December, 2011

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Climate change

News and views from the RSPB on climate change and what you can do about it.
  • What did Durban do for rainforests?

    Post by John Lanchbery, Principal Climate Change Adviser at the RSPB

    Often unreported amidst the high profile politics of the international climate talks are the negotiations on saving tropical forests or, in the snappy jargon of the UN process: ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries’, REDD+ for short.

    It has long been recognised that tropical forests not only contain about 70% of all biodiversity but that deforestation accounts for between 15 and 20% of all human emissions; more than the EU or emissions from all of the World’s transport.  The difficulty always was that forests are worth next to nothing if left standing and so the economic incentives are to clear them for highly lucrative tropical crops, such as oil palm in SE Asia or soy in Latin America.

    The trick was thus to somehow place a monetary value on forests that would negate drivers of deforestation.  At the end of 2005, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Costa Rica and eight other forested countries did just that.  They proposed that developing countries should be paid for reducing emissions from deforestation; a neat trick because the UN Climate Convention understands about mechanisms to pay for reducing emissions.  Since then, the proposal has expanded to include all emissions (and carbon sequestration) from all human activities in forests.

    Unusually, REDD+ remains very much a negotiation led by developing countries that one rarely hears from in other parts of the climate talks, such as PNG, Columbia and the Congo Basin group.  Even more unusually, all countries really want REDD+ to work, although they differ about precisely how it should work.  Participation by the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is therefore welcomed in the REDD+ talks because we have lots of bright ideas about how REDD+ could be most effective.  We work closely with many countries, including the bigger, more prosperous one, such as Brazil.

    In Durban and during the course of 2011, there were two main topics on: sources of finance for REDD+ and several key technical matters.  Resolving the technical issues proved hard, because they are genuinely complex and there was too little time to discuss much detail.

    In the end a fairly good conclusion was reached on how to set the reference levels against which countries’ performance will be assessed, although there will be further work on the topic next year.  The other main technical subject was on how to provide information to the UN on national implementation of  biodiversity, social and governance safeguards.  The conclusion was really just a holding position with, again, more work scheduled for next year.

    After negotiations ran late into the last possible night on sources of finance for REDD+, the outcome was pretty good.  In particular, finance was linked strongly not just to carbon but to the implementation of biodiversity, social and governance safeguards too. More detailed discussions on finance are scheduled for next year.

    The RSPB remains convinced that REDD+ is key to saving the world's rainforests, along with action at home to make sure our consumption habits aren't leading to trees being chopped down. We're going to keep on pushing for an effective deal on REDD+ and will be looking for serious progress next year, both internationally and in the UK, who is a major funder of rainforest projects.

  • A green Christmas

    There's a definite chill in the air, there's fairy lights twinkling from house windows wherever you look, and our office looks like a tinsel bomb has gone off right in the middle. It can mean only one thing - Christmas is nearly here! It's the time for over eating, over spending and general over indulgence, but you can still step up and do your bit for the environment even during the festive season.

    Here's our top 10 tips to a green Christmas:

    1. If you haven’t bought your Christmas cards yet, make sure you look for the FSC logo on the back to ensure the paper has come from a sustainable source. Or alternatively why not send an e-card instead?

    2.  When you’re heading out to do your Christmas shopping make sure you take your own shopping bags with you.

    3. Don’t throw away the stamps off your Christmas cards. Send them to us and help raise money to protect amazing albatrosses.

    4. When you’re heading to your Christmas parties, use public transport. It’s better for the environment and it means you can have a cheeky tipple too.

    5. Make good use of those fab Christmas jumpers by wrapping up warm and turning the heating down by 1 degree to save energy.

    6.  Where possible, use locally sourced food for your Christmas dinner. Not only does it have fewer carbon miles, but it tastes yummy too!

    7. When you’re cooking your Christmas dinner make sure you use your saucepan lids. It means you don’t waste any energy when cooking your veg!

    8. There’s bound to be plenty of leftovers, but don’t throw them away! Use what you can for meals later in the week and compost your veg peelings. (Love Food Hate Waste gives some great advice to help you waste as little food as possible.) Some bits of your Christmas dinner are even ok for your feathered garden friends. To find out which bits are safe for birds, click here.  
    9.  Recycle your old Christmas cards and paper where possible. This year’s Christmas cards make brilliant gift tags for next year!

    10. Turn your Christmas lights off at the wall when you’re not using them.

  • Dusk falls Durban - will there be a deal?

    Posted  by John Lanchbery in Durban

    The negotiations look like going right down to the wire here in Durban – if not considerably beyond the wire and well into tomorrow.  If this turns out to be the case then it will probably be a good thing because they do not carry on negotiating when there is no chance of success.

    Last night, the European Union formed an alliance with the countries that will be hit hardest by climate change: the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Last Developed Countries (LDCs), making a grouping of about 120 countries.  The idea is to have a progressive alliance that can act as a counter to the USA and also to some of the big developing countries, the so-called BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China).

    In fact, South Africa is pretty progressive, anyway, and so is Brazil.  China is taking a lot of action on climate change at home but is reluctant to commit itself internationally, although when some of us had a meeting with the Chinese minister he showed a willingness to move forward.

    India is less inclined to move but they are in a different situation, being much poorer than the others in the big four, and with much lower emissions per capita.  Nobody is seriously suggesting that India should take on legally binding emission limitation commitments.  China, on the other hand, is now the biggest emitter in the World and if we are to keep the average global temperature below two degrees they need to be part of the solution – and the government knows this.   The US Administration also understands the science but the US Congress does not, so the USA is stuck in a quandary being unable to pass climate change legislation.

    Three big questions are being addressed by ministers.  The first is to keep the Kyoto Protocol going, and this is the last chance to do so.  The second is to start negotiations on a bigger and better treaty to start in time, and with sufficiently strong targets, to allow us to stay below two degrees.  Third, we need a mechanism to ratchet up current targets.  There is draft text on all three things but it is currently not ambitious enough. When the ministers get together again at 9pm, they need to soup up the draft agreement considerably.

    The negotiations on tropical forests, having dived late last night, now look like giving a good outcome.  Negotiations on developed country forests still have some reasonable options on the table as they go to ministers, so we will have to see what happens tonight.

    It is seven o’clock and there is still a lot to do.  My best guess is that negotiations will run all night in small groups and formally reconvene in the morning – so we may yet be able to go to sleep tonight.