Round Two in the 2009 climate negotiations is underway in Bonn, Germany. The Nature Conservancy has a small team here pushing forward on our objectives for a new global climate agreement that will be finalized this December in Copenhagen.

Last week I outlined why we are here and what success means for The Nature Conservancy at these two weeks of meetings. Today I wanted to share some perspectives on how these meetings work, and what the Conservancy — and conservation — can gain.

People ask all the time: “What can you really get done in a meeting of almost 200 countries?” Understandably, for many people, these international meetings are an enigma. Especially for supporters of the Conservancy — who value the tangible and lasting results that are our focus — these meetings seem hard to connect to real conservation outcomes on the ground.

What’s important to remember in the international negotiations is that it’s the countries who call the shots. The stereotypical picture of UN meetings – rows of tables with flags and microphones — is how this process gets done. A simple analogy would be to the U.S. federal government, where representatives from states in the House and Senate make the laws. A major difference on the international front is there is no executive branch or president.

So how does The Nature Conservancy work within this policy context? It’s simple — we work closely with the countries, just like we do in our conservation work.

When we approach any of these major international negotiating conferences — climate or biodiversity or whatever — we are trying to facilitate three things:

  1. Political agreement. We work with our country partners and others to provide information and perspectives that help secure political outcomes through the formal negotiations, outcomes that support common conservation objectives.
  2. Conservation commitments. These conferences often provide a global stage for profiling successful conservation approaches and accomplishments that countries have achieved. The media and political attention they generate helps secure commitments to more action from the governments we work with, like with the Micronesia and Caribbean Challenges, which were launched at similar international events.
  3. Public funding. The political stakes at these big conferences also create opportunities to work with countries to call for new public funding vehicles targeted towards conservation’s greatest challenges.

To support all of this, the Conservancy works to demonstrate how real world examples — from our own the ground experience in countries around the world — inform and shape pragmatic policy solutions.

We’ve had some great wins using this formula in the past. The UN climate negotiations in Bali in 2007 were a major success on all three counts:

  1. Political agreement: Established the two-year negotiating process that set the stage for a global deal in Copenhagen, and included reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD) as a core component.
  2. Conservation commitments: Supported one of the first official meetings for the Coral Triangle Initiative, which culminated last month in the hugely successful Coral Triangle Summit.
  3. Public funding: Together with the World Bank and nine donor governments, launched the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, generating $165 million dollars for helping countries reduce their deforestation emissions.

Political agreement, conservation commitments and public funding — the trifecta for international conferences.

This year in Copenhagen may the greatest opportunity of its kind. Right now in Bonn, our team is working hard towards a similar set of concrete, tangible objectives in what we hope is another big three-part win in Copenhagen.

(Image: Plenary session at the Bonn climate talks in March. Credit: UN Climate Talks through a Creative Commons license.)

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