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Before the UN climate meeting started in Katowice last week, the Polish government put out a statement about its presidency of COP24.

Predictably, the Polish government’s statement makes no mention of the necessity of keeping fossil fuels in the ground in order to address the climate crisis.

Instead, the Polish government’s statement focusses on three “key messages” for COP 24:

technology – to show that there are climate-friendly modern solutions, such as electromobility allowing for sustainable urban development, clean air and an opportunity for modern jobs,

human – emphasizing the need to lead change together with people through the solidarity and fair transformation of regions and industrial sectors,

nature – including multifunctional and sustainable forest management as part of climate neutrality and the role of forests as greenhouse gas sinks, and support for a synergic view of the three UN key conventions: on climate, on biodiversity and on desertification.

The Katowice Declaration on Forests for Climate

Today, Poland will present the Katowice Declaration on Forests for Climate for approval by COP24. The “Ceremony for the endorsement of the forest declaration” will take place in the Warsawa Conference Room, starting at 18:30.

A draft version was leaked in September 2018, as reported by Climate Home News.

The Declaration doesn’t say much. There are no targets, except an utterly meaningless aim of ensuring that “global forest carbon stocks are maintained and further enhanced by 2050”. That’s more than 30 years in the future. We need meaningful action to stop deforestation immediately.
The declaration non-binding. It proposes no meaningful actions to reduce deforestation, such as recognising indigenous peoples’ rights, or addressing land rights, for example.

A dangerous distraction
But the Declaration is dangerous because it is yet another attempt to distract attention away from the fossil fuel industry. And it is yet another attempt to delay the desperately needed structural changes required in the fossil fuel industry.

While this sort of declaration gets the polluters off the hook, it does precisely nothing to reduce the rate of deforestation.
In 2014, the New York Declaration on Forests set a target of cutting deforestation in half by 2020.

That Declaration had precisely no effect on the rate of deforestation.

According to Global Forest Watch, tropical deforestation hit record levels in 2016:So here is the leaked draft version of the Katowice Declaration on Forests. The text may change before it is approved at COP24, but unless it is changed to include the fact that to address climate change we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground, starting now, it will remain bullshit – a dangerous distraction:


Note: See the updated, published Katowice Declaration here.

The Ministerial Katowice Declaration on Forests for Climate Proposal by the incoming COP Presidency

The Ministers / the Head of Delegations attending the twenty-fourth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24), held in Katowice, Poland, from 2 to 14 December 2018,

Reaffirming that the Paris Agreement aims to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of 21st century,

Acknowledging the essential role of sinks in mitigating climate change, and simultaneously recognizing the need for them to adapt to a changing climate, while taking into account the view that some emissions will be difficult to avoid, (placeholder for relevant information from the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C)

Calling upon the Parties to take action to conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases, including forests, as well as to strengthen cooperation in this respect,

Underlining that mitigation potential of terrestrial ecosystems should be further increased, and capacity of our ecosystems to adapt to climate change should be enhanced simultaneously,

Recognizing that forest ecosystems have a special role to play in the accumulation of carbon in the soil and trees, and then in the pool of harvested wood product serving as alternative materials with a smaller carbon footprint,

Sharing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests’ vision of a world where all types of forests and trees outside forests are sustainably managed, and recognizing that multifunctional and sustainable forest management is a form of nature protection as well as a keystone in achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks,

Stressing that forest ecosystems have various functions – economic, social and environmental, and inter alia offer valuable non-wood products and are a source of livelihood for local communities,

Building on milestone documents such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, the UN Strategic Plan for Forests, as well as other global and regional initiatives regarding forest ecosystems,

1. Pledge to work together to accelerate our collective actions aimed at ensuring that global forest carbon stocks are maintained and further enhanced by 2050.

2. Encourage the scientific community, including the IPCC, to explore and quantify the contribution of sinks and reservoirs to achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.

3. Finally affirm that there is no future without tackling climate change, but there is no future without forests either.