Sunday, December 20, 2009


Climate talks 2009 ended with no legal agreement. Last minute Obama manage to bring several big countries such as India, China, and Brazil, to agree on non transparent accord brought by US. This is a disgusting game of the developed nations. Many nations including Tuvalu opposed the accord.

Undoubtedly Copenhagen has been a failure. Justice has not been done. The actual legally binding agreement was postponed to June 2010.

Climate change is responsible for many disasters today. By delaying action, rich countries have pushed millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life.

A confidential United Nations paper leaked on December 17 predicts that averages temperatures will increase to 3degrees even with the current international pledges are fully implemented. This will mean at least 5 degrees increase in African countries. This is effectively a death sentence for many in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, including small island states, who had demanded a limit of 1.5 degrees.

Instead of committing to deep cuts in emissions and putting new, public money on the table to help solve the climate crisis, rich countries have bullied developing nations to accept far less. The finance they agreed is only 30 billion upto 2012.

It was very clear that United Nations failed to give climate justice in Copenhagen. They failed due to the wrong and non transparent process adopted by the Danish Government. They also failed due to the text, accords prepared behind the closed doors. It was also failed due to the selection of chairs from friendly nations and by dividing nations further.

The Civil society was most united and successful in preventing world goes into a bad deal. The only real leadership at the conference has come from the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who’ve come together to demand strong action to prevent climate catastrophe. Their voices are loud and growing. Many people felt that growing climate justice movement is the beginning of change. (Unfortunately Obama failed to bring the CHANGE to climate talks)

Finally, the developed countries did not commit to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% in comparison with 1990 levels by 2020 as expected by us. They also did not acknowledge the climate debt that they owe to developing countries as a result of decades of pollution and overuse of the environmental space. They did not drop false solutions such as Cap and Trade, CDM etc. Thus COP 15 failed to deliver any meaningful solution to the climate catastrophe.

Further, COP 15 was one of the most Carbon intensive conferences. It was reported that estimated 40,500 tons of carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere during the 12-day conference - 90 percent of it from flights. It was reported that Obama joined the event with several hundred staff who were brought in big planes. Nicolas Sarkozy in his special Airbus and Brazilian President Lula de Silva on a presidential jet.

Very few leaders such as environment ministers of the Netherlands and Switzerland took the train.

I believe the carbon footprint of the KlimaForum is also very high although it may be thousand times less compared to the official COP 15.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More money for coffins

Climate financing is a major discussion in the climate talks in Copenhagen. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. supports the goal of jointly raising $100 billion a year by 2020, mainly for forestry and adaptation. However, transparency of the developing countries will be the deal breaker.

The UN 2009 World Economic and Social Survey estimates that developing countries will require up to $600 billion to transition to a low-carbon growth path and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The US goal of $100 billion falls far short of what’s needed to secure the safety and well-being of those most affected.

It is not clear how much of the $100 billion should come from public sources and especially from U.S. According to the sources U.S. responsibility is 33.1 percent of the total amount needed for climate finance. Yet US has not accepted the historical responsibility to the climate change yet.

During the last week EU countries only offered 7 billion up to 2012. Angry African countries said that proposed 10 billion US Dollar UN fund is not even adequate to buy the coffins for the Africans.

350 or 550

A UN analysis leaked today shows that the current level of developing country emission cuts will lead to increase temperature rise over the next century to 3C.

According to the Guardian “A rise of 3C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe coastal floods and 550 million more at risk of hunger, according to the 2006 Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government - as well as leaving up to 50% of species facing extinction. Even a rise of 2C would lead to sharp decline in tropical crop yields, more flooding and droughts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No deal?

The video telecasted during the opening ceremony of the COP 15 and before the world leaders during the high level segment shows a small girl is waiting for the world leaders to protect the world.

You de Boer, Executive president of the UNFCC said “Thousands of young people care about the outcome of this conference. I have received hundreds of paper footprints from children in Germany. I have received 1000 folded paper butterflies from children in Australia. And I have received 350 drawings from children in the United States. They all want their future to be safer. One drawing captures what you as the leaders of the world’s nations need to do particularly well. It is a drawing by 8-year old Sophia Dada.”

Every leader echoes that whole world watching them. Everyone is looking for a fair deal. Where is that deal? The negotiation is now in a deadlock.

In my mind this mess was created by the Danish COP 15 presidency because of her closed door text which was prepared with the selected developing country governments to make a deal. This was the news in the second day of the COP. The delegations and the civil society started distrusting other delegations. The Danish COP presidency Ms. Connie Hedegaard was then replaced by the Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Lars Lokke. But he brought another green room text.

Countries such as China made strong disagreement with the new text. Venezuelan President Hugo Charves was quite angry with the process. This might lead the fair deal to a NO DEAL. While 194 countries are engaged in a two way approaches, which is under the Kyoto Protocol and under the Long term vision as agreed by the Bali Action Plan, the Danish government want the process to end up in Copenhagen.

This no transparent approach is the biggest mess in the COP 15.

COP banned Civil Society

Today Friends of the Earth members were banned going inside COP 15 meeting. After 4 hour struggle Secretariat agreed to allow 12 members to go in. In protest we all left the COP 15.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It’s catchy. Copenhagen, Hopenhagen now becoming a CO2penhagen.

Soon COP 15 will start the Ministerial meetings. Chair of the LCA session responding to the questions raised by Belarus and number of other countries said that negotiators were not able to agree after a 2 year of negotiations and any change to the new Chair’s text will be too late. Singapore delegations said that the “package” of text provided by the Chair does include individual’s opinion but not the opinion of the group.

According to sources, the German minister the co chair of the Ad-hoc working group said that all developing countries want the Kyoto Protocol to continue. Chair also referred to the individual pledges by Annex 1 Parties which ranged from 16-23% reduction of emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. He proposed that the question for Parties to address on 15 December is whether this target was sufficient or whether the ambition needs to be increased and how this was to be done. He wanted Parties to focus on the aggregate level, range and pledges and ambition in the pledges.

Japan said that if one set of developed countries has to meet commitments under the KP and others do not, it is a problem as the KP covers only 30% of the global greenhouse gases. They want to kill Kyoto Protocol.

Developing countries are now being divided to small island states, REDD countries, Least Developed Countries and rest of developing countries. Every one trying to get a piece of the cake. Developed countries are hunting developing countries for the climate game. It is still unable to see a good outcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Police arrests 1,000 protestors

Around 100,000 took to the streets on Saturday 12 December marchin on the UN conference center in a non-violent demonstration. Reports are that close to 1,000 were arrested in several sweeps.
Their hand were tide and kept on the cold streets( tempreture was below 0 degree) for more than 3 and half hours before taken to the Police Station. Herman, the Spanish translator of the Friends of the Earth Group was among them. He said Copenhagen Citizens asked the Police to "let them go".
They were released arround 11.30 pm after the lawyers intervention. Some say this is a warning for the protestors before the begining of the high level segment next week.

System Change Not Climate Change

Yesterday (12 December 2009) over 100,000 people got to the streets in Copenhagen demanding system Change Not climate Change. They carried the placards stating
Climate Justice NOW!
Change the Politics not the Climate,
Planet Not Profits
Nature does not Compromise
There is no PLANET B
Bla Bla Bla Act now!
Don't Nuke the Climate!
Greenwash Warning NO False Solutions!
Stop Climate Change Not Refugees!

Flood for Climate Justice

Yesterday( 12 December 2009) more than 4000 people joined the flood action organised by the Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Europe and Friends of the Earth Denmark (NOAH) in Copenhagen during the 6th day of the COP 15.
They demanded Climate Justice Now.

Reparations for Climate Debt

Statement by Climate Justice Now!
Delivered by Hemantha Withanage of Sri Lanka, December 12, 2009

1. Thank you for the opportunity to address this meeting.

2. We are movements gathered under the Climate Justice Now! Network – many from the South, from developing countries. Thousands of our members are here in Copenhagen, joining thousands of other citizens in a historic march towards Bella Center.

3. We are calling for Reparations for Climate Debt, the debt that is owed by northern countries (Annex 1 countries), multinational corporations, and International Financial Institutions to the peoples and countries of the South. This debt is owed by the North for using up more than their fair share of the earth’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases, and in the process depriving the peoples of the South of their share, thus creating this climate crisis. Yet it is the people of the South who bear the worst effects.

4. What developed countries have put on the table, however, is nothing less than an insult to the dignity of the peoples of the South. It demonstrates complete disrespect for the value of our lives.

5. 2.4 billion Euros a year until 2012! No long term financing! This a mockery. Where are the reparations by developed countries for the damage they have done so far in the developing world?

6. We are not asking for aid or assistance, but for the North to make good on their climate debt. We are their creditors.

7. We do not require – or want - the existing multilateral financial institutions. They are part of the problem and the plunder. Climate finance must be provided in a democratic manner-at every level- through a multilateral fund under the authority of the COP.

8. Finance must be public, not private. It must not involve carbon markets. Such markets are part of the problem, not the solution!

9. We demand nothing less than climate justice now!

Friday, December 11, 2009

“1.5!” “One point five!”

A group of demonstrator’s entered near the ‘Tyco Brache’ the conference room at 3 pm on the 9th December demanding support for Tuvalu proposal for the Kyoto Protocol. The Conference of Parties (COP) was suspended after the debate between the AOSIS and some countries in G77 and China. Tuvalu proposed to have a separate contact group to discuss their proposal. But some countries including China and India saw this as a proposal to kill Kyoto protocol and make a new legally binding agreement in Copenhagen. Perhaps they are right.

The demonstrations demand “Legally binding text! Legally binding text!” “ 1.5!” “One point five”

The island countries who promote as most vulnerable countries and African nations now demand 1.5 degree temperature increase limit. 2 degree temperature increase in African countries means at least 3 degree increase for them. To bring to 1.5 degree limit the CO2 level should be maintain at least at 350 ppm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

COP 15 Logo

China yesterday opposed to the COP 15 logo and stated that it does not represent the nature of United Nations Framework of Convention on Climate Change or Kyoto protocol. Chine representative said that this logo looks more fragile, and it does not give a comfortable feeling to engage in the negotiations. They also opposed not allowing there Minister to enter to the COP 15.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Need more photosynthesis

Polar bear is melting in the middle of the Copenhagen city square. Pandas, trees, have also joined the Copenhagen climate talks. Russia has finally announced 25% emission cuts by 1990 levels. France would be pushing the EU to adopt a target of 30% for the reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, compared to 1990. 10% more emission cuts will be needed for EU to reach the IPCC estimates to keep 350 ppm CO2 limit.

Photosynthesis which we have studied in the very first science classes is in the middle of the debate. Trees were looked as only timber until very recent. But everyone now in love with the leaves with chlorophyll, which convert Carbon Dioxide to Carbohydrate after reacting with water. Countries in Europe have started loving trees in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. Africa, Asia and Latin America will allow the trees to do the photosynthesis if only there are money flows from the developed countries. Although this looks funny, Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation is (REDD). In the second day of the COP 15, many southern countries have urged REDD plus mechanism to put in place. Zambia urged to include carbon stock into the plans.

It will be part of the final deal. Yet there are criticisms that how the REDD will deal with the local people specially people living inside the Forest. The question is whether they will be benefited or it will result displacing them for the sake of forest conservation.

Who will “seal the deal?”

The most important environmental talk of this century was begun in the Bella Centre in Copenhagen in the capitol of Denmark on 7th December 2009. According to the sources there are more than 30,000 people have got the registration to this land mark conference. Outside the Bella Centre, civil society coming from over 200 countries have also gathered to witness this global deal. They too organise “klimaforum” and bring the voices of the civil society to shape the deal.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Mayor of Copenhagen requested the parties to “seal the deal” The G77 and China, African nations and the least developed countries once again reiterated their commitment to Kyoto Protocol which is the only legally binding agreement. But developed countries want a different deal. There deal will include public and private finances, Carbon market, REDD and other false solutions. They want the developing countries to agree on emission reductions.

The deal will not be easy. There is a rumour that Danish chair is now ready with an alternative text which was prepared behind closed doors. Some believe it might come out in the middle of the dialogue. According to the environmental groups, some developing countries are also part of this close door deal.

Sealing the deal will be done only by the political leaders at the high level segment of the COP 15. Climate talks over the next two weeks will prove whether the political leaders have the guts to take a decision to reverse the climate catastrophe.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Can We expect Climate Justice in Copenhagen?

Hemantha Withanage
Executive Director/ Senior Environmental Scientist
Centre for Environmental Justice

Climate change is very high in the global political agenda at the moment. 15th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will begin on December 7th, 2009 in Copenhagen. COP 15 will be a very crucial event in the history of human race. However, we cannot have much hope since the developed countries so far very hesitant to accept their historical responsibility to the climate change and enter to a genuine deal.

It’s not a fiction. Intolerable heat, unpredictable high intensity rains and floods, cyclones, increased beach erosion are some symptoms of changing climate. Perhaps, Sri Lanka has a little understanding about the climate change. However, neighboring Maldives, Bangladesh or pacific islands such as Tuvalu, Kiribati already feel the rising sea level. Cyclone Nargis killed over 100,000 Burmese and affected more than 2.5 million people in 2007. Floods and cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh killed over 3000 people and affected over 900,000 families in year 2007. Floods in Sri Lanka in 2008 affected over 200,000 people and killed few. During the drought of 1999-2001 in Afghanistan FAO suggest that about half of the population was directly or indirectly affected by drought. About 3 to 4 million people were severely affected and another 8 to 12 million were under the threat of famine and stranded. There are similar stories across South Asia, Philippines, United States and across the globe.

Science is clear. Although there is a dispute about the temperature rise, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) report published in 2004 shows that rising temperature has a direct relationship with the increase of Green House Gases such as CO2, Methane, NO2, CFC and even water vapor. Methane emits from the nature as well as animal husbandry. One of the most famous climate thought appeared in the UN COP 15 thoughts are “Meatless Mondays Keep the Warming Away” and “Be a Vegan-Save our Beautiful World”. It is true that meat industry needs lost of energy and release methane. But CO2 which is result of burning “fossil Fuel” is a major reason to trap heat within the atmosphere which results global warming.

It is estimated that the temperature rise will be 2 – 5 degrees Centigrade at the end of the century. Some believe of a more severe temperature increase and 40 cm sea level rise by 2080. Some assessments state that the rise of average temperature by 4-5 degrees Centigrade will raise the sea level by 3-5 meters which leads to break up of ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica. Greenpeace says the breakdown of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) alone contains enough ice to increase the sea level by 5 meters and if all ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt entirely, the sea level will rise by 70 meters. Although the countries except the United States signed the Kyoto protocol, which agreed to reduce 5.2% of CO2 emissions of the 1990 levels, none of the countries have fulfilled this obligation yet.

It is expected that he Obama administration will unveil the target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions at next month's climate conference in Copenhagen. The United States has been under great pressure from the international community to present its target at the summit, because it is the only industrialized country that still hasn't revealed a plan to reduce emissions. United States present its domestic targets in August 2009 which is 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.This is only less than 4% by 1990 levels which is far less than what other countries have been pushing. Meanwhile, total emission cuts so far agreed by the entire Annex I countries excluding US are only 14 percent to 17 percent from 1990 targets. However the US and other annex I countries argue that China, India and Brazil need to bring its CO2 level down too. Although US is responsible for the highest historical carbon emission, China’s per capita CO2 level is number one at the moment.

This is a very clear politics of the developed countries in this very divisive issue, the climate catastrophe. According to the climate scientists at least 40% of the 1990 levels of emission cuts should be done by 2020. This level is necessary if we are to maintain the 2 degree centigrade temperature rise and keep the CO2 level at 350 ppm. Any further increase of the CO2 level in the atmosphere will severely affect the sea level rise and other climate disasters.

Where this politics will lead us? It is estimated that over 200 million people become climate refugees at the end of the century due to impacts of climate change. In a conservative estimate, it is calculated that the inaction of cutting emission drastically by developed countries would cost the climate impacts around 40-70 billion annually. I believe the question is not where to find this money. During the US recession the United States bailout package for its corporations was over 3 trillions. The total fund requirement to reduce CO2 level is 250 billion only.

The more important issue for the people in the developing world is how the climate debate will affect our genuine development. The reason I use the term genuine development is only because I see that the current development in Sri Lanka is not correct and not sustainable. The Electricity Generation plan recently unveiled by the Ceylon Electricity board has over 3200 MW coal power plants which will be totally based on imported Coal from Cheaper sources. This cheaper coal has more than 1 percent sulphur and more ash content. These coal power plants will emit CO2 1.9 Metric Tonnes per capita which almost same as the sustainable level of CO2 emission by 6.5 billion people living in the world today.

The easy argument of the Coal power agents today is that Sri Lanka’s per capita CO2 emission is only 600 Kg and we have ample space to increase the Co2 emission. But we have increased 230 percent since the Kyoto protocol signed. Burning coal which is imported from other countries cannot be justified as sustainable. On the other hand the problem today is the wrong development paradigm of the industrialized countries. Copying the same would be a complete disaster for us.

We have the right for development as same as like any other nation. As part of the environmental justice the developing nations now fight for climate justice. The developed countries owe ecological debt for the developing countries for overconsumption of our atmosphere, environmental space and natural resources. It is clear that their development has deprived us from development. Climate debt is owed for the historical overproduction of GHG emissions by developed countries that saturated the atmosphere – considered to be a ‘global common’ – thereby reducing the environmental/survival space available for developing countries. The climate debt is also owed for the impacts of climate change that is suffered in past and present in developing countries, and for future generations.

Sri Lankans position in the climate debate is also requesting the ecological debt that developed countries owe us. Sri Lanka Government has signed to the Bolivian proposal to request ecological debt. As we believe, ecological debt asserts that wealthy nations have generated a huge debt through centuries of exploitation of the natural resources of poorer nations. The ecological debt, including the climate debt must be paid not only in terms of financial means. This has to include the unconditional cancellation of all the unfair debts that the impoverished countries have – generated through the implementation of colonial and neoliberal policies. Liberalization practices imposed through the international financial institutions causes the degradation of environment; local social and economic system thus exacerbates vulnerability to climate change. Liberalization creates unequal access to natural goods which reducing opportunities for the poor to build resilience to climate change.

Being part of the G77 cluster, Sri Lanka also strongly support the request from Annex I countries to cut emissions, mitigate the damages, assist adaptations, request climate finance through a United Nations manage funds and transfer technologies to combat climate change. The African nations and the small islands states have almost similar approach. Yet the negotiation is not easy.

Any solution to climate change should be people centered. The government can do very little either to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint, to reduce industrial emissions or adapt to the climate disasters. The climate negotiations need to bring the opinion of the public, small enterprises or academics to the big picture. However, Sri Lankan climate bureaucrats have a phobia to meet the civil society and dialogues on public expectations and opinions. I have attended many civil society initiatives on climate change. Unfortunately, I failed to meet the national delegation in those local meetings.

Internationally, many developing governments are in corporation with the civil society thoughts. Many government delegations have included civil society representatives in the delegation too. There is nothing to lose in this case since we all in the southern believe that our final goal is climate justice. Climate justice can only achieve by developed nations taking responsibility for historical emissions and pay their climate debt. We must have climate bailout.

In a worst case there would be no deal in Copenhagen. Annex I countries are trying to kill Kyoto Protocol and they will likely to discuss the shared long-term vision only. There is a great debate on climate financing. Developed countries are planning to distribute climate finance through the climate criminals such as ADB and World Bank who has increased more than 100 percent its funds to the coal based power generations in the recent years. Much opposed carbon trading due to the failures in the recent past may still continue since that is the only way for the business corporation s to make money. Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries (REDD), much opposed carbon Offset mechanism supported by the UN will continue since that is the only money available for development countries.

The per capita emission is US 19.5, Canada 18.8, Australia 20 and United Arab Emirates 35 and China is only 4.58 by 2006 in Metric tonnes. The total emission china leads with 21.5% and United States 20.2% and European Union 13.8%. Except the United States, all other countries have committed some emission cuts even though it is very small with total 14 percent to 17 percent.

There is a very little chance that Annex I countries agree some emission cuts close to 20 percent by 1990 levels. There will be no deal without US committing to reduce its emissions. US domestic emission cut is 17% by 2020 from 2005 levels which is only 4% reduction by 1990 levels. Also there will be no deal without China, India and Brazil take actions to cut domestic emissions. China offered 40%-50% reduction by 2020 from 2005 levels. Any deal to reduce less than 40 percent by 1990 levels by all Annex I countries will not give hopes to developed countries. Yet, there is no walk out.

Environmental Law Education

Hemantha withanage

People are bound to hundreds of laws, norms and policies which they are not seen or aware. Their behavior, livelihood and use of natural resources are controlled by those unknown laws. According to a well excepted legal maxim, the Court always considers that all people are aware of the laws. Unawareness is not an excuse before the law. But do all and every persons aware of the laws?

Environment is one of the most discussed subjects in the recent times which need citizens’ attention. Land, Water, Air are basic components that are essential for human beings and nature. Sustainable development needs a balance between the modern development and natural environment. Role of Environmental Law requires here to balance these two conflicting concepts. Yet, environmental law awareness is not equally exist and maintained in any society throughout the world. More educated people have a better understanding of the laws that govern their day today life. Meanwhile, marginalized communities who also don’t have adequate basic education suffer from lack of awareness. It is impossible to achieve Environmental justice and environmental governance unless the marginalized communities are equally making aware of their rights and those legislations, policies and norms that their lives are bound.

Sri Lankan law is mainly governed by the common law system. However Statutes and other written laws have been introduced to the law stream even under the civil law system. Accordingly, there are a number of new laws such as EIA Regulations, Industry Specific Standards and Regulations, Vehicle Emission Standards, and Noise Standards have been enacted in the environment sector. On top of these there are new Carbon Funds, Adaptation Funds and Conservation Levy, Genetically Modified Food labeling, which are not clear to common persons. Lack of awareness of the new laws and the important provisions of regulations is a major bottleneck for achieving benefits of these laws.

Sri Lanka does not exercise many access to information laws. This is a major shortcoming for achieving better governance. Other than in the Environmental Impacts Regulations, no other law provides mandatory public participation in decision making process in environmental field. The marginalized communities are unable to bring the environmental as well as fundamental rights violations to the courts due to lack of awareness and inadequate legal aid when they suffer from denial of access to information and participation.

Among the Universal principles of the Rule of Law, it is well accepted that the government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law, and the laws should clear, published, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property. However, in my experience most people including the government officers and law enforcers do not aware the laws adequately and accurately. The reasons may include lack of interest, legal education, technical language, and negative attitudes as well. It should be mentioned that the half knowledge of responsible government officers leads for many harmful and tragic ends too.

In a country like Sri Lanka, majority people still live in rural areas struggling with their livelihood. It is unfair to think that those people are adequately aware of the laws that brought by the legislature time to time, mostly to protect the rights and interests of the urban population. As an example most protected area laws have brought forward in order to protect the interests of the majority, but not even with the participation or consultation of the local communities who are the experts of the experience obtained by the nature .

However, the Rule of law does not work or make a mean if the people are ignorant and unaware of the laws.

Legal Aid and legal Education programmes initiated by Center for Environmental Justice with the support of World Justice project is targeting common citizens, CBO leaders and the local level government officers to enhance the citizens’ awareness on the rights and the available tools and mechanisms to achieve justice and Enhance legal education among the marginalized groups to ensure that they understand the rule of law and the role of judiciary and the legislature. This approach also provides free legal aid for the marginalized communities who cannot afford expensive legal expertise.

The legal education programs were held in eighteen places within a year. We have selected community leaders, civil society organizations, and the groups that are negatively affected (both environmentally and socially) from resources extraction, development projects or other ill environmental decision making. The workshops are organized in such a way to meet both legal & environmental education and identifying issues that need legal support or other assistance to follow the due legal and administrative processes. The persons, who have been encouraged to approach the court of law, were given free legal aid.

Unlike the other laws, Environmental law cannot be practiced unless the parties or legal practitioners have some basic understanding of the science of the law. Except public nuisance procedure all other legal instruments need scientific explanations to prove the impacts on the burden of balance of probability. Unlike decade back, Science plays a major role even in public nuisance cases. It is notable that, if the judiciary too has a better understanding of law and the doctrine of governance of the nature as well, no doubt the privileges entrusted by the law will be enjoyed by whole society. We have designed the legal education programs to overcome this problem to a large extent.

Most people in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka have not had the opportunity to exercise many of the new laws due to war circumstances. Even the lawyers in those areas had no adequate awareness on the laws and experience of practicing. We hope to educate both lawyers and general public on what are the new laws in those areas which can be used for the protection of environmental rights and achieve environmental justice for all.

Yet, there is a question to answer. Does the Court of Law is predictable? Many participant say no. Long delaying of cases reduces the trust of approaching the courts. Unclear court procedures let the people move from one Court to another. Some people concerns of the independency of the Court of Law.

It is agreed that the laws and norms, the institutions and the process should respects to the basic better governance characteristics which are transparency, participation, Rule of Law/ Predictability and Accountability. The experience in the recent past shows we have yet to achieve better governance.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Adaptation for Sri Lankan communities

How Climate change will impact livelihood?

Hemantha Withanage
Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice

Climate change is visible in most parts of Sri Lanka. Majority of the people be­lieve this climate change is un­favourable to living beings and livelihood. However, local climate changes in certain areas are bet­ter compared to 30 years ago. For example, Mahaweli water feeding areas in the dry zone gets more water, are more favourable to people and the environment.

However, local people cannot distinguish these local climate changes from the global climate change. On the other hand some impacts can be explained as the impacts of local environmental changes. For example some water related impacts have direct links to the destruction of forests in the local envi­ronment. These unfavourable conditions are varying from community to community.

Most nature dependent livelihoods such as farming, fishing, different types of labour in­cluding labour involved in Tea and Rubber industry, natural resources based sustainable livelihoods have negative impacts. There are unfavourabe conditions due to the spread of vector borne diseases and also quick weather change including heat. These communities have made very, very negligible contributions to the GHG emissions except the farmers en­gaged in slash and burn cultivation or animal husbandry. So they have nothing to mitigate.

However, a survey conducted by the CEJ shows that people, especially those engaged in nature based livelihoods, are somehow suf­fering from climate change. They need alter­native livelihoods and living conditions have to adapt to the new climatic conditions.

Adaptation is a need of changes for the sur­vival of the living beings in order to respond to the natural changes. This is part of the natural evolution too. However, sudden natu­ral changes due to climatic impacts are det­rimental to the other living beings. Many of these species might disappear from the earth before they adapt to the changing climate. As the human species, we have a better ability to adapt to the changing situations. Yet, human species also suffer from unexpected cyclones, floods, sea level rise, heat waves etc.

Building awareness among the civil society is an immediate requirement in Sri Lanka. Meantime those policy planners can learn from the local communities. As we were go­ing through the survey we found that the fol­lowing areas need adaptation.

The farmers have to adapt to the increased in­tensity of floods and the dry seasons. Change of the rain pattern has negatively affected farmers, especially those engaged in slash and burn cultivation. This may need moving the cultivation seasons or change of crops and cropping pattern. They will have to con­sider moving away from Chena cultivation to permanent cultivation. They may also need to find plant varieties that suit the changing rainfall pattern.
Adaptation to water conservation, rain water harvesting is also important.
People living in the low lying areas need to adapt to the increased level of flooding. Some affects are due to the lack of climate proof­ing of the old and newly built infrastructures. For example, Kukule Ganga dam has created increased flooding in the low lining areas in the downstream. Some people might have to move their houses to the high ground to avoid increased floods in the surroundings of those mega development projects. Coastal low lying areas face salt water intrusion which destroys the agricultural lands, traditional live­stock, grazing lands, and the water table.

Fisher folk face loss of coastal houses due to see level rise or due to heavy erosion by in­creased size of waves. They also have to face the loss of fish caused due to the destruction of mangrove forests, sea grass beds, acidifi­cation, coral degradation or other unknown reasons.

Some water intakes are vulnerable to sea water ingression. This affects water facilities including the Kaduwela water intake. As the ground water table is going down in certain areas, the water scarcity is becoming a major problem. People in general have to adapt themselves to the mosquito menace as it is increasing in the areas that were considered as more cold. The earth slides have increased in some wet areas due to high rainfall over an extended period. People living in slopes and earth slide prone areas need actions.

Some houses may need stronger construc­tion to adapt to the increased intensity of winds. Perhaps older structures are more vul­nerable. Certain locations might not be suit­able for house constructions anymore.

Lack of climate proofing in mega develop­ment projects makes people and environment vulnerable to the climate damage. Most of the infrastructure projects have not consid­ered climate change in designing and imple­mentation. While some adaptations are part of the learning curve of the local people who have specialized in their locations, some ad­aptations need proper authority but careful and cautious intervention. As many people engage in nature related livelihoods are los­ing jobs there is a need of creating green jobs in the future.

The result also shows that climate change is not only a business of the environmental agencies of the government. It needs to be a crosscutting issue for many other authorities including agriculture, water and irrigation, fisheries, meteorological, coastal, disaster mitigation and academics. The research team felt that even the provincial and local authori­ties have a role to play.

Local communities have lot to contribute to the climate plans. Keeping them out of cli­mate business will create unnecessary dam­age to life and livelihood as we have seen in some Asian countries in the recent past. Bringing them to the climate planning will allow them to understand and contribute to the mitigation and adaptation. Therefore, democratizing of climate plans and action should be done without further delay.

Can “Biochar” make a country carbon Neutral?

Hemantha Withanage

Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice

Several patent applications have been made for industrial charcoal use in soil and for “Pyrolysis” for charcoal production. Industrial Charcoal or “Biochar” is one of the solutions sug­gested by the corporations to mitigate climate change. The promoters suggest “biochar” is similar to the “Terra Preta” a mixture of charcoal and varieties of bio­mass developed by the Central Amazo­nians thousands of years ago.

These “biochar” producers suggest that this is the “silver bullet” for reducing glob­al greenhouse gases thereby mitigating climate change. This has been already proposed to the UNFCCC and for clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Sev­eral African governments also proposed this in order to promote private sector involvement in climate Mitigation.

The Maldivian Government is targeting to become the first Carbon Natural na­tion by developing three small islands producing waste into “Biochar”. The com­pany involved in this business is Carbon Gold, a UK based entity.

However, many environmentalists dis­agree with this approach and suggest not including “biochar” in climate miti­gation proposals. One argument is that industrial “Biocharcoal” is not close to “Terra Preta”. New science has so far not unveiled the techniques used by the ancient people to produce it. If the new companies granted patents, those will ensure that any future profits from the technology will go to companies, not communities. According to the FOEI and other groups, given that successful strat­egies for combining charcoal with di­verse biomass in soils were developed by indigenous peoples, ‘biochar’ patenting raises serious concerns over bio piracy. The inclusion of soils in carbon markets, just like the inclusion of forests in carbon trading will increase corporate control over vital resources and the exclusion of smallholder farmers, rural communities and indigenous peoples.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has perpetuated, rather than re­duced fossil fuel burning by permitting industries to purchase “rights to pollute” and further delaying the social and eco­nomic changes which are essential for addressing climate change. The climate impacts of fossil fuel burning are irre­versible, yet so-called ‘soil carbon sinks’ are highly uncertain and impermanent.

“Biochar” producers suggest production of gigatones on “biochar” will reduce the CO2 into pre industrial levels. How­ever environmentalists state that it will require millions of hectares of lands to convert into biomass production which will be mostly monoculture plantations which are already problematic. This is not different from the controversial “Agro­fuel” production. A UNEP report found that industrial charcoal release most of its carbon content in 30 years time, al­though the “Biochar” producers suggest that this carbon will remain in soil for thousands of years.

There is no consistent evidence that charcoal can be relied upon to make soil more fertile. Industrial charcoal produc­tion at the expense of organic matter needed for making humus could have the opposite results.

Combinations of charcoal with fossil fuel-based fertilizers made from scrub­bing coal power plant flue gases are be­ing marketed as ‘biochar’, and those will help to perpetuate fossil fuel burning as well as emissions of nitrous oxide, a pow­erful greenhouse gas. According to the experts the process for making charcoal and energy (pyrolysis) can result in dan­gerous soil and air pollution.

Using waste for composting is the best solution for carbon minimization. How­ever, turning waste into “biochar”, perhaps will be better than burning them. How­ever, carbon in waste is not the problem for climate change. The biggest problem is burning fossil fuel. However “biochar” is not an alternative to fossil fuel. There are many scientific uncertainties over “biochar”. It is not a proven technology for making a country carbon neutral.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coal, renewables and the CO2 meter

How Sri Lanka is increasing its Carbon emission?

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Hemantha Withanage,
Centre for Environmental Justice

Sri Lanka is already building a Chinese funded 900 Megawatt coal power plant in the Western coast of the island and plans are being made to build a joint venture 1000MW coal power plant with India’s National Thermal Power Corporation in the Eastern coast. Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka will be linked with a 100MW energy supply cable under the Asian Development Bank funds. India, China and Australia are eyeing to sell their coal to Sri Lanka.

Australia is also planning to sell a 300 MW Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) power plant. Although LNG is cleaner, there is no single LNG power plant in Sri Lanka.

Solar power is the most expensive energy in the country. Some poor families in the remote areas, who have obtained solar energy, pay Rs. 70,000 in a 2 year period to light 3 bulbs and a B/W Television. Government has no tariff reductions for these renewable yet.

Mini-hydro plants’ estimated generation capacity would be 97.7 MW. However some mini-hydro power plants are more harmful to the Environment. Total Hydropower generation by the big reservoirs is around 1207 MW. However this is vulnerable to the climate change.

According to the sources Sri Lanka’s next best natural resource after the hydro power is wind power because of the Monsoon winds across the country. Sri Lankan government is planning to build the country’s second wind power plant, which is expected to generate 10MW of power. The country’s first wind power plant established in Hambantota which is generating about 3MW is not a very successful one.

Sri Lanka, is in a long debate on coal versus best alternatives. Coal power plant originally proposed in Trincomalee in 1985 was then moved to Mawella, Negombo and Norochocholai.

According to some CEB sources, present Coal power plant, financed by the Chinese government, is very costly. A unit of this coal power will be around 40 rupees. According to the sources CEB will only pay Rs. 18 while the balance would be subsidized by the government. The plant does not install the best available technology.

300 MW plant will require 2640 MT of coal daily. As we have indicated many times the 900 W coal power plant will burn 7920 MT daily. Each tonne of Coal produces 7186 pounds of CO2 assuming that 98% of the coal combustion happens. So the Norochcholai Coal plant will emit 28456 tonnes CO2 daily. This calculations show that 900 MW Coal plant will result Sri Lanka increase CO2 to 0.5 tonnes per capita.

Proposed total coal power generation capacity of Sri Lanka is around 3300 MW. According to the above calculations Sri Lanka will emit 2 tonnes per capita CO2 annually. Chinese and Indians financed coal power plants alone will increase Sri Lanka’s contribution to 1 tonnes per capita CO2.To put this in context, national average emissions in UK is 10 tonnes per capita. The UK government has pledged to cut emissions by 20% before 2012, to around 8 tonnes per capita. This forms part of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global climate change.

It is estimated that the sustainable CO2 emission quota per capita for each of 6 billion global inhabitants is 2 tonnes per annum. This means once Sri Lanka produces coal energy using 3300 MW coal plants, we will reach the sustainable level of CO2 emissions.

According to the Energy Forum Sri Lanka’s CO2 emissions have increased by 230% over the last 20 years: the world’s third highest rate. Therefore there is no doubt that the government must seriously review its policies, targets and plans for establishing 3300 MW of coal power plants in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately that is not the case.

The authorities argue that Sri Lanka can still increase its CO2 emissions, since we only emit 600 kg which is far below the proposed sustainable level. However once we reach the CO2 level only with Coal power there is no provision for other development.

Despite the CO2 emission Coal prices have also increased several times parallel to the oil prices. Those who debated for the Coal power argued that Coal energy will be the cheapest for the country. Since we do not have our own coal beds, we are unable to control the prices.

Sri Lanka still depends, for 70% of energy from Biomass. We also had many wind mills introduced 3 decades ago to draw water. The potential for wind, solar and wave energy is enormous in Sri Lanka. However, the coal and diesel lobby in Sri Lanka does not allow making our energy sustainable

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Planet Needs You! Unite to Combat Climate Change

Hemantha Withanage,
Executive Director/ Environmental Scientist
Centre for Environmental Justice

It is not yet another day. This year on World Environment Day, people around the world will join together to show their unity to combat climate change. World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Every monsoon season, in the past decade, we have seen more and more natural disasters. During other times we face severe droughts, mosquito menace, coastal erosion, heat waves which are somehow linked to climate change. IPCC findings, published in 2004, clearly shows that increase of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere as the reason for climate change. This includes, CO2, Methane, NO2, CFC and even water vapour. The main cause for climate change is burning fossil fuel, mainly by the developed nations, since the industrial era began. The world is debating since the RIO conference held in 1992, but with no emission reductions yet. Once again they will meet in Copenhagen in December 2009 for making some crucial decisions.

It is estimated that the temperature rise will be 2 – 5 degrees Centigrade at the end of the century. Some believe of a more severe temperature increase and 40 cm sea level rise by 2080. Some assessments state that the rise of average temperature by 4-5 degrees Centigrade will raise the sea level by 3-5 meters which leads to break up of ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica. Greenpeace says the breakdown of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) alone contains enough ice to increase the sea level by 5 meters and if all ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt entirely, the sea level will rise by 70 metres. Although the countries except the United States signed the Kyoto protocol, which agreed to reduce 5.2% of CO2 emissions of the 1990 levels, none of the countries have fulfilled this obligation yet.

The world cannot be saved by the bodies appointed for saving it unless we all unite. This year's theme ‘Your Planet needs You! Unite to combat climate change' – is a topic that shows the value of every individual’s responsibility to protect the planet.

Sri Lanka has made less contributions to climate change. Although, our GDP is high enough to become a middle income country, we are still an agrarian society. However, we need to understand that the current development paradigm is not climate friendly. Most developed countries followed the thinking ‘develop today and conserve later.’ However the environmental disasters, including climate change, have shown that this is a failed approach.

Today we are facing three major crises, i.e. food crisis, climate crisis and financial crisis. At the end humanity is in a serious crisis. Some economists believe that the world will recover from the financial crisis. However, there is no easy solution for the food crisis and the climate crisis.

As Mahatma Gandhi once mentioned, “there are enough resources for the people’s needs but not for people’s greed.” The countries in the north have already exceeded their fair share in their resources utilization. They also have exceeded the use of the environmental space. The developed countries, representing less than one fifth of the world’s population, have emitted almost three quarters of all historical emissions. On a per person basis, they are responsible for more than ten times the historical emissions of developing countries. They owe the people in the south a huge ecological debt and emission debt. This is true for the wealthy minority in our own societies. They are not yet ready to pay this debt.

Unfortunately, the poor majority in the world suffers most from both the food crisis and the climate crisis. According to Greenpeace more than 120 million people will become climate refugees by the end of the century in India and Bangladesh alone. According to Oxfam, a charity organization, the world will require 50- 140 billion USD a year for the poorer countries to adapt to climate change.

So, it is clear that if we are to save the world, those who consume more and those who owe us need to pay their debts. Honouring these obligations is not only necessary but it is also the basis of a fair and effective solution to climate change. Those who benefited most in the course of causing climate change must compensate those who contributed least to it but bear its adverse effects.

Public perceptions show that people in Sri Lanka, who engage in nature based livelihoods, are already suffering from climate change. I wonder whether there are any statistics in Sri Lanka produced by the authorities since climate change is a very new subject for many of them. However, we cannot ignore climate change anymore as it is already causing impacts.

If we are to promote a carbon neutral economy we still have the opportunity and time for it. It is not advisable to wait for the government agencies to show the red flag on climate change. Every individual has the responsibility to act on climate change. To give few advises: - Use less energy consuming items, Use public transport or bicycles to save fuel where possible, Reduce the use of plastics. It is true that although 80% plastic can be recyclable, only 20% is recycled today. Plant a tree. Stop burning waste. Help recycling. Talk to your friends on climate change.

The authorities need a more dynamic approach on climate change. Sri Lanka’s coal lobby is not climate friendly. Although wind energy, solar energy are climate friendly, Sri Lanka’s authorities have a phobia in promoting them. Authorities still have a learning exercise on climate change. But, we should not underestimate the climate impacts to Sri Lanka as we are an island in the Bay of Bengal.

Cyclone ‘Nargiz’ attacked Burma killing more than 23,000 people and left around 40,000 homeless in 2007. Cyclone ‘Sidr’ killed over 4,000 people in Bangladesh in the same year. Therefore it is advisable for everyone to learn how to face severe weather conditions, floods and droughts, cyclones, sea level rise, or facing increased mosquito menace. Farmers need to learn how to adapt to droughts or delayed rainfall. Fishermen need to adapt to less catches, rough seas or less fish due to degradation of corals. It is not too late to include climate adaptation to the school curricula. We do not have to wait for such disasters to happen like hurricane ‘Katrina’, ‘Rita’ in the United States or cyclone ‘Nargiz’ in Burma. Only you can make this change.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Garo People

Hemantha Withanage

It was my dream to see “Garo people” when I saw the book entitled “Stolen Forest” written by environmental writer Philip Gain which shown the destruction of the “Sal Forest” they live. I had a rare opportunity to meet the “Garo people” live in Modhupur, about hundred kilometers away from Dhaka. I was with the Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific regional members and the friends from the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association.

Garo people have a Tibet- Burmese origin. Some believes they have come from Garo province in Meghalaya, in India and settled in the Sal Forest in Bangladesh centuries ago. They have own culture and living style. Garo people believe them as the “children of the forests”.

The “Sal Forest” now being reduced to a small area since the forest has been encroached by various agencies and elites. They grow Banana, Pineapple and Papaya for commercial purposes and apply agro-chemicals as promoted by an ADB funded project. Unfortunately they have lost the original life style. The authorities take them to the courts if they try to engage in their original activities. Garo people now look for support to reclaim their rights over the forest. It’s clear case how local indigenous people push into a development debacle.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Red lines for REDD

Hemantha Withanage
Centre for Environmental Justice - Sri Lanka

May 2009

The UN initiated Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) in Developing Countries is one of the latest approaches for reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. A multi-donor trust fund was established in July 2008 in collaboration with FAO, UNDP and UNEP for this purpose.

As per the IPCC estimates the cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20 per cent of the overall greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Forest degradation and land use change also make a significant contribution to emissions. Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and approaches to stimulate action” was first introduced at the Conference of the Parties (COP11) in December 2005 by the governments of Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, supported by eight other Parties.

There are opposing and supporting views for this. One of the opposing views is because REDD text agreed in COP 14 in Bali did not include the rights of the indigenous people who are living in the forests. Largest forests in Asia, Africa and Latin America are inhabited by the local indigenous people for thousands of years. “Adivasi” people live in Dambana, Sri Lanka are also a good example. However, most of the forests in Sri Lanka are not inhabited by people as they have been removed under conservation programmes or development projects more than two decades ago. Yet there are many local communities who live near the forest areas protect, and depend on the forests resources and the services.

Forests in all tropical countries play a major role in the life of the communities living around them. It is not just a carbon sink but also it is the source of food, water, fire- wood, medicines, building material, non timber forest products, raw material for household appliances. It also controls erosion and floods, maintains the seed banks. It is our life.

On one hand Annex I countries which are supposed to reduce their GHG emissions owe a huge debt to countries which maintained good forests which absorbed CO2 since the industrial evolution began. Those who lived inside and protected forests should be entitled to get the repayment for those services. However in practice this may not be easy. All Sri Lankan forests were vested with the Crown by the British colonials under the Waste Land Ordinance which are now under government control. In practice, the REDD programme will mainly enter into agreement between the [so-called] forest owners, which is the Government, and the parties that seek emission cuts. The Government can only gain benefits in this case.

If the forests are included in a contract by the governments it will have serious control and will limit access to local people. Many of them are local poor who are rely on the forest. So, protecting the rights of those people living in poverty and those who are relying on forests for subsistence is an utmost important aspect in this business. Is the REDD program ready to compensate those people and find alternate livelihood for them?

REDD will cut emissions if we keep those forests healthy. As we know Sri Lankan forests have many threats. The illegal cutting of timber, encroachments, massive destruction for development projects are some of them. In many countries they are the government itself, forest and energy industries, road development and big agri-businesses, tea cultivation etc., are responsible for the forest degradation. Involvement of these sectors in both economic and political structures, needed for a successful implementation of REDD, which will have serious cost involvement too.

If we are to receive REDD funds we have to maintain healthy forests. According to the UN “The UN-REDD Programme is aimed at tipping the economic balance in favour of sustainable management of forests so that their formidable economic, environmental and social goods and services benefit countries, communities and forest users while also contributing to important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

It is the opinion of many activists that forests should not be treated as carbon sinks. it has multiple values. The above explanation shows that REDD has been proposed as not only for Climate Change Mitigation, but also the conservation of eco-diversity and continue to give other forest services such as water regulation. For local people living by the forests is much more important than getting control by the climate mitigation mechanisms ( such as emission traders) who are far away from them. Therefore we believe that REDD should not be included in the emissions market. Further, if REDD is considered under emission market, the developed countries could by themselves be out of their own obligations to reduce CO2 emissions in their own country by buying cheap forest certificates. According to the Rain Forest Foundation ,UK “REDD would potentially be using for the carbon offsetting and the it would subsidy the loggers.”

On the other hand, since developed countries are not willing to accept emission cuts, the REDD will be mostly voluntary. They will prefer some countries where they can find cheap credits. This may create a cold war between Annex II countries and it might weaken the Annex II countries’ positions. Specially this is more possible in the case with the global financial crisis. Some countries will have more to offer which means they will offer cheaper CO2 absorption.

Conservation of forests is not cheap in countries such as Sri Lanka where the threat is so much compared to some countries which have more lands with low population pressure. So the cost of maintenance is not equal in all the countries. This means the cost of CO2 absorption is also not the same. Therefore if those countries are to maintain healthy forests they need more funds. On the other hand too much focus on some forests in order to respect the REDD agreements will limit attention on some not so important forests which means the total forest degradation might still go up.

As we always believe real emission cuts should be done at home by controlling their own life style by the developed countries. However, there should be a mechanism to stop further degradation of tropical forests. With the REDD funds it will not be possible to stop all deforestation within a country at once. But, the conservation of existing natural and well managed forests should have priority over reforestation and afforestation under any mechanism. Although we can see that we are losing our natural forest cover in Sri Lanka, overall forest cover has gone up since it includes the new plantations. So it is sometimes hard to depend on the national statistics about degradation.

Consideration of biodiversity is a important aspect in REDD approach. Monoculture and Plantations have little or no contribution to biodiversity compared to natural forests. Undoubtedly, natural forests could store more carbon than forest plantations. Therefore REDD should not waste its funds for plantations which are economically so attractive.

Countries such as Sri Lanka has contributed to the conservation of forests for thousands of years. That should be rewarded in order to discourage future deforestation. There is a trend in Annex II countries, such as Sri Lanka, to destroy some forests disregarding climate impacts for development projects. If they are to save them, it needs attractive income generation from those global forest services.

One big problem with REDD is the consideration of the rights of the Indigenous and local communities whose rights must be fully respected. This is undeniable specially when UN has already accepted the rights of the indigenous people. Therefore, REDD should respect the good governance principles and democratic decisions making including Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). Participation of the people on site is indispensable to make forest conservation permanent and socially just. In my opinion there won’t be conservation to the forest unless people have access to the funds earned under the REDD.

Nevertheless, if the REDD are going to be successful it needs dedicated funds rather than support going through the general ODA accounts. The ODA funded activities are not successful in many countries. Neither the carbon market managed activities. It will need serious management. The good governance, compensation for local right owners, poverty elimination, fair treatment of all forests, should be included in designing implementation and in post activities.

The project is normally looked after only during the implementation. If the REDD is to be successful the forests should be managed not only during the short term project period but for a long term i.e 100- 200 years. It is a question whether this is going to happen and whether those developed countries are going to put funds for such a long period.

The Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998 by the United states proposed something similar to „debt for nature swap“ which was under heavy criticism. Yet some 16 countries including Indonesia, Peru, Philippine are part of this programme. It allows countries to put debt payment to United States into a fund which manage national forests in the way United States want to control. US president has veto power over the use of the fund money. It is my fear that the REDD could be another face of the same.

With all pros and cons of REDD, more importantly REDD programmes will include forests’ ability to absorb CO2 emissions in future. However, our forests have already fixed carbon and they are already carbon stocks. If the REDD considers forest carbon stock roll, it may be easier to respect forests’ roll and continue the services without conflicting the local interests.

Unlike many countries Sri Lanka has home gardens. They are not forests but they have canopies similar to a rain forests with timber and non timber species. They act as carbon sinks and reduce erosion and control floods too. If you look at these home gardens and carbon stocks rather than forest carbon sinks it can greatly increase the carbon absorption. While forests are still with much higher diversity, if the REDD consider home gardens as carbon stocks which are done by the ordinary people they may look as an alternative. For the carbon absorption. Sri Lanka has 818,000 Ha of home gardens approximately which is about 1/3 of the total natural forest and Plantation cover in Sri Lanka. This may be the case in many tropical countries.