The U.S. Secret Service and the press are on higher alert with the arrival of U.S. congressional delegations at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poznan as the second week of the conference gets underway. While the official Bush delegation is remaining low-profile — even evading questions at today’s press conference — most Democratic congressional teams are pitching better times just around the corner on Capitol Hill.

One of the hottest topics of the conference is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation — REDD. Getting policy discussions underway in the coming year is a top priority for environmentalists heading toward the Copenhagen conference in December 2009. REDD has had a rocky time the last few days here, however, with major U.S. environmental groups petitioning the convention to free it from the shackles of a technical panel. If it is released, the good news is that the approaches of the UNFCCC and the U.S. seem to be converging on some issues (despite U.S. delegation chief Harlan Watson’s admission in today’s press conference that he didn’t know the details of the U.S. position on REDD).

Provisions of REDD were part of the major Senate climate bill discussed earlier this year. In November, many members of the House of Representatives released a draft set of principles for their version of climate legislation, and it also contained REDD provisions. This is important because in early 2009, at the request of President-elect Barack Obama, Congress will draft legislation to reduce U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It is very likely that this new draft legislation will contain REDD provisions.

In the U.S. legislative debate, market and non-market sources of funding have been part of the REDD provisions. Non-market funding, such as revenue from setting aside a portion of allowances, can be used to help developing countries do the necessary preparation to reduce deforestation. Market funding can pay for reductions once a country establishes its monitoring system, its emissions baseline, and a plan for reducing deforestation and channeling money down to the ground. A market and non-market REDD package is essential because national circumstances differ, country capacity varies greatly, and successfully tackling the problem of deforestation will require vast amounts of money for many decades. The Poznan delegates need to move forward on this and stop making excuses.

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