Ideas matter but time is short

Camilla Toulmin's picture
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7 December 2008

Under a bright blue sky, we spent the day perched on lecture hall benches in Poznan’s University. A one-day immersion on everything you need to know and more about forests and climate change. How might we set up a payments mechanism to reward countries that stop deforestation? Should this focus on the carbon alone, or include many of the other valuable services that forests provide, such as water and biodiversity?

The current price tag for halving deforestation is reckoned to be $20 billion a year – a tiny sum in comparison with the shedloads of cash being shovelled into bankrupt banks and car companies. There is no shortage of ideas about how these schemes might work and practical lessons from Brazil, Mozambique and Indonesia.

Somehow, this fabulous mix of ideas and evidence needs to be boiled down into a few key points for government negotiators to keep in their minds as they debate how to bring forests into the global deal to be struck by the end of next year.

Yvo de Boer, who runs the UNFCCC secretariat, told us at the end of the day that time is short for taking on new information and initiatives: we are close to the end of putting things into the convention text and close to the start of taking them out. The end point for getting new stuff into the process would normally be the last day of this fortnight’s talks. But most people hope there will be a bit of flexibility on timing, to enable the new Obama administration to get its inputs into the process. Fingers crossed!

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