COP-12 Report: U.S. Climate Policy Puts Action Over Image

From David at COP-12 in Nairobi:

Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. State Department hosted a briefing at the U.N. global warming conference entitled “Focused on Africa: U.S. Partnerships on Energy, Clean Development and Climate Change” that sent conflicting signals on where the U.S. stands on climate change.While describing a U.S. Agency for International Development climate adaptation program in Sikasso, Mali, the agency’s John Furlough made the rather startling claim that their program was based on their projection that the temperature in the area “will increase by 2-3 degrees celsius by 2060.”

A specific temperature projection (a regional one, no less) suggests confidence in climate models — something President Bush didn’t have, the last time I heard.

Apparently Furlough didn’t get that memo.

Throughout the briefing, the question wasn’t about whether significant climate change is underway, but what the United States is going to do about it. If one didn’t know this was a U.S. briefing, one could have mistaken it for one from the European Union — with one major difference: The U.S. programs outlined during the briefing hold significant promise of reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency and reducing pollutants. These all are important benefits even if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are not causing significant and negative climate change.

Jan Lewandrowski of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Global Change Program Office detailed U.S. efforts to reduce deforestation in Africa, noting that between 20 and 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from deforestation. He outlined U.S. programs to address everything from economic development to teaching sound forest governanance to monitoring forests.

“Our approach tries to harness the power of markets by strengthening the legal, commercial logging sectors, said Lewandroski. “These need to be transparent in how they work.”

One way the U.S. is helping provide transparency in the forestry sector is through its remote sensing program to monitor logging activity.

Through this program, illegal logging in the Virunga National Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was detected, permitting the government of the Congo to put a stop to it.

Susan Wickwin of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency detailed the agency’s programs to promote clean energy in Africa, including replacing traditional cooking methods (fire) with clean fuel stoves. In a continent where the vast majority of food is cooked with solid fuels, the success of this program could reduce carbon emissions significantly. A switch to clean-fuel stoves has other benefits, too, including improving indoor air quality.

Unlike the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which EU officials described today as financial instruments designed to permit efficient reductions in emissions, these U.S. efforts provide significant benefits to the developing world. They’ll produce tangible benefits even if human-caused emissions are ultimately determined to have only a small influence on the climate.

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