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IELP Goes to Copenhagen

2009 December 6
by ericathorson

Professors Chris Wold and Erica Thorson of Lewis & Clark Law School’s International Environmental Law Project (IELP), Professor Melissa Powers, and five Lewis & Clark law students are traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to participate in the climate change negotiations. IELP will be working with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to negotiate a new agreement to address climate change.

IELP will be focusing on negotiations to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD). IELP is an observer organization of the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA), a coalition of NGOs working on REDD-related issues. In preparation for the negotiations, IELP students have begun unraveling the complicated legal questions related to land tenure that arise from the REDD negotiations. Land tenure is an important factor in the REDD negotiations for a number of reasons. First, clarified land tenure is a critical factor in the success or failure of forest conservation projects. Second, without transparent and accessible land tenure regimes that incorporate customary land tenure, forest dependent communities’ interests may be marginalized in project design and development, implementation, and benefit-sharing.

In addition, IELP has been reviewing the implications of various definitions, such as “forest” and “sustainable forest management,” as well as the establishment of deforestation baselines, in a REDD mechanism. These definitions will greatly influence whether any REDD agreement will grant carbon credits for converting natural forest to plantations. The baselines will help determine whether countries can get carbon credit even where deforestation rates increase—a possibility that apparently already exists under an arrangement between Norway and Guyana.

A second element of IELP’s climate change work involves sectoral approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sectoral approaches that mandate innovative solutions to greenhouse gas emissions in specific economic sectors or industries, such as the transportation sector or cement industry, have the potential to transform business as usual and eliminate competitiveness concerns if such agreements are broadly applied.

IELP’s great work is in no small part attributable to its students. Though more students worked on these important climate-change projects, the five students (Rebecca Hoyt, Megan Lemire, Michael Liu, Robyn Shelby, and Bobbie Traverso/Estes) who are traveling with Professors Wold, Thorson, and Powers to Copenhagen to represent IELP at COP15 will update readers of this blog daily on their projects, the negotiations, and other important Copenhagen events and happenings. In addition, we are particularly grateful to Paul Shinkawa, a Lewis & Clark Law School alum, whose contributions through 3P NRGY LLC & BioNRGY LLC made this trip possible. BioNRGY LLC is the developer of biomass systems using cellulosic feedstock to generate electricity and a bio-oil that may be reformed for fuel or used to power turbines for power generation. 3P NRGY LLC develops renewable energy projects in British Columbia, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Stay tuned . . .

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