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Forest Day in Durban South Africa

It’s Sunday. Today is CIFOR’s (Centre for International Forestry Research) Forest Day. 1200 people are gathering to discuss the value and future of forests. The focus is global, but the fact that the COP 17 is in South Africa is a great opportunity to highlight the major plight of Africa’s forests. AWF President Helen Gichohi is giving the keynote address.

It’s already been a long week and it continues until the 9th of December. The negotiations have been tough. Countries have put their stakes in the ground. Canada said it is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol and would not sign a second one. Bolivia has opposed REDD (Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation). The structure and funding source of the Green Climate Fund, a major funding mechanism, is in question. Ideally, as the senior political teams and negotiators arrive this week, countries will begin to pull back together and agree to some consensus. It is a fascinating and frustrating process.

The United Nations designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests. This has helped to raise awareness about deforestation and forest degradation.

One evening I attended a panel with representatives from India, China, Brazil and Singapore. Another evening, Rothschild Financial Advisory Company presented a model for a cap and trade structure. Yesterday, AWF hosted an event with government, private financiers and civil society on REDD markets and their futures. It’s only been 11 months since the last COP in Cancun, where significant progress was made, some question whether it is feasible to emerge with another monumental agreement.

In the meantime, groups like AWF are implementing projects on the ground. Hoping to stop deforestation and degradation, help communities adapt to the impact of climate change, and hoping that some of the lessons we have learned will help shape policy.

AWF has been working with communities in the Kolo Hills of Tanzania to halt deforestation and forest degradation by helping to increase the productivity of agriculture. Photo courtesy of Andrea Athanas.

Whether there will be a regulatory carbon market is up in the air. If the voluntary market will sustain programs is a matter of debate, and how do you manage the risk of land tenure, policy and market variability? What are the best methodologies to help communities and wildlife adapt to the already felt impacts of climate change is a key question.

Today and tomorrow the World Economic Forum gathers to discuss similar issues. We wait to see what emerges from these high level discussions and in the meantime push for policies that will support the reduction of emissions and the establishment of structures that enable effective REDD and adaptation programs.

Kathleen Fitzgerald
About the Author

Kathleen Fitzgerald is AWF's Vice President, Programs East and Southern Africa. She works closely with staff to design and direct land and habitat conservation projects across the continent, including establishing community conservancies, securing wildlife corridors, and improving management of protected areas and community lands.

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AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.