On my last day on the ground in Copenhagen, I had the opportunity to be part of REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) , and potentially the most concrete outcome out of COP15.
The gala featured prominent personalities from across the world. I had the privilege of speaking alongside leaders of rain forest nations such as Sir Michael Somare - Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Bharrat Jagdeo - President of Guyana and Ali Bongo Ondimba - President of Gabon, Kevin Conrad Climate Envoy for Papua New Guinea and the man behind REDD+; celebrities such as Dame Vivian Westwood and Bianca Jagger, and a true legend Dr. Jane Goodall.
Built around the principle that a tree is worth more alive than chopped down and processed into timber, REDD+ addresses an issue that is often forgotten - conservation. While the world looks ahead for the solution to climate change, a big part of the answer is preserving what we already have. Studies show that deforestation is responsible for a shocking 20% of all greenhouse emissions, and while commitments to protecting these forests are critical, as critical are clear governance mechanisms to ensure that rain forests – the lungs of our plant – are protected.
While REDD+ showed us what hard-fought progress on climate talks looks like, the one thing that stood out was the realization that this is about our collective future, and far too important to be left to any one group of people. We all have a part to play, and we must act now.
As we look to preserve and protect trees that have captured and stored carbon over thousands of years, we must also commit to binding cuts in carbon emissions, we must invest in renewable technologies to power the future. It is no coincidence that power generation accounts for over 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and that wind has the power to cut over 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
COP15 is a milestone on a long road, and the next few days will shine the spotlight on what was really achieved under all the politics and the talk. There will be victories like REDD+, and there will be areas where we have not come as far as we need to. A binding legal contract may not have been achieved - but this does not end here, this is our future and each of us has a part to play in shaping it.