As delegates gather in Bali, Indonesia, for the latest conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, it’s worth remembering that the Kyoto Protocol inexplicably contained perverse incentives (well, it’s not entirely unexplained, but that’s another blog) for countries to clear their existing forests, plant new ones — generally monocrop tree plantations, and claim climate credit. In Bali, a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol will begin to be hammered out. The world can’t wait. And forests, this time around, shouldn’t be put on a quasi-official chopping block. It’s hard to see how they can be, given the rising awareness of the essential role of intact forests in capturing and holding carbon from the atmosphere — and the huge CO2 emissions that come from burning standing forests. Not to mention all the biodiversity within forests, including, in Central Africa, the great apes.
Bonobos got some much-needed breathing space recently. A vast area in the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem has been declared a new reserve. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the only country in the world in which bonobos live (and they mostly survived the recent, protacted civil war). Read about the reserve here. There’s still lots of work to be done to make sure the reserve exists not only on paper (and doesn’t become what’s called a “paper park” where poaching, encroachment and extractive industries are all-too-present).
In other parts of the world, lots of people and groups have done their work and well. The Billion Tree Campaign, inspired by Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai, just met its goal. Good timing: on the eve of the Bali talks, one billion new trees have been planted. The Earth needs new trees, billions of them, to replace what’s been lost. And we need to protect the forests we have, with just about everything we’ve got.