Help from Above: New View of Forests Rescues Maligned UN Climate Policy

Nearly 200 countries are meeting in Lima, Peru, for the UN climate summit. Photo by Justin Catanoso
Nearly 200 countries are meeting in Lima, Peru, for the UN climate summit, which ends Dec. 12, 2014. Photo by Justin Catanoso

LIMA, Peru (Dec. 8) – As the United Nations climate negotiations enter their second and final week, some progress – and thus some optimism — was claimed late Monday. They were small steps. And because huge leaps seem impossible in grappling with this global crisis, even small steps take on growing importance.

At a carefully orchestrated press conference, environmental leaders from Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico – countries with enormous stores of often imperiled tropical forests – pledged to present baseline levels of their greenhouse gas emissions to international monitoring groups under the UN’s REDD+ program.

In essence, the countries are lining up for potential payments from developed countries as a reward for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

Tropical forests play a vital role in slowing global warming by absorbing and storing greenhouse gas emissions . And when they are felled, they also release greenhouse gases on par with emissions for the transportation sector. Thus, their protection and restoration are increasingly viewed as vital to curbing rising temperatures.

Manuel Pulgar Vidal, COP20

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