“First, we flew to Kigali, Rwanda and drove to Gisenyi, on the DRC border. After crossing into the city of Goma, we flew into Butembo in a 16-passenger Twin Otter plane, and drove in a convoy of cars to Tayna, which has its own community-run university in the eastern part of the country.” As manager of Conservation International’s (CI) Climate Change training program, Olaf Zerbock is used to spending long hours traveling to remote locations, as in his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But what do long car treks down muddy roads have to do with international climate agreements?
When it comes to climate change policy, much of the world’s recent focus has been on the series of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings, which bring together thousands of global leaders to negotiate climate change action.
At next week’s much-anticipated Copenhagen meeting, CI will help advise and support governments to adopt ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation commitments, especially on the provision of adequate funding for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, “plus” conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks). The inclusion of REDD+ in international agreements is crucial to the success of the fight against climate change.
IN DEPTH: The 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, Copenhagen, Denmark
Yet as Zerbock’s journeys suggest, thousands of miles from the conference halls of Copenhagen, there are many other people whose informed and willing participation will ultimately determine the success of REDD+: the diverse communities who call the world’s forests home.
So how does one go from negotiating climate change policy to implementing it? CI is approaching climate change and REDD+ readiness on many levels, from international to local. CI staff members in 22 country program offices work directly with indigenous peoples and local communities to ensure that once an international agreement on REDD+ is reached, the people responsible for caring for the forests on a daily basis will have the technical and institutional capabilities to participate in planning and implementing REDD+ activities.
CI has been conducting climate change training sessions since 2007. These workshops aim to deliver information about forest-based climate change mitigation (such as REDD+ and reforestation) as well as key policy and economic considerations to people who have had little access to this information in the past, despite the role that agreements on international forest carbon policy will have in their lives.
With this knowledge, communities will be better equipped to work with their governments to implement effective REDD+ mechanisms that will allow them to benefit from forest conservation.
CI works with many international partners to develop and deliver this training, including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, the Rainforest Alliance and the Conservation, Community and Biodiversity Alliance. In the past year, trainings and dialogue workshops have been conducted in Peru, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Suriname, Liberia, Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar, Morocco and Ecuador.
DOWNLOAD: South American Regional Infrastructure Development, Forests and REDD: Implications for Guyana (PDF - 3.36MB)
Training for REDD+
CI and partners conduct three different types of training workshops.
- The first type trains staff from CI and partner organizations to implement forest carbon activities with local communities.
- The second type is geared toward national policymakers, outlining the major components that national REDD+ policies will likely need to address, and how the government can design its REDD+ readiness strategy accordingly.
- The third type of training is a community-level workshop for indigenous and forest community leaders, which explains the basic concepts they need to understand in order to be able to participate in discussions with governments as to how REDD+ might be implemented, and how their communities can be more engaged in the process. Last month, the team returned from Guyana, where they completed the first session of a new kind of workshop, known as a “training of trainers” course. Ensuring that local people have the rights to manage and benefit from their land is an element that will be integral to REDD+ effectiveness.
The workshops last from two to five days, covering topics ranging from national policy to the most effective ways to monitor REDD+ success. When possible, they include field visits to nearby forest carbon activities.
Among CI staff, Zerbock has been one of the key leaders of REDD+ workshops around the world. He acknowledges that these meetings can be intense, citing the recent workshop in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example. “When we started, the room was packed with the invited participants, as well as university students, all waiting to hear what we had to say. With the help of translators, we communicated through a combination of French and English. The three-day follow-up discussion with community leaders was even more interesting—we added a translation to Swahili as well.”
Training sessions also provide an important forum for discussion among people and groups who might not otherwise meet. “At the Suriname workshop, indigenous leaders from communities in different areas of the country stood up and shared the effects of climate change they’d noticed in their own backyards,” Zerbock said. “By comparing stories about flood frequency and other weather patterns, the whole group was able to better understand that these issues are affecting everyone.”
While the international community awaits the outcomes of Copenhagen, efforts like these are building a greater global understanding of and commitment to the preservation of forests as an essential component of climate change mitigation efforts.
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