The Latest from Copenhagen

Nature Conservancy policy analysts and scientists are at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen for the next two weeks — and are reporting the latest developments here on Cool Green Science. Click through and then scroll down to read these late-breaking reports and more:


Saturday, December 19, 2009, 12:55 PM: Copenhagen Accord results in a Small Step Forward
Filed by David Connell
Negotiators are wrapping up a whirlwind 24 hours, and have agreed to a political accord hammered out by heads of state late last night. Here are thoughts from Andrew Deutz, the Conservancy’s director of international government relations:

Copenhagen was an opportunity lost in the level of ambition it could have delivered, but when push came to shove, leaders at the highest level took a small step together on the very long road ahead.

We are disappointed in the level of emission reductions pledged, which remain below what the science tells us we need, but heartened by the global leadership demonstrated by the heads of  many developing countries.

World leaders have dispersed back to their national capitals where there’s a lot more work to do. It’s time for the US Congress to roll up their sleeves and pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

Andrew and our other experts have been sifting through the text and we will be sharing details on the decision in the coming hours and days.


We’re not Calling It
Filed by: Chrissy Schwinn
President Obama held a press conference tonight to announce a deal had been reached with several countries including China, India and South Africa.  The deal which is now under discussion by other countries, includes a goal of capping global warming at two degrees Celsius and agrees to monitor emissions reductions with international consultation and analysis to evaluate progress on emissions reductions.

At this point (late in Copenhagen), there is still information coming out about the deal and little clarity on how other countries and negotiators are reacting to the news. Consultations are going to go on through the night.

We have our scouts in place to to monitor the situation  — look for more in the morning.


Friday, December 18, 7:02 PM: Why We Need to Act
Filed by David Connell


I’m sitting in our hotel lobby listening to an incessant din of Christmas carols waiting for some kind of definitive word on what the final out come will be here.

The stasis is unsettling. We are pouring through statements and list-serves and sorting through information. We are immersed in process and politics.

Looking for motivation I went back to watch Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai’s video from our high-level event to find something to give me hope. I found it in the closing of her speech.

Sometimes when I listen to the negotiations, I am more worried about … how are we really going to reach people who are suffering, who are weak and who are poor, who do not even understand the documents that we are negotiating here…

Sometimes we really do hope that governments will be committed. But suppose they aren’t, what shall we do? It’s a real challenge and I hope that those of us who are worried about these people, the very vulnerable people, that we shall not give up.

Me I wouldn’t give up – even if they don’t produce any money – I won’t be worried too much. Because I know that first and foremost, what is needed is commitment from those of us who care and those of us who understand these issues.

And then we roll up our sleeves. Whether we have one dollar or two dollars we can do it. But we will first and foremost have to have the compassion and the concern for the most vulnerable.

(Photo: Suzi Eszterhas)


Friday, December 18, 4:26 PM: World Leaders Address Plenary Session
Filed by Dave Connell
Wolrd leaders have just finished informal statements today as they try to keep negotiations moving forward. We are monitoring the speeches and other developments, and wanted to share a brief update on what’s happened thus far.

This morning and afternoon afternoon, we heard from several key leaders including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Luiz Lulu da Silva, and of course United States President Barack Obama.

President Obama’s speech was delayed as he and other world leaders met to try to work out a deal.

“This level of negotiating — with heads of state negotiating directly is unprecedented in the history of climate change talks, if not any international environmental agreement,” said Andrew Deutz, director of International Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy.

Rasmussen and Moon both called for resolve, a continued political commitment to act on climate change and consensus. Both stressed that now is the time to come to an agreement.

China Premier Jiabao addressed the transparency issue that has been hanging over the negotiations for the last several days. He presented the case that China has made clear commitments to reducing their emissions and pledged to improve national communications on verifying emissions reductions, but maintained they want to maintain their national sovereignty.

Brazilian President Lulu da SIlva restated that the country has presented emissions reduction targets for 2020 and passed legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 39 percent. He called on world leaders to agree to an agreement that would keep overall global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

President Obama reiterated the steps his administration has taken to address climate change since he took office — including efforts to pass comprehensive climate change legislation.

On the negotiations, Obama said, it was time for “all sides to recognize that is better for us to act rather than talk.”

Prsident Obama laid out a three-point framework for the agreement:

  • Major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions.
  • Including mechanisms to review whether countries are keeping their commitments to reduce emissions, and exchanging information in a transparent way.
  • Financing to help the most vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of climate change.

The statements have concluded for now and we are compiling more quotes  now. Meanwhile, there are negotiations and bilaterals taking place to try to forge and agreement. It is clear we are headed for an historic moment in time, one way or another.

More to come.


Thursday, December 17, 11:05 PM: A Quick Update on Where We Are
Filed by  Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy
Things seem to be looking better here since this morning and the negotiations are starting to resonate.  Negotiators are beginning to see some openings related to the thorny issue of verification – that is, how to track developing countries actions to cut emissions in a transparent way.

Today, China showed some potential shifts on this issue, offering to consider ways to reform national communications about greenhouse gas emissions, as long as those changes are not intrusive.

There is some speculation circulating now that this, coupled with Secretary of State Clinton’s announcement earlier today to help mobilize funding for climate change, could help bring countries closer together in the negotiations.

Discussion around reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) have reconvened and the process seems to be moving again, although late night reports suggest that there are still issues to be resolved, including getting developed countries to use historical measures to track changes in emissions from forestry and land-use. Ministers and technical negotiators are continuing work to refine and find agreement on this language.

As we come upon the final hours of negotiating, there seems to be more clarity around each party’s outstanding issues, and parties seemingly looking to address these issues —  just what is needed to move towards convergence.


Thursday, December 17, 10:00  PM: Duncan Marsh Gets REDD
Filed by Dave Connell

Tonight we’re waiting to hear what China, the US and others have to say in their statements at the COP. If there’s important information coming out of that  or other developments, we’ll be sure to bring it to you.  It’s 10pm here (22:00), they are about an hour behind, and the official schedule goes to “0:00 and onwards”….  could be a long night.

In the meantime, here’s some video from  Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy, discussing the progress of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) at the COP.

If you want the inside scoop on the “win-win-win” of REDD this is a great resource to check out.


Real Momentum for Helping People and Nature Adapt to Climate Change
December 17
Filed by Trevor Sandwith, Director of Biodiversity and Protected Areas Policy

We had the first chance to meet as a delegation this morning after our adaptation event on Tuesday. Working with a great range of partners, we brought together over 120 ministers, ambassadors, partners and delegates to make commitments to ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (in other words, using the power of nature and conservation to help people face the impacts of climate change).

Over a year ago, after a major UN conference on biodiversity, it was clear that in the minds of governments, or at least in international agreements, there was almost no connection between the international biodiversity agenda and the international climate agenda.  The concept was on nobody’s radar. Then, Tuesday night, we had a Nobel laureate, president, ministers, international institutions and conservation and development organizations committing to this concept at the highest levels, coupled with groups like the Conservancy and our co-sponsor World Vision committing to implement these approaches on the ground.

The fact that Sweden hosted an event on this topic early in the week is such a change from where we started. Over the last year the topic of ecosystem-based adaptation has made enormous strides. We’ve seen one after the other joining this movement, putting out their own brochures, holding their own events. Even in the negotiations, there are countries saying they support it and are going to defend the language in the negotiating texts.

There’s also been huge uptake in public funding agencies, including the World Bank, UNDP, and the GEF, incorporating this into their strategies. Governments  — developing and developed both — are enthusiastic that to be inventing something, and leading this innovative new effort.  And they are thirsty for examples from organizations like The Nature Consrvancy for how to do this on the ground.

In just over a year, we have watched the evolution of this discourse and it has been transformative.


Thursday, December 17, 12:51 PM: DEVELOPING: US Sets Stage for $100 bil. in Climate Financing
Filed by David Connell
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton just announced that the United States will join developed countries in raising $100 bil. in yearly climate financing by 2020. Andrew Deutz, director of International Government Relations, is discussing the announcement right now. Here’s what he has to say:

The US has taken a huge step forward toward common ground by addressing one of the principal concerns of developing countries and invited others to meet them in the middle.”

“In my 15 years of covering these climate talks, I have never seen the United States commit to this kind of long-term financing.

“This is the type of high-level political offer that we’ve been looking for world leaders to bring to Copenhagen to reach a global deal.”

“Generating this funding will require a mix of public and private funding, requiring ambitious, comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the United States to stimulate private investment at home and abroad.”


Wednesday, December 16, 8:31 PM: US Secretary of Agriculture $1 billion to Save Forests
Filed by Louis Blumberg, director of The Conservancy’s climate change program in California
Copenhagen – Some 350 forest and climate supporters packed the ballroom of the Copenhagen Marriott this afternoon to hear an all-star procession of high level experts make the case for protecting tropical forests in the pending international climate treaty.

Amongst the many highlights, Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, excited the crowd with a commitment of $1 billion in three years to help developing countries assemble the tools and skills needed to establish an accountable forest protection program in their country.   See the Conservancy’s statement on this here.

Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek, who joined representatives from energy companies and other environmental organizations, relayed lessons learned from the Nature Conservancy’s 20 years’ experience in developing forest carbon projects around the world. Bharrat Jagdeo, the President of Guyana described the troubling situation in his country where 80 percent of the people live below sea level and only 10 percent of the forest is protected.

While climate negotiators debated the forest provisions in the draft treaty in the conference center, the  panelists at the Marriott celebrated the prominence that the forest issue – termed REDD for Reduced Emissions from deforestation and forest Degradation – has achieved  in the climate policy discourse.  All agreed that the world needed to see greater value in trees when they are standing then when they are cut.  And many explained how including forests in a cap and trade program would hold down costs to business and consumers.

Stuart Eizenstat, who negotiated the Kyoto Protocol for the U.S., described the changed conditions that he feels will drive a successful outcome.

  • determined leadership from the Obama Administration.
  • recent bi-partisan framework proposed in the US Senate by Senators Graham, Kerry, and Leiberman
  • a new increase in public support based on opinion polling conducted last week
  • increased concern by the business community that US EPA would regulate green house gas emissions sector by sector.

Other participants included:  Brian McClendon, VP from Google; Governor Eduardo Braga, Amazonas Brazil; Sir Richard Branson; Jane Goodall; NY Times columnist Tom Friedman; and Jens Stoltenber, Prime Minister of Norway.


Wednesday, December 16, 3:33: Oceans take the stage in Copenhagen… Coceanhagen?
Filed by Jonathan Hoekstra, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s climate change program
Continuing to look back on the side events (it’s hard to believe it’s Wednesday already and all that has gone on here), the first Oceans Day at any UNFCCC conference took place om Monday and brought long overdue attention to the vital importance of oceans for slowing and adapting to climate change.

Did you know that the oceans also absorb about one-half of annual carbon emissions? If they didn’t, the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would be even higher than they are already.

But the oceans can’t do that forever.  As more and more carbon dioxide is absorbed into seawater, the oceans are becoming more acidic.  And that makes it harder for corals, shellfish and other marine species to form their calcium carbonate skeletons.

If this doesn’t worry you, it should. Half of all people live within 50 miles of the coast.  Healthy oceans provide jobs for millions of people and food for billions of people. As one speaker put it, “nature is generous, but not infinite in capacity.” According to the panel of scientists who spoke, ocean acidification threatens to weaken reefs that protect our shores, and undermine the marine food chain that supports our fisheries.


Wednesday, December 16, 3:21: Looking Back on Forest Day
Filed by Jonathan Hoekstra, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s climate change program
As the COP moves into its final days, I wanted to reflect on two side events that took place on Sunday and Monday that will not only help inform these negotiations, but also help scientists and policymakers moving forward, beyond Copenhagen.

The first of these events was, Forest Day, where leading thinkers, scientists, policy makers and innovators explored the latest, greatest ways to put forests to work for addressing climate change causes and impacts.

Most sessions focused on ways to preserve and enhance the ability of forests to soak up heat-trapping carbon emissions.  Especially interesting were several “learning events” where speakers shared first-hand experiences with designing, financing, implementing, and monitoring forest carbon projects around the world.

One of those featured projects was the Berau Forest Carbon Project in IndonesiaThe former secretary general of the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry, Wahjudi Wardojo, is now an adviser for The Nature Conservancy’s program in Berau. Wahjudi described our efforts to ensure that forests deliver benefits for local communities as well as for biodiversity and climate.

The Jakarta Globe covered Wahjudi’s presentation and filed a report you can find here.


Monday, December 14, 11:38 PM: Heading into Final Stretch REDD Language Looks Strong
Rane Cortez, Forest Carbon Policy Advisor
The latest version of the REDD negotiating text has come out of the informal working group and the news is very positive – more positive than many observers thought could be possible for these negotiations.

Leaders in Copenhagen now have an historic opportunity to significantly reduce the emissions caused by deforestation. After some final deliberations, this text will be passed to government minister’s later in the week for a final decision.

The text includes the following:
An overarching goal for a 50 percent reduction in emissions from deforestation by 2020 and reaching net zero emissions by 2030. The text includes space for this goal to be financed by developed countries – which is crucial for reaching these ambitious targets.

It significantly strengthened safeguards for indigenous people and biodiversity. The language now says that these provisions must be “promoted and adhered too” rather than just encouraged.

As important, it calls for monitoring and reporting on these safeguards for indigenous people and biodiversity, not just on the carbon reductions.  If adopted, this agreement would have a triple benefit of sequestering carbon, supporting indigenous people and promoting biodiversity. The text also recognizes that indigenous rights, participation and benefits are essential to successfully implementing REDD.

The text also calls for an option to work at the subnational level on REDD for a limited period – which is a very positive sign. This means that countries can get started now with smaller projects while they build the capacity to take on full, national projects for reducing emissions from deforestation.

Finally, the text significantly strengthened language against converting natural forests to plantations and includes strong language to ensure REDD projects have environmental integrity.

This text has great potential, however negotiators have been talking into the late hours – the language could change. So come back tomorrow to find out if government ministers are given the chance to agree to a real solution for REDD.


Monday, December 14, 3:24 PM LULUCF, Weight Loss and the President of France
Filed by Jeff Fiedler, Senior Policy Advisor Climate and Forests
One of the issues percolating up through the COP discussions (under the Kyoto Protocol)  is land-use, land-use change and forestry – otherwise known by the acronym LULUCF. Essentially, this sets the accounting rules for greenhouse gasses released through land management, including logging.

Here in Copenhagen, Developed countries have released a proposal to base their emissions targets for LULUCF on artificially inflated projections rather than historical data. Essentially saying, we were going to clear X amount of forests in the next ten years, but now we’ll only clear Y.

This is like saying, “I was planning to gain 15 pounds over the holidays, but since I only gained 5, I lost 10 pounds!” To claim to gain 15 pounds over the holidays is either untrue, or gross.

By using projected reference levels for their targets LULUCF, developed countries are proposing language that would allow them to significantly increase forest harvests and not be held accountable for those emissions.

The proposed levels from developed countries would create windfall credits of at least 3-5 percent of their 1990 fossil fuel emissions. This would shave roughly 20 percent off their current pledges for overall emission reductions.

The countries have proposed using inflated “reference levels” of what their forest carbon emissions will be in the future, rather than measuring their emissions against actual historic levels. Therefore, any increases in their emissions would not be counted against them.

Developed countries have made various pledges in recent weeks to reach new emission targets. However, under the current proposal developed countries could cut down more forests and produce more emissions without any accountability.

On Thursday, December 10, French President Nicholas Sarkozy stated that he would support developed countries moving to an accounting system for land-use changes in forestry that is based on historic levels rather than resetting those levels every time developed countries commit to a new international climate change treaty.

The Conservancy greatly appreciates President Sarkozy’s attention to this important issue and calls for other developed countries to review their stance on resetting their targets at every commitment period.


Saturday,  December 13, 2009, 3:30 PM: European Commission Highlights Helping Nature Adapt to Climate Change
Filed by:  Trevor Sandwith, director of biodiversity and  protected areas policy
In his message to introduce the European Union side event on ecosystem-based approaches to climate change,  Stavros Dimas, the European Union’s Commissioner for the Environment highlighted  the importance of ecosystems in helping communities and nature adapt to the effects  of climate change. Dimas noted the  world needs a “change of mindset” when it comes to valuing nature; healthy ecosystems are essential in any  strategy for coping with climate change.

“We have to get away  from the thinking of nature as a resource to be exploited,” he said. “We need  to see it instead as a partner we can work with in a mutually beneficial  manner. ‘Working with nature’ is at the heart of  sustainable development.”

He also touted the fact that helping  nature adapt to climate change includes solutions that

  • can be implemented now
  • are cost effective, and
  • are more accessible to rural and poor  communities.

“This means they are fully in line with goals  like poverty alleviation strategies,” Dimas said. He concluded by saying that “we have  everything to gain and nothing to lose” by investing in ecosystem-based  approaches.

In addition to Dimas, Pavan Sukhdev  presented updated findings of the The Economics  of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)  study, which assembles the  strongest evidence to date demonstrating the economic value of  protecting and maintaining ecosystem services.  Sukhdev presented compelling evidence for the  cost-effectiveness of investments in ecosystem infrastructure in several  biomes.

He pointed to initiatives such as  the Coral Triangle Initiative as a model  for integrating climate change adaptation across a wide range of sectors based  on an explicit understanding of the  value and role of ecosystems in sustaining local livelihoods. He  appealed to policy advisors  and  negotiators to take notice of these findings, maintaining that “there can be  no effective solution to the climate crisis without taking ecosystems into  account.”

It’s tremendous to see this issue taken up  so strongly in the context of these negotiations. Currently the “resilience of ecosystems, societies and economies” is a part of the draft  text here on adaptation.  The chances of keeping it there during the  final week of negotiations will be boosted by the leadership shown by the  Swedish EU Presidency and European Commission.


Saturday , December 12 , 12:47: REDD Text Shaping Up
Filed by: Rane Cortez, Forest Carbon Policy Advisor
Negotiators are meeting this afternoon with hopes of finalizing the REDD text that will be forwarded to ministers for a final decision.

At the moment, there are a number of issues that are agreed upon in the current text — we’re pleased with many of these.

They include language that says “all parties” must find ways to relieve pressure on forests. We’re very pleased that “all parties” are now included because it calls for developed countries to, for example, look at ways to reduce demand for forest products like paper and timber.

We’re also happy that a broad scope of REDD has been placed into the text – including the sustainable management of forests and the need to address degradation.

Some unresolved issues remain that negotiators will be tackling today, and that we hope for a decision on by tomorrow.

One issue is the question of whether REDD programs should only be allowed on the national level, or if countries can also use subnational REDD efforts now to get started.

The Nature Conservancy strongly supports allowing countries to launch subnational programs for a limited time period. National-level REDD programs are the ultimate goal to effectively address such issues as leakage and additionality. However, many countries currently do not have the capacity to launch national programs from the start and subnational projects can provide them the learning experience they need to take the next step to national programs.

Also still being negotiated are safeguards for biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples. Over the past 24 hours, such safeguards were moved from the operational text into the preamble. We believe the language should be placed back into the operational text to ensure that countries implement these safeguards.

Lastly, there is currently no language specifically saying whether funding for REDD should come from public or private financing. We believe funding must come from both the public and private sector. Public funding is needed to help countries prepare and ready themselves for launching REDD programs, while private sector investment is needed to spark the levels of financial incentives countries need to effectively stop deforestation and reduce the emissions it causes.


Friday, December 11 2:44 PM: Indonesia Reveals REDD Plans, Features Conservancy
Filed by Sarene Marshall, Deputy Director of Climate Change Program
Leading up to Copenhagen, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced his country’s intention to reduce its emissions by at least 26 percent.  With over half of its current emissions coming from forest conversion, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) will need to contribute significantly to meeting this goal.

To a packed room today, leaders of the Indonesia delegation revealed challenges they will face, the progress they are making to address it, and how the Nature Conservancy is playing a key role.

Indonesia is a large, complex and diverse country, so one size on REDD will not fit all, said Nur Masripatin during the event. Masripatin has been described as the “mastermind” behind Indonesia’s REDD plans.  Recognizing that “Indonesia’s beauty is in its complexity,”  he has crafted an intricate quilt of approaches to address the range of issues the country faces.  It will take policy reform at all levels – national, provincial, and local districts –  to strengthen timber management, oil palm development, and protected areas, among other things.

And Indonesia needs substantial investment in systems, processes and know-how to  involve stakeholders appropriately in decisions about the fate of its forests.  Finally,  the government of Indonesia has strongly recognized the need for concrete, local actions.  In that regard, the government highlighted the work the Conservancy is doing in the Berau district on Borneo as a leading example.


Friday, December 11, 12:05 PM: Google Can See the Forest for the Trees
Filed by Bronson Griscom
Forest Carbon Scientist
Excited rumors were finally put to rest yesterday when Google rolled out a new platform for measuring and monitoring reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).  Google’s REDD platform will make the sophisticated methods for measuring and monitoring REDD, that have been under development for years, available to everyone.  The tools available on the platform will proliferate as more scientists bring their methods to the platform.

Unfortunately, a launch date for this product has not been announced.  Also, the reliability of the data still depends upon the availability of ground plot data.  But Google is working with scientists to offer an answer to this problem too: Google phones (using Android software) can be used to upload field data that will be automatically analyzed to verify and enhance the accuracy of satellite maps.

If this new platform comes to fruition, it will revolutionize both the accuracy of measuring and monitoring REDD, and the accessibility of critical information on REDD to local stakeholders.

The Nature Conservancy is  looking to collaborate with Google and our common science partners to apply this emerging system in our flagship REDD pilots. While many wrinkles of this emerging platform will need to be ironed out, doubts about the credibility of REDD accounting should now be melting faster than the arctic sea ice.

As with anything Google does, there’s extensive media coverage of this announcement, with Cnet covering the specifics here, and the Guradian providing their coverage here.


Thursday, December 10, 12:00 PM: Obama Expresses Strong Support for Forests
Filed by: Dave Connell
It’s a forest kind of day, with the latest piece of good news coming not from Copenhagen but from close by in Oslo.  President Obama spoke briefly on climate change in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, but in a press statement beforehand he expressed strong support for reducing emissions by stopping deforestation in places like the Brazilian Amazon.

Here’s what he said, and we’ll have more on this later:

(Norwegian) Prime Minister Stoltenberg and I also discussed how we can work together and with other countries to protect forests — something that he has personally championed and I’m very impressed with the model that has been built between Norway and Brazil that allows for effective monitoring and ensures that we are making progress in avoiding deforestation of the Amazon.  And we all understand that it’s probably the most cost-effective way for us to address the issue of climate change — having an effective set of mechanisms in place to avoid further deforestation and hopefully to plant new trees.


Thursday, December 10, 10:35 AM: The Numbers Behind Saving Forests
Filed by: Rane Cortez, Forest Carbon Policy Advisor

It seems to be all about the numbers here in Copenhagen. A target for emissions reductions for developed countries. A dollar figure for financing climate change actions in developing countries. But a lesser known number under hot debate here today is whether to include a specific numbers for how much developing countries will reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

On the table as proposed by the European Union is a 50 percent reduction in deforestation by 2020 and completely stopping forest cover loss by 2030.  These numbers have become crucial to progress on the REDD negotiations.

The catch is that, even though countries like Indonesia and Brazil have already set their own targets for reducing deforestation, developing countries don’t want to commit to a specific number for reducing deforestation until they get a specific number for financing to help them do this.

As our European advisor said, “A global agreement is only a success if there is a global forest target and for that there has to be forest funding.”

Negotiations are on this goal are progressing everyday, but the decision may end up going all the way to the ministers when they arrive so we are pushing hard for this global goal, and for the financing to go with it.


Thursday, December 10, 9:45 AM: Protecting Forests Poised for Success
Filed by Dave Connell
The Christian Science Monitor
had a nice piece on the issue of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD) yesterday. CSM notes that REDD is one of the bright spots in Copenhagen and is on track for significant progress.

Here’s a quick excerpt (emphasis added) :

On Tuesday, negotiators made significant progress on the scientific and technical issues surrounding REDD, according to Rane Cortez, a forest carbon-policy advisor for the Nature Conservancy, an international conservation group that has helped pioneer the concept.

Specific language is still being worked out, she says. But the current draft includes advice on how countries can address the local factors driving deforestation. The draft has provisions for monitoring and ways to figure out how many tons of carbon emissions have been retained rather than released into the atmosphere.

Finally, negotiators are trying to ensure local people are treated fairly if their traditional lands become the focus of REDD projects. And negotiators are working on language aimed at actively engaging forest residents in monitoring and verification efforts.

Jump over to The Christian Science Monitor for all the details.


Wednesday, December 9, 10:00 AM: Protest Greets Plenary Session
Filed by Yabanex Batista, Senior Policy Advisor
Walking quickly to the Plenary at 3:05pm today I ran into a massive demonstration right infront of the Plenary doors from a group of NGOs and activist groups demanding stronger action on climate change to help island countries and real action from developed countries. There was chanting, clapping, cameras, security all over.

After a few minutes I was finally able to make it into the plenary and sit down, but you could still hear the chanting outside. It is the first time I have seen a demonstration like this at a climate change meeting. Everything seemed to end well, with delegates being able to enter the room and the demonstrators doing their part to be peaceful an civil as well.

However, after security cleared the protest, our lead on international climate policy, Duncan Marsh, tried to access the negotiating room and was told that the formal negotiations had been closed for NGOs and media. That is not a good development and we hope is short-term only. A transparent process, that allows the participation of civil society, is essential in achieving as strong a deal as possible here in Copenhagen.


Wednesday December 9, 9:35 AM: The Real Story on the “Leaked” Danish Text
Filed By Chrissy Schwinn
There has been a flurry of media attention in the past 24 hours around a supposed “leaked Danish text” coming from the negotiations here. The British paper Guardian wrote an inflamatory story claiming that big countries were secretly colluding to reach a behind-the-scenes deal without input from smaller countries.   The article sparked confusion in the Bella Center and  temporarily threatened to throw the negotiations into disarray.

Shortly later, a blog on the Financial Times website said there in fact was no secret talks, that developing countries have not been excluded and that countries must ensure the talks continue.

What’s really going on here? First, the “text” under question is a couple of weeks old.  Most likely, there are consecutive drafts that have been shared with different countries. This is common during negotiations – in many ways this is how negotiations get done.  Countries may put out a text so they can gather reactions and find out where they have commons areas of agreement, and where they still have work to do.

What else is happening here is an incredible hunger among some observers and media for the inside scoop.  Developments like these can generate a lot of commotion, confusion and misperceptions in the media and among the public that do nothing to help advance the difficult task that is here at hand.

In recent weeks, our hopes were buoyed that a successful outcome here in Copenhagen is still within reach, one that captures the interests of all countries.  There are significant issues here that countries are grappling with, and they need a foundation of trust to stand on if a final agreement is going to be reached. That’s where everyone’s focus should be here in Copenhagen over the next 10 days, and our judgment of the outcome should be based on the final numbers in the final text.


Tuesday December 8, 10:30AM: Protected Areas Highlighted in Copenhagen
Filed by Chrissy Schwinn
Today The Nature Conservancy and partners launched a new book that demonstrates the contribution that protected areas make in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Natural Solutions: Protected Areas Helping People Cope with Climate Change lays out the arguments for why we must consider protected areas and nature conservation as an important tool in the climate change toolkit.

Protected areas already store 15 percent of the world’s terrestrial carbon and play a major role in reducing climate changing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. They also serve as natural buffers against climate impacts and other disasters, including:

  • providing space for floodwaters to disperse,
  • stabilizing soil against landslides and
  • blocking storm surges,

These are all essential services for protecting vulnerable people against the impacts of climate change.

As Trevor Sandwith, our director of biodiversity and protected areas policy, said during this morning’s press conference “What this book demonstrates is the potential in the future to actually grow and develop the world’s protected area system as life insurance for the planet itself. We need to see ecosystems underpinning decisions on both mitigation and adaptation.”

“As we enter an unprecedented scale of negotiations about climate and biodiversity, it is important that these messages reach policy makers loud and clear and are translated into effective policies and funding mechanisms,” said Lord Nicolas Stern (known for the seminal Stern Report that looked at the economics of climate change) in the preface of the book.

You can download the full report at ConserveOnline, and see a webcast of the presentation at the COP15 website.


Tuesday, December 8, 10:00 AM: A California Take on Copenhagen
Filed by David Connell.
Luis Blumberg, the Conservancy’s California director of climate and forest policy, is penning posts for California public radio station KQED’s Climate Watch blog. In his first installment, Blumberg provides a first-hand account of the opening of the conference, which filled him with a sense of optimism.

He’s especially struck by how far the United States delegation has come in a year at these negotiations, pledging to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020; and joining other nations to pledge $10 billion intended to help developing countries grow their economies while cutting emissions.

You can read Blumberg’s full post at KQED’s Climate Watch.


December 7, 4:30 PM : Opening Discussions on the Kyoto Protocol
Filed by Jeff Fielder
The Kyoto Protocol (which includes legally-binding emissions reductions from developed countries but not the United States) has been part of these discussions since it was first agreed in 1997. It plays an important role in these negotiations because there is a decision to be made:  whether to move forward and continue the Kyoto Protocol or whether to somehow merge it into a new international agreement that includes all developed countries and actions by developing countries as well.

This will be a tricky issue over the next week, with parties clearly divided into different camps on this subject:

The developing countries (G77/China) remain resolutely opposed to merging the Kyoto Protocol into a new treaty – referred to as a “single outcome.”

The Europeans say they will honor the Kyoto Protocol, in which they have invested much over the past decade, but recognized that “the Protocol alone is not enough” and there is a need to agree across the two tracks here in Copenhagen.

The United States, Australia and other developed countries prefer a strong outcome included within a single binding treaty.

Finally, the least developed countries and islands – those most impacted by climate change – repeated their call for much stronger reduction targets from developed countries.

While none of this is news for now, we will need to see some kind of resolution before we leave Copenhagen.


Monday, December 7, 1:40pm: Opening Ceremony Strikes Hopeful Tone
Filed by Fernanda Carvalho, senior policy advisor for Latin America.

It’s the first day in Copenhagen: cold weather and long lines prevail, but there’s also a feeling of underlying hope for a strong agreement among delegates and observers. Speeches at today’s Opening Ceremony expressed a general belief that the time has come to deliver, to get it done, to commit, and that Copenhagen is not just a reference in time, as it has been for the past two years.

Now it is here, and it is a real place for real decisions. For Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC,  “the clock has ticked down to zero” and “the time is gone for formal statements or re-stating old positions.”  Denmark’s Minister of Climate and Energy, and President of COP15 Connie Hedegaard expressed that “many obstacles remain, but its up to the people in this room to make a decision.” She also mentioned that Denmark is committed to maximum progress on the two tracks (Kyoto Protocol and Long-Term Cooperative Action).

The mayor of Copenhagen, Ms. Ritt Bjerregaard, said that the city aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and that during COP 15 Copenhagen will be named “Hopenhagen.”  I think it sounds quite appropriate.


Monday, December 7, 7:00 AM: What We’re Looking for Today
Filed by Chrissy Schwinn
Here’s what we’re anticipating this morning:  The schedule includes the opening plenary session, where we’ll hear from Yvo de Boer, the UNFCCC executive secretary, along with our Danish hosts including Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, COP15 President Connie Hedegaard and Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregard.

While we’re not expecting any news, the morning will give us a sense of how countries are feeling now that they’ve arrived at the end of this road, and how the meetings will be managed over the next days and weeks.

After the plenary, delegates will go directly into continuing the two tracks of negotiations: one on the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and one on long-term cooperative action (LCA).

Our first official Conservancy event will be on Tuesday, with the release of a new book we’ve developed with partners to set out the important role that nature can play in providing climate change solutions.

While we wait for the action to get going, brush up on the basics of the Copenhagen conference.


Sunday, December 6, 10:55PM: What this Blog Post is All About
Filed by Chrissy Schwinn
It’s going to be an interesting ride over the next two weeks and we want to bring it to you as best we can.  We will be reporting out as news and developments happen through this “open post” and getting all of our delegation – from over a dozen different countries – to chip in.

You will hear from voices like:

  • Fernanda Carvalho, our policy advisor in Brazil, focusing on actions developing countries can take, including reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
  • Sascha Muller-Kraenner, our European policy representative, who was at the very first climate change COP. 
  • Trevor Sandwith, our adaptation lead, advocating the role that nature can play in protecting people from climate impacts.
  • Louis Blumberg, director of The Conservancy’s climate change program in California, offering perspective from the states, among others.


Sunday, December 6, 10:55 PM: Handling the Crowds
filed by Chrissy Schwinn
This is going to be big.  Rumors are circling that 37,000 people have requested to register for the COP, in a convention center that holds 15,000. We already know that media accreditation was capped (at either 3,500 or 5,000 reporters, depending on who you talk to), and that over 17,000 were trying to come from NGOs around the world.

There are very long lines at the Bella Center — where the main conference is being held — and many groups are reporting difficulties registering. Fortunately, the Conservancy’s logistics staff has us squared away.

It is clear this will be a very big  — and a well-covered — event. The media center is almost twice as big as the main plenary hall.


Saturday, December 5, somewhere over the Atlantic: Thoughts on a Plane
filed by Chrissy Schwinn
At last, I’m finally in the air — on my way to Copenhagen.

After a year of planning and build-up, there is a unique sense of calm that comes over me after working so hard for so long toward a specific effort.

I wonder about the government delegates in similar planes right now, coming in from around the world.  How do they think these next days will unfold?  Have any of these negotiations shaped up “as planned?”

Perhaps much of them have — we have numbers on the table from the major developed countries, including the United States, as well as from major emitting countries including China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and others.  However, other things haven’t come through “as planned:” Many had hoped the U.S. Senate would pass legislation by now, and while there has been significant progress, it hasn’t culminated in time for this particular event.

So as I head toward Copenhagen, I hope that we reach many of our goals and our plans come together.

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. I hope the pressure of coming out of the meeting having achieved nothing after all this press is enough to make them pull their fingers out and actually do something.

  2. One issue that is most often left off of the agenda’s on matters relating to environmental impact of human activities, is population growth . Perhaps that is because population growth will be the most difficult to manage effectively. However, population growth is the very issue responsible for the problems being discussed at meetings such as this one in Copenhagen.

  3. all this hot air talk, by politicals and dignitaries, while spending enormous carbon footprints. It’s like saying that if all the world’s people loaded one side of the globe at just the right time, we could “correct” the rotational wobble, and stop these climate shifts. Then we could have the earth just the way we want it. reduce emissions yes, compromise entire national economies and extinguish personal responsibility, never. Don’t forget that there is a HIGHER POWER than even us at work here, and HE created a resilient world. HE made it for us.

  4. I used to think the “climate scientists” had some credibility but no longer. There are just too many unknowns and too much “emotion” involved in all of this. Change is part of existence, NOTHING stays the same and too potentially ruin national economies and pouring billions into countries who have already demonstrated they are corrupt is a waste and foolish. I used to be a supporter of the TNC but it is getting away from the core mission of land preservation and too political. I am cancelling my membership but will continue to volunteer at local preserves. This is all just a big transfer of wealth to people who have not earned it.

  5. A “meaningful deal” achieved according to Obama. They have agreed on nothing, all they have really done is acknowledge that we should not increase the worlds average temperature to more than 2C. That is neither a deal or meaningful…

  6. Whatever ‘afterglow’ developments will result from the Copenhagen effort, the world saw that California is among the nations desiring a permanent seat at the table. Schwarzenegger and Villaraigosa headlined a willing California delegation quite well.

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