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Why Cancún Matters

November 18, 2010

Pending Decisions on Forests and Related Issues Have Big Implications, Says the Rainforest Alliance

The global NGO Rainforest Alliance is sending a delegation of 18 representatives to the Conference of Parties (COP16) climate treaty conference in Cancún, Mexico (held November 29 – December 10) to advocate for decisions on key fronts in the fight against climate change, especially REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Rainforest Alliance is a global leader in promoting certified sustainable forestry, agriculture and tourism. Its climate change work includes pioneering on-ground community forestry projects that lead to reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, carbon credit verification and validation and carbon accounting for farms.

REDD+ will be highlighted on the COP16 agenda, along with agriculture, adaptation and mitigation, MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification), financing and other issue areas that track closely with the Rainforest Alliance's work for global sustainability. In recent weeks the Council of the European Union, 62 environmental ministers at the biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, the foreign minister of Mexico and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon have all indicated that progress in these key areas can and should be achieved in Cancún.

Cloudy rainforestFocusing on these issues highlights the important nexus between conserving forests, sustainable agriculture and land use practices, sustainable development and climate protection. Deforestation accounts for about 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of emissions from the world's entire transport sector. The interaction of forest loss and agriculture account for significantly more than that. Agriculture and agribusiness drive deforestation, clearing and degrading forests to feed markets for such commodities as cattle, soy, oil palm, etc. Progress in Cancún on REDD+, financing, agriculture, land use and related areas would be significant for cutting global emissions as well as preserving biodiversity, securing a sustainable food supply and helping people in developing countries adapt to and mitigate climate change that is already underway. At the same time, it would also advance programs and policies to help make private-sector agribusiness a key part of the climate solution as opposed to a key part of the problem.

"Whether or not it achieves a new treaty, Cancún matters," said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance and one of those attending COP16. "We need a comprehensive, binding agreement and all countries need to keep working for one in the near future. But meanwhile, COP16 may advance important decisions on implementing and financing REDD+ and other measures that will help developing countries conserve forests and improve land use. Taking those decisions would be a major step forward."

Although contentious preparatory meetings in Bonn and Tianjin dimmed prospects for a new binding treaty in Cancún (last year touted as a possible future outcome of the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen), Rainforest Alliance representatives at COP16 will advocate for decisions on key aspects of REDD+, and provide delegates in Cancún with information on REDD+ implementation and finance mechanisms. Most estimates put the costs of cutting deforestation in half by 2020 in the range of $25 to $35 billion per year. A diverse set of funding sources, including both market and non-market (i.e. national government and multilateral) funding, will be required. REDD+ should ultimately be coordinated at the national level. But while oversight mechanisms are getting established, sub-national implementation for a defined interim period is needed. Indigenous peoples and local communities must be fully enfranchised and empowered any REDD+ system and share equitably in its benefits.

The Rainforest Alliance has field tested these positions in REDD+ community forestry projects it is piloting in biodiverse areas of Ghana and Honduras, in collaboration with the Global Development Alliance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Throughout COP16 the Rainforest Alliance will discuss its work and positions on REDD+, climate change, sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture and related issues. The Rainforest Alliance will host a booth on the COP16 floor, co-host a UNFCCC side event, and highlight these topics during a presentation at Agriculture and Rural Development Day December 4, a booth at Forest Day December 5 and other events TBA.

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