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States push into global climate talks over forests

October 2nd, 2009

amazonStates and provinces with half the world’s tropical forests told their national governments to act fast on deforestation, forcing their way into international climate talks that they said were moving too slowly.

Eleven governors from Brazilian, Indonesian and U.S. states and provinces issued a call for leadership to their presidents to stop deforestation that accounts for a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Such states stand to gain from a system to provide financial rewards for conserving and propagating forests, which is seen as a relatively inexpensive way to address global warming.

But the complexity of such a system overwhelmed negotiators of the Kyoto climate change treaty, which left out forests.

When the successor to Kyoto is debated in Copenhagen in December, national negotiators will find themselves rubbing elbows with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other “subnational” leaders who gathered in California this week.

“Our collective efforts are the first at any level of governance to move into what might be called the ‘proof of concept’ stage,” for forest conservation, the states said in a letter to the national leaders.

“At the same time, we are concerned that the U.N. negotiations are moving too slowly and that the different national efforts on climate and forests in Brazil, Indonesia, the United States and other countries are proceeding in relative isolation without adequate coordination,” they wrote.

They called for their countries’ presidents to form a task force to speed up talks and to include the regional leaders.

The letter was produced at a governors’ conference sponsored by Schwarzenegger. Local leaders plan on Friday to sign an accord to work together on clean transportation, lobbing their national governments to implement climate change legislation and to share plans for adapting to changing climate.

“If we wait for everybody to get it right, we’ve got it wrong,” said British Columbian Premier Gordon Campbell said in an interview at the talks.

Expectations have diminished that Copenhagen will produce a new treaty. “I think everyone is right to be skeptical, but we should all be hopeful,” Campbell said.

He pointed to joint efforts by some Canadian and U.S. provinces, including B.C. and California, to create a carbon emissions cap and trade scheme that would limit total pollution and allow emitters to trade rights to pollute.

The letter included governors of Amapa, Mato Grosso, Acre, Amazonas and Para in Brazil, California, Wisconsin and Illinois in the United States, and Aceh, Papua and East Kalimantan in Indonesia.

By Peter Henderson

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