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Small Climate Deals Forged Outside Int'l Talks
2010-12-12 20:00:44.884 GMT
By ARTHUR MAX
Cancun, Mexico (AP) -- Walmart is going green in its
Chinese factories. George Soros is exploring investments in the
restoration of drained peatlands in Indonesia. Denmark is
joining South Korea in a new fund to transform developing
As delegates to the latest U.N. climate talks struggled to
come up with a modest pair of global warming accords,
governments, businesses and individuals working behind the
scenes forged ahead with their own projects to cut emissions.
"Regardless of what happens in these negotiations, we
shouldn't be waiting. We should be doing practical things on
the ground," World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in an
interview before the talks wound up Saturday.
Nearly 200 governments have been working for 20 years
toward an all-encompassing treaty to constrain human influence
on the climate through industrial pollution, vehicles and
The Cancun Agreements, adopted to cheers and ovations early
Saturday after two tortuous weeks of talks, created a Green
Climate Fund to manage and disburse tens of billions of dollars
a year, starting in 2020, for green development in poor
The fund also will help developing nations adapt to climate
change that already has occurred, through such methods as
shifting to drought-resistant crops or building sea walls
against rising ocean levels and storm surges.
The accords also create a new mechanism for giving green
technology to developing states and set guidelines to
compensate countries that are preserving their forests.
The ideal global treaty -- the one on which governments
have not been able to agree during two decades of talks --
would set targets and create incentives for countries and
industries to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse
gases and invest in green economic growth.
Officials in both the public and private arena have decided
not to wait for such a global agreement, instead taking the
initiative on their own.
The sidelines of the Cancun conference provided a
convenient platform to discuss old projects they were already
working on as well as to unveil new ones, most of them valued
at just a few million dollars.
There were actually "two summits" in Cancun, said Achim
Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, referring to
both the official negotiations and project discussions outside
the main conference.
"Individually, they may not sound like a lot ... but the
reality is, on the ground there is a tremendous groundswell of
activity on climate change," he told reporters.
While the conference was under way, Zoellick announced a
new $100 million World Bank fund to help countries set up
China, India, Chile and Mexico are among countries that
have expressed an interest in drawing on the fund, he told The
"People get lost in the negotiating part of this," he said.
The fund is an example "of an ongoing innovation that doesn't
depend on treaty text."
Three miles (seven kilometers) from the climate talks'
principal negotiating venue, Walmart chairman Rob Walton
attended a function that addressed using everything from cattle
in Brazil to palm oil in Indonesia as sustainable sourcing for
the giant retailer founded by his father.
Walmart says it plans to reduce its carbon footprint over
five years to what would be the equivalent of taking 3.8
million cars off the road. Much of that will come by reducing
the energy used by suppliers in China, where most of its
nonfood products come from.
"People are spending less time on the negotiations and
shifting more focus on concrete action," said Stephen Cochran,
vice president of the New York-based nonprofit Environmental
Defense Fund, which works with Walmart in China and in the
That doesn't mean there isn't still a need for a global
accord, however, Cochran added.
Such an agreement would set common rules and firm up
guarantees that green investment pays.
Financier George Soros discussed a private rescue plan for
depleted Indonesian peatlands. The former jungle areas, which
were cleared for rice paddies or palm oil, release huge amounts
of stored carbon as they dry out and burn.
Marcel Silvius of Wetlands International, who accompanied
Soros to Indonesia earlier this year, said several billionaires
were applying to Jakarta for concessions for degraded land. By
blocking drainage channels and allowing the peatlands to
re-flood, natural forests may regenerate, and local communities
could be enlisted to manage the new growth.
Investors can make returns on carbon credits under the
forestry strategy outlined in the Cancun Agreements. But some
people, including Soros, see it as philanthropy from which they
expect no return, Silvius said. He said 6 million to 7.5
million acres (2.5 million to 3 million hectares) of land, an
area the size of the Netherlands, could be restored in
For its part, Denmark announced that it will donate $15
million over three years to the Global Green Growth Initiative,
founded six months ago by South Korea to help countries develop
eco-friendly technologies. Seoul kicked in $30 million, or $10
million a year.
The fund already has projects in Ethiopia and Cambodia,
with more in the pipeline in Indonesia and the Philippines,
said Rae-kwon Chung, a director of the U.N. Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
The initiative "is the machinery for promoting green
growth," and is designed to promote a lifestyle totally
different from the fossil-fuel economies of the West -- "a
paradigm shift," Chung said.
"This is more meaningful than what's happening here," said
Chung, a former South Korean climate negotiator, nodding toward
the negotiating rooms.
In the U.S., statewide trading strategies are in place and
expanding internationally, even as Congress fails to act on
California reached agreements this year with the southern
Mexican state of Chiapas and Brazil's Acre province for pilot
projects on forest preservation in exchange for carbon credits.
Emissions trading was a pillar of California's 2006 climate
bill, which called for reducing pollution to 1990 levels by
-0- Dec/12/2010 20:00 GMT