What will Tanzania get in return for a charcoal compromise?3 comments
Climate change is a complex web of problems and solutions, in which everything is connected and for which global agreements must fit with local realities.
Take Tanzania. Its vulnerability to climate change is high yet its contribution to the problem is low. Meanwhile, the potential for its forests to be part of the solution hangs in the balance.
This is because last month in Cancún, Mexico, nearly 200 governments agreed the foundations of system known as REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).
REDD would reward countries like Tanzania if they protect their forests because they store carbon and prevent it reaching the atmosphere where it can contribute to climate change.
But as Charles Meshack, the executive director of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, points out, over 87 percent of Tanzania’s population depends on charcoal and wood for cooking and heating and this puts immense pressure on the country’s woodlands.
Tanzania’s environment minister Terezya Luoga Huvisa, says it will not easy for African governments to protect their forests when they are their people’s only source of energy.
“In Tanzania we do not have an alternative source of energy, therefore we can’t stop our people from using wood or charcoal since that is their only source of energy. It’s their life,” she said during an interview in Cancún.
“Developed countries cannot survive without industries and developing countries also cannot survive without charcoal,” she added. “So we have reached a point at which we must compromise.”
That compromise could come in the form of finance and technology that developed nations could provide to enable countries like Tanzania to develop cleaner sources of energy.
The Cancún meeting – the 16th conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – also saw the creation of a Green Climate Fund and an agreement on transfer of climate-friendly technologies from industrialised to developing nations.
And as Dr Markku Kanninen of Center for International Forest Research points out, the REDD agreement on forests would not mean that countries have to stop using charcoal altogether.
Under REDD, countries and communities could be rewarded financially if they manage their forests in a way that means new trees grow faster than old ones are used for charcoal of firewood.
“People should be encouraged to plant more trees for charcoal and donors can support such programs,” says Kanninen. “Forest conservation is a responsibility of all people not only forest departments.”