Living on Earth's team produced two-one hour programs from The Cancun Climate Summit. This is week two of two.
Air Date: December 10, 2010
It was only a modest agreement without binding emission limits at the 16th UN climate summit that just wrapped up in Cancun, despite the urgency of changing weather patterns. There was progress on the scheme to lock up carbon in trees, called REDD, but as Living on Earth’s team in Cancun reports, stumbling blocks remain. (6:00)
$100 billion to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate. That’s the decision at COP 16 – but vulnerable countries say they’ve yet to see pledges made after Copenhagen. Experts say the key to shaking loose the cash is setting a global price on carbon – but that seems unlikely in the short term given the US failure to pass climate legislation. (6:00)
Rivers in the Amazon are drying up as the world's largest rainforest experiences increasingly frequent droughts. Dan Nepstad, Director of International Programs at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, tells host Bruce Gellerman that such droughts are consistent with predictions for climate change. (3:45)
Damming the Amazon River / Bobby Bascomb
(stream / mp3)
The Brazilian government is planning to build dozens of new hydroelectric dams in the Amazon river basin. It wants to develop the interior, and prevent power outages during the upcoming World Cup and the Olympics. Living on Earth's Bobby Bascomb visited a dam project on the Madeira River and reports on the environmental repercussions of hydropower in the Amazon. (14:15)
As global temperatures rise due to the effects of climate change, one steep challenge will be to feed a growing population. Inger Andersen, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, shares some ideas for increasing the world’s agricultural production sustainably with host Steve Curwood. (4:35)
Yucatan Farmers / Bruce Gellerman
(stream / mp3)
While international delegates discuss how to save the world’s forest, host Bruce Gellerman goes straight to the source. Deep in the Yucatan jungle he finds not just trees but an ancient culture struggling to survive. (8:00)
The urgent needs of countries already affected by climate change need to be addressed by the global community. And perhaps nowhere is that urgency more stark than in Kiribati, a small Pacific Island nation at risk of being swallowed by rising seas. Host Steve Curwood speaks with the president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, about what's at stake. (3:00)
Listen to Caribbean Flamingos, herons, storks and kingfishers in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
HOSTS: Bruce Gellerman & Steve Curwood
GELLERMAN: From Public Radio International, this is Living on Earth. I’m Bruce Gellerman.
CURWOOD: And I’m Steve Curwood at the UN climate summit in Cancun Mexico. Mexico’s president tells delegates from 194 nations, “We have to change the way we do things or climate change will change us.”
GELLERMAN: The Prime Minister of Norway says changing climate change begins in the forest.
STOLTENBERG: Without any doubt addressing deforestation is the way we can have the largest, the fastest, and the cheapest reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide.
GELLERMAN: But for developing nations already confronting the effects of climate change time and money are running short.
RAMESH: So far the fast start finance has not been fast, nor has it started, and there's hardly been any finance.
CURWOOD: That and more from Cancun, this week on Living on Earth – No te vayas!
GELLERMAN: Stay with us.
CURWOOD: From the UN Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.
GELLERMAN: And I’m Bruce Gellerman.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentleman the president of the Mexican United States…
GELLERMAN: The pomp and security was what you’d expect under the circumstances - delegations from more than 190 nations had come to Cancun to deal with a planetary crisis, climate change. But security was so strict that many who had planned to attend the first day session were stuck in a two-hour checkpoint traffic jam. But by the end of the first week of the conference, many had found their way to see Mexican President Felipe Calderon talk about the importance of forests in the fight against climate change. Calderon got a standing ovation.
[SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
GELLERMAN: President Calderon told the crowd, “We have to change the way we do things or climate change will change us.” Two-dozen heads of state and governments attended the Cancun summit but one was conspicuously absent.
[CROWD CHANTING “Obama, Obama…respect Cohcibama…”]
GELLERMAN: Peasant farmers and their supporters held a press conference and demonstration to protest the UN climate talks, calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to stand up for indigenous rights, fearful that a negotiated treaty to curb greenhouse gases would come at the expense of those who had protected the environment for so long, but had profited the least.
Recycling at COP16. (Photo: Jennifer Stevens)
In the wake of the failure of the last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen to reach a binding agreement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told delegates in Cancun, time is running out.
BAN KI-MOON: We are here for one reason, to protect people and the planet from the uncontrolled climate change. Nature will not wait while we negotiate. The time for waiting while keeping one eye on everyone else is over.
GELLERMAN: Time is also running out for the UN climate conference process itself. This is the 16th COP or Convention of the Parties - the 16th annual meeting where the nations of the world have tried to seal a deal on greenhouse gas emissions and their effects. It’s a process that requires consensus by all 190-plus countries attending the meeting. Duncan Marsh is Director of International Climate Policy with The Nature Conservancy.
MARSH: We are facing the risk that countries are going to walk away from this process under the UN to deal with climate change, and that’s not optimal. For a global problem like climate change, we need a global solution where all nations are acting together.
GELLERMAN: Unlike the high expectations for last year’s climate meeting in Copenhagen - where a final agreement was anticipated - the hopes for the talks here in Cancun were decidedly lower, designed to shore up confidence in the UN process, building on the one issue where negotiators had worked out most differences, REDD, the UN mechanism for reducing emission from deforestation and degradation, putting a price on the carbon in trees so they’re worth more left standing than cut down. Rosalind Reeve is head of the forest team at London based NGO Global Witness.
REEVE: It really felt as if everybody engaged in REDD was converging toward one point, that we really were coming toward a consensus, but that consensus seems to be somewhat fractured.
Rosalind Reeve is head of the forest team at Global Witness. (Photo: Jennifer Stevens)
GELLERMAN: An agreement on REDD was on the fast track in Cancun- stopping deforestation and replanting trees is considered the quickest way to reduce climate changing gases. It’s an amount equal to that emitted by all the vehicles in the world. REDD is especially important for countries like Indonesia, home to the world’s third largest tropical forest. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of Indonesia’s REDD program, cautioned climate negotiators to slow down and get the complex REDD mechanism right.
MANGKUSUBROTO: We are introducing a new paradigm of development, so although we want this to happen very fast in Indonesia, we have to be very careful.
Bolivian President, Evo Morales at COP 16. (Photo: Jennifer Stevens)
GELLERMAN: Potentially at stake is hundreds of billion dollars in REDD forest credits. Many Indigenous groups and nations including Bolivia and Cuba oppose turning the carbon in trees into a commodity that can be bought and sold to offset industrial emissions. They believe developed nations should cut their greenhouse gases first, but supporters of a market based mechanism say it’s the only way to raise enough money to fund REDD. For billionaire financier George Soros, there’s gold in them thar trees.
SOROS: It has to be preservation, but it has to be a model of economic development, so I'm ready to invest in it and I think private enterprise has to play a major role.
GELLERMAN: Among nations Norway is the biggest supporter of REDD. It’s put more than two-billion dollars on the table for the forest-saving scheme, funding it with revenues from North Sea oil. Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway, says the nation’s leaders have also paid a high cost in political capital as well.
STOLTENBERG: We are a major oil exporter but we tax petroleum extremely high, and it’s hard to win elections based on a message of high taxation, so therefore I am very much dependent on success to show Norwegian voters that they are getting something back.
GELLERMAN: A major sticking point in the REDD negotiations in Cancun was verification. Donor nations want to make sure the carbon locked in trees - stays in the forests. Norway says it gave 250 million dollars to the world bank to fund REDD programs in Guyana, but Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the South American nation, says Guyana saved the trees- now show it the money.
JAGDEO: We have decided we have taken the tough political decision to pledge our entire forest, with the hope that we’ll get money or assistance to develop alternatives, and frankly speaking we have not seen a single cent.
GELLERMAN: Success for the climate talks in Cancun will be measured incrementally, when the UN looks to the summit next year in Durban, South Africa. And, as the Cancun meeting wound down, Roslind Reeve of Global Witness reflected on the speed of the process.
REEVE: What’s important is that we get the rules right. It’s better to wait than have a bad deal here.
[MUSIC: David Byrne/Brian Eno “I Feel My Stuff” from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todomundo records 2010)].
CURWOOD: Money, and lots of it. In fact, 100 billion dollars of it, every year come 2020. To help compensate for the lack of a binding agreement to cut emissions coming out of last year’s Copenhagen summit, the U.S. and other wealthy countries made that big pledge. It’s for developing countries to adapt to a changing climate and grow with less carbon. Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister of Norway, is the co-chair of a high level panel that was commissioned to prime negotiators in Cancun with practical ideas to meet those promises.
STOLTENBERG: It is challenging but feasible to mobilize the 100 billion we agreed on in Copenhagen.
Jens Stoltenberg is Prime Minister of Norway. (Photo: Jennifer Stevens)
CURWOOD: The advisory panel includes heads of state, and finance experts, bankers, international financier George Soros, and White House economic chief Lawrence Summers. The key to getting to 100 dollars billion a year, says Prime Minister Stoltenberg, is a price for carbon of no less than 20-25 dollars a ton. And the higher it is, the better the investment climate for developing countries.
STOLTENBERG: Especially the potential of auctioning emission allowances. We estimate that that can mobilize about 30 billion U.S. dollars annually, we look into potential of introducing carbon pricing for international aviation, international ships, that can provide about 10 billion U.S. dollars and we look into the potential of reallocating money going for subsidizing fossil fuels in the developed world—that can raise around 10 billion U.S. dollars.
CURWOOD: You enumerated 50 billion, but there's another 50 billion to go, where do you expect to get that?
STOLTENBERG: From other sources. The reason why I mentioned this 50 billion was just to illustrate how big the potential is connected to carbon pricing.
CURWOOD: Prime Minister Stoltenberg went on to mention traditional foreign aid and private financing, helped by the World Bank and its regional partners. U.S. Envoy Todd Stern came to Cancun to say the U.S. is keeping its Copenhagen promises, including pitching in to a fund of 30 billion dollars right away over three years, so-called fast track money.
The delegation from Ecuador wears traditional dress. (Photo: Jennifer Stevens)
STERN: We have secured approximately 1.7 billion dollars worth of climate assistance in our first year of fast start financing that will support adaptation activities for the most vulnerable countries around the world, combat deforestation in the world’s most biologically diverse tropical forests, and help put countries on a path toward low-carbon development. Again, this is just the first of three years and we will be looking to increase that amount in each of the next two years.
CURWOOD: But fast track has come under fire for simply shuffling foreign aid from one category to another, rather than providing new funds. Jairem Ramesh, environment minister for India spoke for many developing countries.
RAMESH: So far the fast start finance has not been fast, nor has it started, and there's hardly been any finance. In fiscal year 2010, the total commitment of the United States to fast start finance is 1.7 billion dollars, which does no justice to the world's preeminent economic power.
CURWOOD: The problem, said Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, is that the U.S. has no mandatory cap on carbon itself, and without a cap there’s nothing to auction or tax. He asked Americans in Cancun to carry home a message.
Living on Earth’s Steve Curwood interviews the delegate from China. Eileen Bolinsky engineers. (Photo: Jennifer Stevens)
JAGDEO: I ask you this as a favor. I was a member of the AG, and the advisory group on financing, the high-level group that the secretary general put together that the prime minister of Norway chaired. Could you please give president Obama a copy of that executive summary?
The copy says we can raise 100 billion dollars by 2020 easily if we have the right price signal, which is the only sustainable form for keeping this initiative going; particularly now when most countries are now in a state where they're not going to provide money, and that is why we have this dubious form of accounting on the fast track financing-- double counting, counting aid money, loop holes all of this, and very glossy brochures about how fast track financing has been disbursed!
Steve & Bruce tracking scripts by flashlight. The UN meeting is so noising they have to go outside to record their stories. (Photo: Eileen Bolinsky)
CURWOOD: As some UN summit pundits like to say, climate protection in the developing world is spelled finance. But, loans and donations require good faith, and as UN climate negotiations drag toward the end of a second decade without worldwide limits on carbon emissions, it’s not only polar ice that’s disappearing, it’s also trust.
[MUSIC: New Cool Collective “Boca Arriba” from Out Of Office (Dox Records 2008).]
GELLERMAN: Just ahead, damming a river without water. Keep listening to Living on Earth!
[CUT-AWAY MUSIC: Aniceto Y Sus Fabulosos “Mi Gran Noche” from Cumbia Beat Vol 1 (Orchard Records 2009).]
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.
GELLERMAN: And I’m Bruce Gellerman at the United Nations Climate talks in Cancun Mexico - where extreme weather around the world this year has given urgency to the negotiations. In Pakistan, an epic monsoon left a fifth of the country underwater. In Russia, a searing heat wave ignited massive forest fires, and in Brazil’s Amazon basin a record drought dried up many of the rivers that sustain the biologically rich rainforest. Tropical ecologist Dan Nepstad is Director of International Programs at IPAM, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute.
NEPSTAD: It’s about as bad as we’ve seen. I’ve been working in the Amazon for about 25 years now, and I haven’t seen anything like it. We thought we had the worst drought of the century in 2005, and this one is worse.
GELLERMAN: That drought in 2005 was called a once-in-a-century drought. That’s five years ago.
NEPSTAD: I know. And, there was a drought in 2007 that didn’t even capture any immediate attention, it wasn’t even worth it because drought is really becoming part of the fabric of the Amazon. And that affects everything from when you plant your crops to whether or not forests are going to catch fire or not, to whether or not you can use your canoe or boat to get to school or the market or the nearest big city.
GELLERMAN: So what do you think is causing this drought?
NEPSTAD: You know, statistically, it’s just very hard to take an individual event like this mega-drought of the Amazon, and say that it is a direct cause of climate change. But, with both this and the 2005 and the 2007 drought, they’re all consistent with the scenario of increasing accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
GELLERMAN: How does the drought affect the rainforest? And then I guess, how does the rainforest then affect the drought?
NEPSTAD: The forest actually makes the rain in the Amazon. By the end of the dry season, a lot of Amazon trees are sucking water from the soil- it could be 60 feet beneath the ground surface. So, they’re going way down deep to get that water, so that they can keep their green lush canopy, even though they’ve been deprived of water for a few months. And, that water going into the atmosphere makes the clouds that makes the rain. Similarly, the rain coming down, if it weren’t for that rain, if those dry seasons got longer on a permanent basis, then that forest would cease to be. It would be replaced by grassy vegetations, savannahs, woodlands and scrub that would burn periodically, and that would look very different and have far fewer species.
GELLERMAN: These droughts are drying up the rivers. The rivers also drive hydroelectric dams. And, Brazil has a very ambitious program to build, what, 50,60 dams in the Amazon? How would these droughts affect them?
NEPSTAD: If you get droughts coming in on top of deforestation, you get much less prediction of energy. And, that’s the scenario that really isn’t taken into account when the big planners of the hydroelectric dams plan these projects. There are many other dams planned for the Madeira, which also has a great vulnerability to climate change. So, if rainfall breaks down and is inhibited, the big energy supplies that are counted on from these dams, will be suppressed during the dry season.
GELLERMAN: Dan Nepstad is with the Amazon Environmental Research Institute.
CURWOOD: Though droughts are becoming more frequent and intense in the Amazon, Brazil is going full steam ahead with plans to build hydroelectric dams throughout the region. Brazil’s economy is booming and energy planners want to prevent power outages like the one last fall that left nearly a third of the country without electricity. And they desperately need to keep the lights on when Brazil hosts the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics 2 years later. Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb traveled to the Amazon –where one of the major hydro-projects is in the works and she has our report from the Madeira River.
For $20 each, river boats like these carry passengers from Porto Velho to Manaus, a 4 day trip. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)
[SFX SQUEAKING OF A PLANK, BOAT SOUNDS]
BASCOMB: From Porto Velho, in the Southwestern corner of the Amazon, the best--sometimes the only-- way to get around is by riverboat. A tree cut lengthwise serves as a squeaky foot-bridge between the shore and a floating dock on the Madeira River.
[SQUEAKING OF THE FOOT BRIDGE]
BASCOMB: Tied to the dock is a double-decker riverboat with peeling white paint and blue trim. A satellite dish sits on the roof, a group of men play pool…
[CLINK OF POOL BALLS]
BASCOMB: And, hammocks swing in the breeze.
[CARDOZO SPEAKING PORTUGUESE]
VOICE OVER: The first thing we do on the rivers of the Amazon here in Rondonia is ask permission to the river for us to navigate on it.
BASCOMB: Ivaneide Cardozo is petite, with long wavy black hair. Her father was a rubber tapper and she grew up in the forest with her family. Today she is head of Kaninde, an environmental NGO working to protect the Madeira River. She folds her hands together in prayer and speaks directly to the river.
[CARDOZO SPEAKING PORTUGUESE]
VOICE OVER: Rio Madeira, I want to ask you permission to come and do my work here and navigate on your waters. Thank you river.
CARDOZO: Obrigada Rio.
BASCOMB: Ivaneide leads the way across the riverboat to a small aluminum skiff tied up in the baking sun. We pull on bright orange life jackets and sit down carefully on the hot metal seats. Fish biologist Marco Lima is my translator in Brazil.
(Left to Right) Translator Marco Lima, LOE’s Bruce Gellerman and Bobby Bascomb head out on a boat to see the Santo Antonio dam under construction. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)
LIMA: Sit down here, and I’ll sit in back.
LIMA: Watch out it’s really hot.
[SOUNDS OF MOTOR BOAT]
BASCOMB: We head up the largest tributary of the largest river in the world. The Madeira begins at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Bolivia and flows northwest to join the Amazon 2,000 miles away.
[SOUNDS OF MOTOR, WAVES]
BASCOMB: Madeira means wood in Portuguese, and we watch huge tree trunks float by. During the rainy season the river flows so fast that it erodes the banks and pulls giant rainforest trees out by their roots. The biodiversity of the Madeira River is legendary-- more than 800 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 750 species of fish: giant catfish and piranha, fresh water saw fish with long- toothed- bills. Ivaneide Cardozo scans the water and sees something exciting.
[COMMOTION IN THE BOAT IN PORTUGUESE]
LIMA: A big red dolphin! A pink dolphin!
[CARDOZO SPEAKING IN PORTUGUESE]
LIMA: Look over there. There is a bunch of dolphins.
BASCOMB: Like many of the species here, the endangered pink river dolphin is only found in the Amazon. Five miles up river we have gone as far as we are permitted. Marco ties the skiff to a log at the bottom of the riverbank. Just ahead big pick up trucks dump load after load of giant rocks into the river, the foundation of the Santo Antonio Dam.
Trucks dump loads of rocks into the Madeira River to form the Santo Antonio Dam. (Photo: Bruce Gellerman)
LIMA: As you can see, what they are starting to do here is that they are simply starting the damming of the whole Wood River.
[SOUNDS OF RUBBLE POURING INTO RIVER]
BASCOMB: Seven miles up river another dam, the Jirau, is quickly growing as well. Together the two dams should produce over 6,400 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough energy for all the homes in a city the size of Boston. The government created several short films to sell the dams to the public.
[SOUND OF GOVERNMENT FILM REGARDING THE DAMS IN PORTUGUESE]
VOICE OVER: The Santo Antonio and the Jirau dams on the Madeira River are important parts of the national effort to produce more energy so the country grows.
[SOUND OF GOVERNMENT FILM REGARDING THE DAMS IN PORTUGUESE]