both case studies on projects and new approaches to addressing climate change, especially post 2012.

The issues that I am more interested in are climate change and development as well as reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). A couple days ago, I attended forest day as well, which was put on by the CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research). There is a lot of talk around the issue for REDD being a mechanism to support indigenous and poor people that rely on forest ecosystems for their livelihoods. However, it is still unclear how it can be an equitable system that is enforceable with known governance problems in many tropical forest nations.

Also, given the “failure” of the clean development mechanism to promote large-scale development in host countries, it is unclear if REDD will be able to promote development or even be successful. Is carbon the way to go to protect forests? The 2 main issues that need to be resolved before REDD can be implemented are 1)when will countries be able to resolve who owns carbon stocks in forests and who will get paid when carbon credits are sold and 2) what methodologies will be used by countries to determine land use change, change in biomass, and the resulting emissions reductions. Hopefully, this COP will be successful in at least setting a timetable for when countries can report back on their progress and ideas on methodologies.

One presentation at Forest Day was on the production of a source book for scientists and project managers to measure carbon stocks since the IPCC has not set up a definitive system. The guidebook can be downloaded from the website of GOFC-GOLD (http://www.gofc-gold.uni-jena.de/). I feel more optimistic about standards and methodologies given guidebooks resources like this one.

All in all, everything is going great here. Although the conference events are in different locations and hotels, there is a system where conference delegates can check out bikes to get around, helping all of us to reduce our carbon footprint while on this trip. However, I do see a lot of waste being generated with documents (which I am not sure are made of recycled paper), paper publications, and lots of water bottles. I hope subsequent COPs will be planned taking more environmental issues into consideration.