What Do Conservation and Policy Have to Do With Each Other?

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Published on August 13th, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  

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Here’s a guest post from Rane Cortez, one of The Nature Conservancy’s policy advisors on reducing emissions from deforestation, who is back in Bonn for more international climate negotiations.

Rane Cortez: It seems like just yesterday that I was here for the “Bonn II” round of international climate negotiations earlier this year. When we came out of that meeting, the draft text for a new global agreement on climate change had expanded from about 50 to 200 pages, including all the different options that different countries have put on the table. Since the final agreement to be reached in Copenhagen in December is expected to be about 20 pages, we’ve got a lot of work to do to narrow down these options.

So they’ve called us back here again for “Bonn III” to try and make progress and find areas of consensus. My focus is on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) which make up 20% of the world’s total emissions. Because this meeting is an informal meeting, no final decisions can be taken.

Despite this, the working group on REDD laid out an ambitious work plan for the week, conducting consultations with as many countries as possible in hopes of consolidating the currently unmanageable 20-page text on REDD.

But what’s the real prospect for making progress?

The news is encouraging: Most countries have indicated that progress had been made on some key issues and consensus could be reached around a smaller number of options.

The countries need to make good progress on consolidating options in the text at this meeting so that negotiations on some of the more difficult issues in REDD can be the focus of the next round of talks in Bangkok at the end of September. I have been meeting with many country delegations to share The Nature Conservancy’s views and experience with REDD and ensure that our preferred options survive the consolidation.

Our work here in Bonn is greatly facilitated by the strong relationships that our country programs build with governments in the various countries where we work. Through working with governments on implementing successful conservation projects on the ground around the world, The Nature Conservancy has become a trusted advisor on a wide range of policy issues. This link between our on-the-ground implementation activities, our work with various multilateral institutions, and our scientific research give us a unique and valued perspective in the negotiations.

REDD is a prime example of putting this integrated strategy to work. We implemented the world’s first and best known REDD project in the world — the Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project in Bolivia. That project has provided valuable lessons that have shaped our current plans for REDD pilot activities.

We have also scaled our work up dramatically with our focus on the district of Berau in Indonesia and in the municipalities of Sao Felix de Xingu and Cotriguacu in Brazil. In each of these places, we are working at government levels, not just individual projects — an approach that we learned from Noel Kempff Mercado is essential for stopping the causes of deforestation.

We are also a core participant in the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The FCPF is a financing facility that is helping countries get ready to participate in REDD at the national scale by providing funding for development of baselines, monitoring systems, and national strategies. As the only NGO on the participants committee, we are able to both provide input to and learn from the valuable discussions on how to best “‘get ready for REDD” at the national level.

We draw on all of these practical experiences to shape policy positions that we believe will create effective, efficient and equitable incentives for forest conservation.

For the Conservancy’s policy team, it’s definitely a two-way street. We draw upon lessons learned from our work on the ground in order to help create effective policy that will, in turn, help create a supportive environment (through favorable incentives and increased funding) for us to do the work that is central to our mission and essential in reducing global carbon emissions.

(Image: Forest and fields in Indonesia. Credit: World Bank Photo Collection through a Creative Commons license.)

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