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13 December 2010 - Cancun makes progress in tackling climate change and saving forests      


13th December 2010                                              

Humane Society International (HSI) today welcomed the progress made at the Cancun climate change talks in tackling climate change and saving forests.

It is good to see some consolidation of Copenhagen pledges, which HSI hopes will set the scene for more progress on emission cuts in South Africa at the end of next year. 

There has been general agreement that there should be a second commitment period of agreed developed country emission reduction targets (Kyoto Mark 2). There has also been agreement to establish a new Green Climate Fund (for which Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet should be congratulated for his leading role). These are both positive outcomes.

However, Australians and the global community should all be very concerned that the existing country emission reduction pledges will not prevent global temperature rise remaining below 2 degree centigrade.

“We now face an average global temperature rise of up to 2.5 degrees Celsius, and even possibly higher, unless very urgent action is taken to increase country commitments within the next year,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director.

HSI welcomes the solid progress on measures to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (i.e. REDD+). A number of new elements of the REDD+ framework have been agreed, but still more needs to be done.

“HSI is concerned that a decision to use market mechanisms to implement REDD+ has been deferred and it is difficult to see how anything like the necessary funding to save the world’s forests will be achieved without the use of the market”, said Rod Holesgrove, HSI’s Biodiversity Policy Adviser. 

“Historically government funding for forest protection has been quite insufficient,” he said “and there are few indications that this situation will change.” 

Because there is no market mechanism, the REDD+ agreement may not provide much encouragement for Australian business, under an Australian carbon price scheme to invest in protecting tropical forests in our Region.

However, HSI is pleased to see that some of the agreed basic goals and objectives of REDD+ have some real positives, including recognition that REDD+ is about slowing and reversing forest cover and carbon loss, and that REDD+ actions should be consistent with the conversion of natural forest and biological diversity.

“HSI is pleased to see that it has been agreed that REDD+ should not be used for the conversion of natural forests”, said Alistair Graham, HSI’s International Policy Adviser.

 “However it has also been agreed that REDD+ will allow so called ‘sustainable forest management’ which means that logging of native forests will be permitted under REDD+. The Australian public will no doubt question why an international agreement to save forests will allow logging”, said Alistair Graham.

HSI is therefore of the view that the Government should legislate to ensure that REDD+ credits derived from the logging of forests are not allowed to be used in Australia.

HSI is pleased to see that the REDD+ agreement has a strong statement on the need to address the drivers of deforestation.

“It is therefore very important that the Government introduce legislation as soon as possible to ban import of illegally logged timber.” said Rod Holesgrove. “This was promised in the first term of the Rudd /Gillard Government but did not eventuate.” he said.

HSI is also pleased to see that Cancun had some positive outcomes in relation to what developed countries can and cannot do with regard to Kyoto mechanisms relating to land based emissions. 

A very good outcome in this regard was the decision that developed countries could reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol by rewetting peat lands.  “This is a tremendous achievement,” said Alistair Graham. “as the draining of peat lands provides about 6 per cent of all emissions.”

HSI was pleased to see that Cancun did not approve a loophole that would allow developed countries under Kyoto to increase their annual forestry emissions by up to half a million tonnes of CO2 without penalty.  These emissions would fully wipe out all the reductions made under the Kyoto Protocol. 

“This issue will come back at future climate change meetings and Australia as a leading proponent of the ‘logging loophole’ must stop pushing this matter”, said Alistair Graham.

Overall, Cancun was a good step forward and HSI looks forward to continuing its work in 2011 in trying to achieve the required emission reduction agreements as well as agreements to protect as much as possible of the world’s remaining natural forests, wetlands and other ecosystems, which are critical to human survival.

HSI also wishes to acknowledge the significant contribution made to the Cancun outcome by the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA*).  The ECA, of which HSI is part, is an alliance of NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere.  Decisions on rewetting peat lands, overall REDD+ goals, drivers of deforestation and ensuring REDD+ will not contribute to the conversion of forests are amongst the decisions in regard to which ECA made a significant contribution.

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