The Forest and the Trees

December 2, 2008

December 2nd -The plenary session of the SBSTA is turning out to be not so boring after all.  The last three speakers, while reading from prepared statements, were connecting with me to a much greater extent.  The discussion has turned to the subject of the management of forests as a mechanism for carbon sequestration.  The subject is referred to as REDD in the necessary UN habit of acronym use, which is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.

While this might seem a ‘no brainer’, grow more trees, it is not quite so simple.  Few things ever are.  Such invisible issues as I am learning include the following:

  • The rights of indigenous peoples who fear they will be stripped of their standing (as well as sitting, lying, sleeping and eating) when the ‘experts’ come in to manage their forests.
  • The question of to whom any financial resources flow in the effort to encourage the preservation of existing forests and the re-establishment of degraded ones.
  • Questions of national vs. regional vs. local accounting/incentives for the management of ‘carbon stocks’ (UN-speak for trees).
  • The particular methods which will sustain or re-establish appropriate forest ecosystems.
  • Recognition of nations who are already ‘with the program’, and conscientious steward of their forest resources (more or less).
  • The difficulty of establishing credible reference levels for individual countries, especially ones with historically low rates of forest deforestation…

You can see where this one goes.  The possible list of valid concerns goes on and on.  This is planned as a 3 hour meeting and Madame Chairwoman has just said she will have to enforce the 2 minute time limits to the individual statements of member delegations.

For the Earth – §


Here Comes the Boring Stuff

December 2, 2008

December 2nd – This morning I am attending (and blogging to you ‘live’) from the plenary room in which today’s meeting is the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).  Welcome to the ‘boring stuff’.

I am struck by the incomprehensibility of this process, the enormity of the task of an international negotiation, across dozens of languages (current speaker is from China, through instantaneous translation over free headsets at each session).  He is reading from a script.  Is this the negotiation?  Have all other delegations read advance copies of these statements? Are they reacting and planning in ‘real time’? Are they merely ‘saying their piece’ in this ‘public’ forum?  It must be the latter.

But if this is a session of position statements, when, where and how is consensus reached?

Aha! As I listen to the honorable chairwoman of the session, she charges a ‘subgroup’ with the consideration of items which she details by the complicated system of reference numbers by which the UN Climate Change Secretariat puts order to the chaos of positions, papers, findings, briefings, informal meetings of experts, actions, recommendations, workshops, and who-knows-what-else come under consideration of this vast body.

But Madame Chairwoman’s statement is entirely scripted and read by her.  This then implies the layer of readers and writers that lie in front of and behind this stage of the process.  And the twist added in this the beginning of the 21st century, is that much of this is made publicly available at the click of a mouse… surely a mouse that roars!

For the Earth – §