In the midst of the gloom about the chances of a deal, it is worth recording one small victory for the planet.
Our “home base” at the Bella centre – until, like other NGOs and parliamentarians and research organisations we were kicked out, has been a small white table with associated power points for computers and phones, in the main hall. Our near neighbours were the Rainforest Coalition, groups who have been working on REDD, the initiative to fund developing countries to preserve their rainforests from the logging and burning that is decimating them at present. It’s a big ask, as in most developing countries more than half of the logging is illegal: theft by foreign corporations against the local law and with no return to the country that owns the forests.
We’ve been able to glean the inside story on the negotiations from the folk at the next table, including my old friend Peg Putt, former leader of the Tasmanian Greens, and now working for an Australian rainforest NGO. It was great to see her again.
At the Barcelona meeting the EU succeeded in taking out of the main text the protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples who live in and depend on those forests, and inserting the ability to replace the old growth forests with palm oil plantations and still qualify for subsidy. There has been a huge amount of work by the NGOs to protect biodiversity and indigenous rights and they have been restored in the text.
There is still the issue of how the finance will be managed – at national level or regionally. Some are concerned that corruption at government level may prevent the money reaching the people it is designed to help. Others say dealing with a plethora of local officials could be even worse. It does raise the need for better governance in many nations if it is going to be possible to implement a global climate agreement.
Of all the climate disasters unfolding daily, the huge loss of tropical old growth forests is the most irreversible. It is not just about carbon, but about soil,water, species and ecosystems which may exist nowhere else. That’s why even a small victory is important.