After last year’s disastrous international climate change Summit in Copenhagen, the expectations for this year’s version in Cancun were not particularly high but an agreement about the future direction of climate change management has been reached.
The draft documents say deeper cuts in carbon emissions are needed and that countries should “take urgent action” to meet the goal of holding the increase in global temperatures below 2C, measured against pre-industrial times; but do not establish a mechanism for achieving the pledges made.
These Accords include a $30 billion-package to aid nations taking immediate actions to halt effects of global warming in 2012, as well as financing for long-term projects to protect the environment through a Green Fund, which will provide $100 million annually by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation measures, initially using the World Bank as a trustee.
Delegates also approved the creation of the forestry program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) to facilitate the flow of resources to international communities dedicated to forest conservation. Developing countries will have their emission-curbing measures subjected to international verification only when they are funded by Western money.
In advance of the 2009 Copenhagen summit, the Woodland Trust produced a Copenhagen Platform to identify what we thought were the key points from a woodland point of view. This set out aims for international protection of woodland but also looked at how this should be implemented in the UK.
What has Cancun achieved in relation to our hopes for Copenhagen? Well, the creation of the REDD+ programme, with its aim to see money and resources go to the communities that protect and rely on the forests is a step forward, as is the development of an international Green Fund to support climate reduction work. But as with all international agreements, the declaration is only the first part of the procedure and implementation can be a long process.
But we must not think that forestry issues are only a matter for the developing world. In 2010 the Trust was involved in fighting threats to more than 300ha of ancient woodland. With less than 12% native woodland cover and woodland loss from development continuing at an alarming rate; the dire situation the UK is facing can and must be turned around. Climate resilience models have suggested planting rates of 20,000ha a year or more in the UK may be necessary[i] – yet planting rates have fallen by more than half in the last six years (from 11,900ha pa to 5,000 ha in 2010) and are now lower than at any time since the mid-1970s.
But let’s try to think positively. Online resources like our MyView interactive petition, and empowering new laws such as the Sustainable Commuities Act, mean individuals and community groups can make a huge difference to their own landscapes. With action on the ground (if you’ll pardon the pun), trees can continue to help us all adapt to the extremes of weather we are already experiencing.
Frances Winder, Conservation Advisor
[i] Read, D.J., Freer-Smith, P.H, Morison, J.I.L., Hanley, N., West, C.C. and Snowdon, P. (eds) (2009) Combating climate change – a role for UK Forests. An assessment of the potential of the UK’s trees and woodlands to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh