Getting Started (COY, Day 2)
When I arrived yesterday, I seriously considered panicking. I was anxious to get started, but just wasn’t sure what exactly I should be starting. Today at that Conference of Youth (COY), I was somehow able to put some of the pieces together…
We began this morning with an information session on successful youth movements from around the globe; it was incredibly inspiring to hear what has been accomplished. Unfortunately it was also a harsh reminder of how poor Canadian support is for climate action (at any age). In Nepal, the youth movement has gained such credibility that policy makers consult with young climate activists before making decisions. The Philippines have 5 official youth negotiators along with their conventional negotiating team. It’ll be a win if we can get our government to hear us, let alone listen and incorporate our opinions.
Following that, we met with the rest of the North American delegations to organize cooperative actions, campaigns etc. The single biggest issue plaguing North America? Canada’s tar sands. There wasn’t even a remotely close second.
After a delicious Mexican lunch, we got down to brass tacks. I spent the first afternoon session in a workshop on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry). These are two very hot pieces of policy right now and they are very similar. As the names would suggest, they handle forestry and land use management in relation to carbon credits; REDD+ is specific to forestry and refers to agreements in which a developed nation would essentially pay a developing nation not to remove forests and then count that as a carbon storage credit. LULUCF is a little more broad, since it is not restricted to forestry alone, and it includes projects completed in Annex 1 (developed) nations as well. These policies have three major loopholes, that I’ll touch on briefly (but since it’s after midnight here, that’s all I will promise):
1. leakage occurs when a project is simply relocated; for example our government may provide funding so that a chunk of rainforest isn’t logged and we would count those carbon credits towards our targets, but this doesn’t necessarily stop the logging company from moving 3 miles south and logging there — so there is no real emission reduction
2. permanence — so, let’s continue with the hypothetical chunk of rainforest — we’re paid for it, saved it and counted our credits; fifty years down the line, who’s to say it isn’t logged? What if there’s a forest fire? What if the capture storage capacity of the forest is degraded (by age, or by climate change itself)?
3. definitions — What makes a “forest” a forest and a “plantation” a plantation? Where do you draw the line, specifically? Very minor changes to this definition can greatly affect the rate of a coutry’s “deforestation” or “reforestation.” How to we define and then manage say, peatland, under LULUCF? These, among many other questions, remain to be answered.
Ultimately, this is just another form of carbon market that allows developed nations to delay taking any real action on emissions reductions. In my opinion, it’s a false solution. By simply tweaking a couple of the definitions, or by avoiding the issues of leakage of permanence, we could find ourselves making huge investments of mitigation funds into a program that doesn’t actually reduce emissions.
I finished the day with a meeting of the YOUNGO (young NGO) Media Working Group. It was phenomenal to be able to coordinate my work on the CYD media team with other organizations, and it allowed me to form some useful partnerships for future actions and press conferences. It was also a really useful primer on how media relations of the entire youth network will work and served to define my role a little more clearly.
Can’t wait to get back at it tomorrow!