Simple joys

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Planting a tree is a beautiful, simple gesture. I was moved watching the Nobel Peace Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai plant a tree with Kathy Sierra, World Bank Vice President and Head of the Sustainable Development Network, on the margins of the UN Climate Change Conference. Yesterday, the Green Belt Movement, Prof Maathai’s organization, and the World Bank signed a carbon emission reductions agreement: they will plant trees and the Bank will pay for the carbon reductions thus obtained.

In her speech, Prof Maathai pleaded for a "recognition of forests under the Clean Development Mechanism.” Apparently, said a UNFCCC officer to me, the definition of forests under the CDM is pretty strict: it has to be trees that touch each other, that make up a canopy, it must be trees that would not have been planted there otherwise (for example, as part of a governmental plan), etc. Also keeping the forests uncut does not qualify.

I cannot remember all the details but I now understand why so many people attended the ceremony: the Swiss President, the French Development Agency, the Basque government, to name a few. Each had a hand either in buying the trees, training members of the Green Belt Movement, or financing the World Bank’s fund. If a private company came to me and asked “what should I do to sell my carbon emission reductions?”, I now know that they will have to do more than simply plant a tree.

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