The sunny side of Cancun

On Sunday, Forest Day 4 scored a notable coup with the appearance of President Calderon at the opening plenary.  This is clear evidence, in case any more were needed, of Mexico’s determination to secure a deal on REDD+ at this COP.  I forgot to pick up my translation headset and was deprived of the President’s gems of wisdom (I hope I clapped in the right places).  He naturally, and helpfully, called on all foresters to push for a REDD+ agreement, and stressed the direct relevance of community forestry to such an agreement.

Less helpfully, however, his advisers appeared to have missed the point on a crucial issue. In urging smallholders to plant more trees and less crops (as my unofficial translator tells me) he was in danger of reinforcing the uneasiness that many rural communities feel over the influence of climate change on forest policy.  Subsistence farmers should not be required to put their livelihoods on the line for the sake of REDD+.

Still, he and the more than 1,500 participants at Forest Day were united in their desire for a meaningful agreement on forests and climate change that puts people at the center.  And the odds are looking good today.  The US, as noted below, is determined that REDD+ must not go forward as a stand-alone agreement (It’s all about balance, remember?). Fortunately, there appears to be cautious progress on a number of other fronts.  Parties and lobbyists from the Moon Palace tell me that decisions on Adaptation and Technology Transfer may indeed be ready by Friday, and even the Financing track will be able to show some progress.  This would be enough, with REDD+, to constitute a package to satisfy the Americans and other cautious types.   Heady optimism, perhaps.  But that’s me.  Watch it all come down in flames tomorrow.

Ban Ki-moon is in town and, according to the blog of FAO’s Peter Holmgren, he’s also in good spirits.  And there’s yet more reason for optimism.  Thanks to articles like this and some concerted lobbying, at least some partners, notably the Philippines, are likely to object to the passing of the REDD+ Partnership work program without the re-insertion of the language on safeguards.

I stand corrected on the schedule for the document’s approval – we have until 20:00 Wednesday night to make the necessary changes.  Many countries are clearly sick and tired of the battering ram approach of the current co-chairs and are counting down the days to 1st January, when Brazil and France officially take over.  The last six months have been a criminal waste of time and money and make a mockery of the ‘fast-start’ aims of the Partnership.

Posted by Ben Vickers

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