Preview of UN Climate Summit in Cancun (part 2) listen11/24/10 Kelly Benjamin
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The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference begins next week in Cancun, Mexico. WMNFâ€™s Kelly Benjamin will bring us daily reports from Mexico on the progress towards an agreement at this year's summit. Today, we bring you part 2 of a special report on climate change and what we can expect from the United Nations process.
Last year's highly anticipated UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen resulted in the Copenhagen Accord, an agreement that began a process of creating climate change adaption financial aid to impoverished nations, many whom are already feeling the effects of global climate change.
The agreement was widely criticized for being weak, non-binding, and not setting concrete targets for long term emission-reductions or greater protection for the world's tropical rain forests. One such critic was musician and political activist David Rovics.
"In terms of what happened inside the conference, of course, it was all completely worthless because of US obstructions and other things. I'd say that was the main reason for the collapse of the thing. The world's biggest polluter has no interest in the thing, so what are you supposed to do with that?"
At this year's UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, much of the hope of reaching an agreement to slow global warming rests with something called REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Don Lehr is a spokesperson for the Eco-Systems Climate Alliance.
"REDD is a mechanism that was created at the conference in Bali in 2007 that will hopefully provide funds to developing countries to not cut down their forests and thereby prevent the emissions, the carbon emissions from cutting down forests and also enhance the sequestration that forests provide for carbon. In other words, forests suck up carbon from the atmosphere but when you burn them down or destroy them they release carbon into the atmosphere."
So, the UN is establishing a fund to pay developing nations not to chop down or burn down their forests. But how is this significant to battling climate change? Again, Don Lehr.
"Well, approximately 15 to 20 percent of total global carbon emissions come from deforestation and forest degradation. That's a huge chunk of the total carbon emissions, globally. And the idea was that if we could find a way to curtail, and eventually even stop this kind of deforestation it would be a relatively quick and easy way to decrease some carbon emissions. It has turned out not to be so quick or so easy. It's a very complicated issue. You know, it seems so simple, you know. Give them money and they won't cut down their trees. But, where does the money go? How does it get down to local communities that live in these forests? How do you prevent it from getting snatched up?"
Outside of hopes for passing a REDD agreement, others involved in the UN negotiating process, such as Thomas Hamlin, the UN's technical adviser on energy and transport, see low carbon transportation initiatives as a fundamental way cities can reduce greenhouse gasses.
"We've seen some very interesting work done in Mexico City, and they're using something called bus rapid transit, they have special lanes for the buses. The reason I mention Mexico is they did quite a good study on the benefits from that system and it's able to move on the order of a million people around each day. The studies were able to show that the health benefits and the local benefits in terms of savings of time, even if you take their time at a dollar an hour. And the savings in gasoline were the largest benefits to the system. So Mexico City is able to move people around efficiently and in a more healthy environment. And it's also saving greenhouse gas emissions."
Here in the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough voters rejected a transportation referendum that would have included bus rapid rapid transit. But some locals like Eric Stewart are doing their part to fight climate change on a grassroots basis.
"Community gardening and climate change. I think that the most connection that there is is you're reducing the demand of habitat destruction. When you buy food in the local market, they're getting it from the local farms. If you can reduce your food mile to local farms or some community garden, you're reducing how far that food has to travel. Most of these community gardens aren't using fertilizers or pesticides so they're reducing the amount of oil that has to go onto the soil. Permaculture is about thinking holistically and thinking about all aspects of just being alive. So thinking about the building you're living in, the land that surrounds your house. Thinking about where you get your water and thinking about your health."
Kelly Benjamin reported for the WMNF Evening News from last year's climate summit in Copenhagen and he received a fellowship from Earth Journalism News to cover this year's conference.
Tune into the WMNF Evening News all next week for Kellyâ€™s daily coverage on the progress being made on addressing climate change at this year's United Nations Climate Change summit in Mexico.