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Yearly Archives: 2015
On Saturday, December 12, 2015, delegates from 195 countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions (those gases responsible for climate change) to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with an ambition of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. After years of stalemate, acrimony, and difficult negotiations, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to resolution with an historic Paris Agreement (see text of the Agreement here). Under the text of the new agreement, which builds on years of previous decisions, guidance, and technical work, areas of importance for include, among many other areas, robust reporting and accounting, increased action tropical forests through efforts aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD, in UN-speak) and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancements of forest carbon sinks (REDD+, in UN-speak), increased financing to support efforts by developing countries, recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the important stewardship role communities have in protecting tropical forests (which I have previously written about here), and the ongoing potential for carbon market approaches (although Article 6 of the Agreement uses the euphemistic phraseology of “cooperative approaches”).
As a climate attorney and carbon market professional who works on the California Cap-and-Trade Program, I’m thrilled by this outcome – and I’m equally excited by the role that California’s climate policies continue to have in pushing for robust climate action within our state, the country, and internationally.
When Laurent Fabius, president of the COP and France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, struck the final gavel indicating debate and voting on the Agreement was final, he stated “C’est un petit marteau, mais je pense qu’il peut faire des grandes choses!” (It’s a small gavel, but I think it can accomplish important things!) Bien dit, Monsieur Fabius! Congratulations to all of the COP21 delegates, to restoring hope for truly global climate action, and to setting the stage for the increasingly important work that still remains.
Gabon’s government has made an important, and impressive, seizure of poached forest elephant ivory. As reported in the Guardian, over 200kg were seized, making this the largest such amount impounded in the country. Efforts by the Gabonese government and civil society supporters such as the Conservation Justice NGO continue to prosecute poachers in the region. Some of my work while living in Gabon involved working with villagers and conservation organizations to curb the bushmeat trade, including poaching of endangered species like forest elephants. See more in my book, Glimpses through the Forest: Memories of Gabon.
As the world gears up for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it is important to recognize the role that traditional and indigenous communities have had and continue to have in conservation efforts. The Alianza Mesoamerican de Pueblos y Bosques, COICA, and other organizations recently released a study indicating that over 20% of tropical forests are within indigenous territories. As someone who strongly believes in inclusive conservation that respects and recognizes community rights, the ever-increasing evidence of the need for consultative, well-managed processes to design and implement climate and conservation initiatives is both welcome and unsurprising. For my writings on the legal requirements for such consultation, see here. For more on the recent study, see this press release.
California has been engaged in many climate and conservation-related efforts throughout the years. One ongoing evaluation relates to whether and how California’s carbon market might be able to recognize, incentivize, and set high standards for emerging payment-for-performance tropical forestry programs conducted at large scale. More information about this effort is available here.
I’m thrilled that to date, people from 66 countries (as identified by Word Press) have visited jasongray.org! Here’s a full list:
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong SAR China, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Latvia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
And for stats nerds, I thought I’d post some charts:
Celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples! Throughout the world, indigenous culture, knowledge, struggle, and triumph should stand as testaments to what humans can achieve and overcome. A lot of engagement and education remains to be conducted to push through prejudice and historical wrongs (read atrocities). I’m grateful for the lessons, friendship, and wisdom I have experienced in Panama, Gabon, the Amazon, California, and Montana from the incredible communities and peoples who have called these places home for generations.
In his recent trip to Africa, President Obama announced ongoing U.S. commitment to supporting African countries in wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts, including new restrictions on the ivory trade in the U.S. These include assessments to curb wildlife poaching and trafficking in East Africa, $7 million in annual assistance to Gabon’s National Park Agency over a five-year period to “secure the largest remaining population of forest elephants in Africa” and multiple other efforts of support and of enforcement, including within the U.S. These efforts, and many on other governance and civil society initiatives, were a major focus of the President’s visit.
A recent study claims the earth has entered the first mass extinction since the Dinosaurs due to destructive development practices and climate change. As scientists continue to study the rate of biodiversity decline, and the impacts from climate change, studies like this are important as calls to action to better protect biodiversity, develop mitigation and adaptation measures to address climate change, and to urge policymakers, developers, and citizens to end destructive development practices.
The New Yorker Magazine published a sobering piece on the state of poaching of forest elephants in Central Africa. Many people from all over Central Africa and the world continue to seek solutions to curbing what has increasingly become a sophisticated, criminal, organized murder and trafficking enterprise of decimating elephants for the ivory trade. Elephant and human lives, as well as the complex link between elephants and forest ecology (including interdependent plant and animal species, many of which are vital to humans – not to speak of the local and global climate!), are too precious for these atrocities to continue. I did not delve into this tangled web of corruption and illegal poaching in Glimpses through the Forest, although I attempted to convey the majesty of these incredible pachyderms. Perhaps that is part of the solution though, to continue educating and highlighting the beauty of these beasts, and the interconnection they play for us, as people, with the forest. Still, as the New Yorker points out, there is a growing need for law enforcement, vigilance, and punishment against those creating so much devastation, as well as economic development and empowerment for communities living in Central Africa.
On May 8, 2013, the labor of love and hard work that I titled Glimpses through the Forest: Memories of Gabon was published by Peace Corps Writers. I’m so grateful to everyone who has taken an interest and read about Gabon, its amazing people, and the outstanding landscapes and biodiversity of Central Africa. Hoping others continue to do so too 🙂