More from Bali

Here’s another update from the international climate negotiations underway this week in Bali, Indonesia. It was written by Barbara Bramble, on staff here at National Wildlife Federation and who is attending the negotiations. The "stress balls" she’s referring to carry the message to the delegates and other participants that millions of Americans are moving beyond the current White House and stand with the negotiators that are serious about tacking the climate crisis now.

(Dec. 11) On Monday Katrina and I started giving out the anti-stress balls. I first tried hanging around the entrance of the press conference venue, and did get some takers, but most of the media guys are running off to write stories – and the ones with cameras don’t have an extra hand to take the balls! I had lots better luck with delegates. Especially those who have been here for a week are in need of these balls, and they seem actually grateful for them, much less the message about "the other USA." Tonight, Tuesday, I crashed the meeting of the small island countries, the ones who will be drowned by climate change. They loved them, and said they would read all our fact sheets.

The BEST thing we did with the balls was to let some of the youth representatives connected with SustainUS give them out. They stand near the entrance or exit of the plenary meetings, and give them to negotiators. The "kids" need a way to feel useful, and this is an easy avenue for them to meet delegates and start a conversation.

Also on Monday, Environmental Defense and NWF put together a crash press conference to rebut claims by the World Bank that they were really helping to avoid climate change. In fact, their fossil fuel lending has gone UP not down, and remains over 75% of their energy portfolio. I can’t send the full text of the press statement due to technical glitches, but the gist of it is that the Bank should put its money where its mouth is. New figures analyzing the Bank’s lending since 2001, which my intern David McArthur and I put together over the last couple of months, were central to the presentation.

Katrina’s summary of the destructive attempts by the US to derail these talks into useless blather is bad enough, but after she left, about midnight on Tuesday night, the US torpedoed consensus on adding a crucial new topic — reduction of tropical deforestation — to the agreement. They did it by demanding insertion of three little words, "land use within," which, trust me, are code for making an agreement impossible. They know people in the US won’t get it, so they feel safe from attack. Their subversion of these talks is deliberate, and cynical, and completely opaque to the folks back home.

Sunday, while some of our colleagues actually got to the beach, I spent the whole day in another meeting!! Luckily it was not in the convention center or impersonal hotel, but in a simply made thatched roof village retreat center up in the hills among the rice paddies. Just the place for contemplating what could be done to un-stick the international negotiations about deforestation. The Yale School of Forestry called together a number of experts, to form a new project in their series of deliberations under what they call The Forest Dialogue. The group was asked to help scope out a work program aimed at the climate change talks, and the anticipated problems over the next two years to come up with the post 2012 agreement. The participants decided that there were several issues that a Yale-mediated group could tackle that would be useful contributions. The goal is to help government negotiators understand the key drivers of deforestation, and what is needed to reduce that source of emissions. The mix of participants was very interesting – from World Bank, the Swiss government, the head of the French delegation here, Weyerhauser and International Paper, some carbon traders, to Greenpeace and yours truly.

What we did agree on was that what is happening to tropical forests is not bad forest policy – it’s bad agriculture, energy, transportation and employment policy. Much of the conversion of forests is actually legal, approved by some government agency, to allow the huge agriculture projects and plantations, usually to produce something for export to folks like us. Other causes are illegal timber cutting, as well as a lack of safety nets for the poor, which causes desperate people to continue the relentless slash and burn pock- marking of forests to make small fields to feed their families. And until governments are able or willing to act with cohesion to change these deforestation drivers, the destruction will continue.

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