It’s a bit odd that you can be one of the fortunate few to attend the current round of international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and still have to read the newspaper to find out how things are going. Climate news junkies probably have a much more nuanced understanding of the geopolitics underway than I do, because unless you know a delegate, or join the protestors outside – they watch blogs and newspapers like hawks – it’s easy to get caught up in everything else going on at COP15.
There’s the NGO trade show my colleague Darius Nassiry described, a prototype deforestation monitoring platform by folks at Google, and dozens of side events led by leading researchers, officials and NGO representatives on every aspect of the climate question. What, there are negotiators too besides the 20,000 NGO representatives? They must be the ones in the nice suits.
Having worked with David Wheeler and Dan Hammer all year on Forest Monitoring for Action (FORMA), our prototype contribution to forest MRV (Measurement, Reporting, and Verification in the COP15 lingo), I’ve been racing from one expert panel to the next, trying to learn as much as I can about the latest monitoring technologies and forest management practices around the world. In the process, at Forest Day 3 I managed to scribble down a few good quotes and fun facts that probably won’t make headlines.
At the plenary of Forest Day 3 on Sunday, Dr. Rajendra Pachuari, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, mentioned a new custom in Java that newlyweds plant ten trees. If they get divorced, they have to plant fifty trees, and ten again if they get remarried. Given threats to Indonesia’s forests and peatlands, Pachuari quipped that in Indonesia, “If somebody divorces and marries again, there are huge benefits. Maybe we should be doing that.” As we go to press I haven't confirmed the practice, but just think of the possibilities in the US!
Sara Kendall, Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety at the paper products company Weyerhaeuser, noted that photosynthesis is “ready-now carbon capture and storage”. Touché ...
Arild Angelsen, of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, considered the complexity of establishing a market for ecosystem services and declared that “As with every difficult question, there is one answer: It depends.” Arild, you’re killing me here!
After audience questions about difficulties with the functioning of a still-hypothetical system of forest conservation payments, Agus Purnomo, head of Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change, asked “Why are we worrying about problems with a program that isn’t doing anything? Where is the money?” Unfortunately, negotiators had Sunday off and were not able to respond to his question.
Finally, a member of the Colombian delegation declared that the production of one gram of cocaine in Colombia accounts for the destruction of four square meters of forest. As if you didn’t already have enough reasons not to snort the highly toxic substance up your nose, please think of the trees.