I was having a conversation today with an industrialized country delegate who was apologizing for not being a forester and therefore not really getting all of the intricacies and complexities and rationales of forest management carbon accounting.
I replied, "So, if you're not a forester, doesn't it seem strange to you that the rules have to be designed to ensure there is no negative impact on the forest sector for cutting trees? Why should the forest sector be the only one who should choose whether or not to reduce emissions rather than be forced to?"
The answer was telling and was something that I have often lamented: it's a structural problem resulting from the special status that this sector has - from the beginning it was an add-on with its own set of rules. What that has meant in practice is most decision-makers don't get it or try to, so it is delegated to the technical experts. What do you expect to happen when you ask a bunch of foresters to come up with rules for the forest sector? Or as this person put it, "If you stick a bunch of people in the corner of the room to talk to each other they will come up with funny ideas."
The ideas in this case are shameful: a set of draft rules that openly excuses all responsibility for emissions. Of all other sectors in this process we are demanding transformative change. In the forest sector we are demanding nothing. In fact we are doing worse than this - we are telling countries that if they like they can make things worse.
We are demanding emission reductions of 40% or more from industrialized countries. What are we demanding of the forest sectors in these countries? At most we are asking them to continue business-as-usual. If they do better we give them credits.
The only hope at this point is that developing countries negotiate hard on this. They are currently asking for the same thing we are: accountability for changes in emissions from 1990. I'm hoping we will see a new statement from them in the next couple of days.
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