The first day at week 2 of COP23 started off in a more or less confused manner – we knew from the former delegation of week 1 that it’s always good to pass by the German Pavilion for a free coffee. So the initial meeting for everyone after a nice dinner the evening before at Brauhaus Bönnsch happened with a good cup of hot caffeine. We tried to get an overview of the different side events happening in the pavilions, meeting rooms and maybe even in the corridors. Unfortunately, due to COP planning, the day with the focus on forest was on Sunday the 12th of November, so exactly that day where the entire IFSA delegation shifted from week one to two and thus only 2 representatives could make it. The good news is that there is always something going on, you just need to know where:
After an unsuccessful attempt to attend a session about ecosystem services, the session placed instead was discussing the Carbon market and how it should look: reaching from tricky questions about the wording in the Paris agreement and which parts are covered or not covered within it; to the history of how Carbon mechanisms have worked in the past. We were warned to be aware of the human mentality behind it: that trading carbon doesn’t necessarily mean that the carbon is offset immediately when you trade it – an easily overlooked fact.
That the carbon market is a contentious issue here, in general, was further displayed through a demonstration in front of one of few panel discussions initialized by the US delegation that evening. The event: The role of cleaner and more efficient fossil fuels and nuclear power in climate mitigation, had attracted a lot of attention. Activists and many others, inspired by the youth-led advocacy group SustainUS, chanted “Climate justice! Now!” and “No trading of Carbon!” in front of the meeting room, disrupting the event.
Monday afternoon held an interesting discussion, organized by the FAO and the World Bank – Scaling implementation to access Result-based payments: How can REDD+ and similar initiatives scale up? The Ministers of Environment of Cote d’Ivoire, Costa Rica and Ecuador, as well as Grace Balawag a representative of Indigenous people and the REDD+ office director of Vietnam, Ms. Thuy, were discussing about the opportunities of REDD+ and gave a positive and encouraging statement, that reforestation and protection of forest degradation is possible! The discussion was introduced by the Minister of Environment of Norway, Vidar Helgesen, the country with the highest contribution to the REDD+ program; as well the Executive director of the Green Climate Fund and Karin Kemper from the World Bank.
The first countries which accomplished the REDD+ readiness program saved together an equivalent of 6 Billion t C, whom includes Colombia, Ecuador and Malaysia. Ecuador was the 2nd country who accomplished the REDD Readiness program and wants to now focus more on trans-sectorial approaches like linking sustainable development with forests and conservation. Unlike Ecuador who is still fighting with deforestation, Costa Rica went through this phase already – also without REDD+ program. Back in the 1980’s Costa Rica faced the peak of deforestation in its country. Since WWII approximately 60-80% of the forests were cleared and since then the afforestation and reforestation efforts scaled up their forest cover to approximately 50%; with 27% of the countries land protected. Grace Balawag pointed out the importance of indigenous communities participating in the entire process of REDD+ and that a lot has been achieved since COP Bali when communities were included in the REDD discussions; whilst Ms. Thuy emphasized on the opportunity of including the private sector in the REDD program.
Overall this panel discussion did not point out new solutions or results based finance, but rather opened up the view again for all possibilities and encouraged participating countries to move on with evidence that it’s possible – like Costa Rica to become a developed country with stable forest protection.
Fun fact aside: Its strange to hold ice which is 125.000 years old and came all the way from Antarctica. And when something has melted, to wipe off the drips from your hand and its back in the endless cycle of water.
Alexander Pinkwart is a Masters student in “International Forestry” at the University of Freiburg/Germany. His main interests are in REDD+, nutrient cycling and Agroforestry. He is very grateful to be part of the delegation and to report from COP23.