Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Al Gore and Wangari Maathai calls the U.N. General Assemby to support protection of forests

The U.N. General Assembly in New York got a lot of attention because of the visit of the Iranian President, but it also had two important visitors that had a much more important message to the world leaders. They're both Nobel Peace Prize winners and they had one request to world leaders: make sure the protection of forests will be part of any global agreement that will take place in the post Kyoto era.

These guests were no other than former Vice President Al Gore and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai. According to the International Herald Tribune, "the two Nobel Peace Prize winners, calling attention to deforestation blamed for a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, aimed their comments at world leaders converging for the U.N. General Assembly. They hoped to pave the way for billions of dollars in new spending to attack illegal logging."

Just a brief reminder: forest protection wasn't permitted under the Kyoto Protocol for carbon trading and and hence an important incentive to invest in such forest conservation projects was lost. But as we reported in the past, it was discussed in the U.N.’s Bali meeting in December last year, and though it is not approved yet, there's a good chance it will be part of the post-Kyoto program that will replace in 2012.

Though it makes a lot of sense and enjoy the support of Prince Charles ("the world's rainforests is key to combating global warming") and Norway ("fighting deforestation is a quick and low-cost way to achieve cuts in greenhouse gas emissions blamed by scientists for global warming, in addition to maintaining biodiversity and securing people's livelihoods"), this is far from being a done deal and therefore requires the intervention of heavy-weight players such as Gore and Maathai.

So what did they tell the General Assembly? According to the article, Gore reminded his listeners that "one of the most effective things that we can do in the near term to reduce the emissions of global warming pollution is to halt this totally unnecessary deforestation," and Maathai urged the next U.S. President to persuade richer industrialized nations to reward developing nations for conserving and expanding their remaining forest cover."This country is the one we are waiting for to provide the leadership," she said.

I truly hope that with their support this issue will be taken seriously and will be part of the climate accord that will follow the Kyoto accord. This way live trees will have monetary value and not just when they're cut down for industrial use or just to make more room for farmland. This is probably one the quickest ways to significantly decrease deforestation and its hug contribute to global warming (about 20%). We'll have to wait to the planned meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009, where the details of the new accord will be formed, to know if Gore and Maathai succeeded in making it clear to everyone.