GBM Blog

Women and REDD+ in Cancun

December 16, 2010 - 04:55AM
Published by Francesca de Gasparis

The climate change talks are over for another year. Despite low expectations following the failure in Copenhagen, there was a progress in Cancun.

Governments, on the whole, reached an agreement that created the momentum and space for real advancement to be possible next year in South Africa. Compromise over contentious issues such as the Kyoto Protocol and climate finance meant there is still an opportunity to reach a fair ambitious and legally binding agreement in future.

On the final night of the talks I was sitting with a colleague from the African Biodiversity Network who was waiting to make an intervention on behalf of civil society. 

The mood in the plenary session was to drive through an agreement, as it got later and then into the early hours of Saturday. There was much clapping and cheers as country interventions accepted the propositions and agreements were reached.

Though not completely: the agreements were pushed through by the session chair with Bolivia as a sole voice contending the progress, saying it was not enough. In fact Bolivia spoke out at length and explicitly stated they did not agree to the measures as proposed and the current agreements will not prevent catastrophic climate change. A number of Indigenous Peoples Organizations, NGOs and civil society representations shared Bolivia’s view and expressed their concerns about many aspects of the agreement relating to finance, governance mechanisms, rights and the ability for these agreements to build climate resilience especially in the developing world.

The technicalities of the agreement are complex and to understand the texts and their implications legal, political and historic backgrounds are required.

We work with other NGOs including Nobel Women’s Initiative to understand the impact these decisions could have on the constituency we best represent- over 4000 groups made up of rural women and their families living in Kenya and forming the Green Belt Movement network. Issues these women face are shared across Africa and the developing world, as women are at the forefront of climate change and will be affected disproportionately. 

Women also are under-represented in the decision making process on climate change. 

As we work with women to plant trees and restore essential forest in the five mountain complexes of Kenya we are particularly interested in the developments on REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). 

REDD+ was one of the areas where real progress was made, however it too remains contentious. There is an apprehension that the insistence from some countries to include a market-based approach could open up forests to commoditisation by the private sector. This could drive deforestation and erode rights of indigenous peoples and communities who live in and depend on the forest. GBM wants to see more diverse voices heard, especially women, in how REDD+ is implemented.

We want to see lessons from the ground and other initiatives that focus on forest governance as central to the decisions made and less decision making according to political interests. There is a great deal of traditional knowledge and concrete experience to draw on. Green Belt Movement has worked for over 30 years with rural women planting trees to prevent further deforestation of Kenya’s essential forest areas. It is lessons from experiences like this that should inform decisions on REDD+.

GBM wants to see biodiversity, rights and governance issues to be a part of how we measure the success of a REDD+ project.

That said, we, at Green Belt Movement, recognize that though there is still much to do, “Cancun agreement” is been the result of huge efforts by the side of 107 countries and posed a first step towards climate change solutions that would have been impossible without so much co-operation.