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Postcard from Doha - Forest Day: It's the people, stupid

03 December 2012

Postcard from Doha - Forest Day: It's the people, stupid

Photo: Forests in Ethiopia's Bale mountains

By Michelle Winthrop

Sunday provided a welcome break from the negotiations, and gave us an opportunity to hang out with the good and the great at Forest Day. Some of the day was spent at the booth we shared with our partners who are helping us design REDD+ for Bale Eco-Region: IDESAM from Brazil and NCRC from Ghana.

Our booth's theme was south-south cooperation as the best way to build capacity for good forest governance, and our experience is a great example of that. I had a chance to catch up with my old DFID boss too, and hear about how they're trying to reorient forest finance to really address those tricky capacity issues.

A group of legislators from around the world (including UK MP Barry Gardiner) gave some fascinating insights into how forestry laws get passed, and how the only way to get popular support for those laws is to put the social and economic objectives ahead of the environmental ones.

The only sustainable way to protect the trees is to protect the interests of the people who are the custodians of those trees.

Conserving the forests

Another big theme was the need to move past the exclusive focus on carbon that is locked into the trees - we can't sit around forever waiting for carbon markets to get moving, so we've got to help people benefit from biodiversity and agroforestry.

A great session on finance for REDD+ showed me how far we have to go to secure a steady stream of funding for protecting forests - we were reminded by the government of Indonesia that human disaster always gets people digging deep, but forests don't.

Rather depressingly the major private sector investors seem to have lost interest in the business opportunities from REDD+. We've got a while to go before the money flows.

Climate change and gender

After catching up with the Brazilians and Ghanaians, I was off to another side event on gender and climate change. If there's one thing this conference has achieved, it's the proper inclusion of gender issues into the proceedings and the text. (Actually, as of Monday lunchtime, it is sadly the ONLY agreed text).

It is a recognition of something that Farm Africa has always known: women are most affected by climate change, and as custodians of the natural resource base they are also the most important potential agents of change... At last, a Doha breakthrough to celebrate!

- Michelle is Farm Africa’s country director in Ethiopia. She’s blogging from the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

Read Michelle’s previous postcards from Doha: