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Forestry Land Use - A Chorus of Rusty Cogs

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There aren’t many beards in evidence at Citola’s offices, but we hope you’ll know what we mean when we say we’ve been doing a lot of beard-stroking when it comes to the issue of the UN climate change talks. The media dust has more or less settled on the Bonn conference, which ended last week, and what we’re left with isn't a vison but a sound: the persistent squeaking of rusty cogs.

The rusty cog syndrome is well known: It’s the troublemaker in class who gets special attention from the teacher. The troublemaker may have no special talent, other than creating fuss, but to make that problem go away, the troublemaker receives unique treatment. The rusty cog gets the oil.

Sadly, that’s what we’re hearing from Bonn: a chorus of rusty cogs. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has suffered from too many countries wanting special treatment. There are general expressions of good will, but so many parties withdraw that good will as soon as they see another country opting out, seeking an exemption or other special privilege. The rusty cogs have found a lowest common denominator that inhibits anything that might reasonably be called progress. There was a laudable attempt to move things along from Kyoto (the protocol on emission levels is due to run out within two years, and there is nothing to replace it as yet). But the latest text put forward by the chairman received robust criticism from many quarters.

There’s another round of talks scheduled for August, ahead of the Cancun conference in December. Substantial progress needs to be made behind the scenes, if the Mexican event is not to be as frustrating as last year’s event in Copenhagen.

An interesting side-effect of the slow-down in the global economy has been the spurious claiming of good carbon citizenship from the countries whose economies have been worst affected. Few would argue that the old Eastern Bloc countries in Europe have industrial processes much more sophisticated than the antediluvian. Russia, Bulgaria and Poland were particularly notorious in this respect, with legendarily filthy coal-dependent manufacturing industries. However, lower demand has resulted in lower emission levels from these and other countries - and this has been used as a bargaining chip at the talks. This demonstrates the uselessness of over-depndence on statistics: they measure industrial emissions, but they do not describe them. The processes themselves, of course, need to be reformed.

Related to this issue is land use, land-use change and forestry, known by the ugly epithet LULUCF. This area, of course, is of interest at Citola. The matter is being dealt with at a high level by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (yes that IPCC, complete with controversial data-gathering methods). Working with other divisions of the United Nations, the IPCC has been attacking this area for years.

Key challenges to getting a meaningful agreement in place include getting a consensus from the global community regarding methodologies, finance mechanisms and emission reduction commitments and dealing with the issue of felling timber. The New Zealanders, for example, place carbon liabilities for Kyoto-complaint forestry that is subsequently felled.  This influences future plantation processes and can ensure more sustainable forestry management.

Or so we’d like to think. We’ll be back with more on this as and when there are concrete developments


Extpub | by Dr. Radut