Reducing emissions from deforestation

Today UNFCCC press briefing at the thirteenth Climate Change Conference in Bali opened with a statement by Kishan Kumarsingh, Chairman of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on the importance of reducing emissions from deforestation.

Mr. Kumarsingh explained that forest ecosystems play a key role globally, both in tackling climate change - by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - and in adaptation to climate change by maintaining ecosystem services and providing livelihood options.

Deforestation is estimated to have occurred at the alarming rate of 13 million hectares per year in the period 1990-2005, accounting for 20% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions in the late 1990s and making it the world second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Conference is expected to adopt a decision on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries. The text under consideration, Mr. Kumarsingh said, recognizes the urgency to take action on this issue and lays the groundwork for an early start to capacity-building activities and pilot projects in these countries. It also addresses mobilization of resources by governments as well as the methodologcial work needed to estimate emissions from deforestation. These decisions, he added, are important in paving the way for an arrangement on reducing emissions from deforestation in a future climate change agreement.

In terms of enforcing any such agreement, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, spoke of a choice between the stick or the carrot approach. In this process, he said,  the choice has been made to go the carrot route, by looking at the concerns of poor people with an economic stake in this issue and offering them a real economic alternative to cutting down trees.

In his summary of the proceedings so far, Mr. de Boer announced that the Conference had got off to an encouraging start, largely due to the decision by COP President Rachmat Witoelar to form a special contact group. The focus of this group, to be led by President Witoelar himself, will be on how negotiations need to be conducted on a post-2012 climate change deal, on which topics and when the negotiations need to be completed.

The aim is to narrow down the different viewpoints on these three questions and present a limited number of proposals to Ministers attending next week High-Level segment, who will then  take the ultimate decision on what should be the outcomes of Bali in terms of a roadmap for the future.

Mr. de Boer acknowledged concerns expressed by developing countries that too much focus on the future may be taking attention away from the present, resulting in the urgent needs of today in the fields of adaptation, technology transfer and capacity-building being neglected.

Citing the importance of achieving balance between present and future issues, Mr. de Boer summed up by saying that the first day meeting constituted an important step forward, both in terms of  future negotiations and the present concerns of many developing countries.