Ironically, the snow started falling during the last days of the Copenhagen summit where world leaders were gathering to combat global warming.
And judging by the result - the Copenhagen Accord - temperatures dropped inside the Bella Center as well.
Most observers agree that the result is poor and unambitious, especially since the Copenhagen Accord is merely a political statement which is not legally binding for the parties. "Half-baked text and unclear substance", was the verdict of WWF. And "Hopenhagen" has been replaced by words like "Brokenhagen" and "Nopenhagen" in the media coverage of the climate negotiations.
In the midst of these negative impressions, it is worth while noticing the fact that some pivotal countries including China, India, the US, and some other large emitters who couldn’t agree before, came to consensus on a political deal. This signals hope for increasing commitments in terms of emission cuts and finances from the around 30 countries that are responsible for 90% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
The next global climate summit - COP16 - could thus result in a legally binding agreement. On the other hand, failure to reach an agreement will not mean the end of all efforts to halt global warming; if climate change is not going to be solved by the UN, it may instead be tackled by a patchwork of bilateral and multilateral institutions and agreements.
Clear recognition of the forests
Also when it comes to forests, the COP 15 actually seemed to bring the process forward though it did not hit the goal yet; throughout the meetings it was clear that the role of forests in climate change has become fully recognized and there is political will to act on current knowledge.
Not only do they account for about 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; reducing global deforestation and forest degradation is also seen as one of the most cost-effective ways of mitigating climate change.
REDD+ - reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forest and enhancement of forest carbon stocks - is now seen as one of the key short-term solutions to fight global warming. This is clearly reflected in the Accord, which mentions REDD + as many as three times in the short 12-point document.
The commitment to forest protection was also seen by pledges made during the negotiations by 6 countries - USA, Australia, France, Japan, Norway and Britain. They pledged to pay 3.5 billion US dollars over the next three years to protection of rainforests. The US alone pledged to invest 1 billion in the purpose.
Altough the architecture of the REDD+ scheme is not finally adopted yet, the enhanced focus on indigenous peoples' rights and on conservation of natural ecosystems makes FSC certification an attractive option for projects under the scheme.
How and when will the funding mechanism be implemented?
One interesting question is how and when the financing mechanism described in the Copenhagen Accord - the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund - will be set up. The Accord foresees that developed countries will commit close to USD 30 billion for the period 2010 - 2012, increasing to 100 billion USD per year to help developing countries cope with climate change.
However, the Accordance goes on to state: "This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance". It is thus not clear what level of funding the individual governments commit to at this stage, or what proportion of the envisaged funding will be governmental.
Also, the Fund cannot become part of the Convention’s Financial Mechanism until it has been formally convened at the next climate summit or later. Although the text calls for commitments and actions by the parties by 31st of January 2010 and states that 'these commitments can become operational immediately' , it is thus not clear when the Fund will be established and operational.
Even in spite of the relatively vague commitment expressed in the final Copenhagen document, the process and the spirit seen during the COP 15 meetings lend hope for a more concrete deal for the world's forests during the next meetings in Bonn and Mexico next year.
Until we get the scale of investments needed for full-fledged global implementation of REDD+, early financing and strong commitment by individual nations to REDD+ are crucial to encourage early action and to keep the process moving.
Sources: World Resources Institute, UN COP 15 news, UNFCCC
Global Canopy Programme has produced a good summary of options for financing REDD+ that provides context for the offer that was made at the COP: The Little Climate Finance Book