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Climate Deal Contributions Focus On Deforestation Limits

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hundreds of people, from world leaders to scientists, have spent the better part of the week in Paris trying to figure out how to put the brakes on global warming. Today, they agreed to a draft deal that has a ways to go before being finalized. Scientists say that 2015 looks to be the warmest year on record. And that trend will continue, so there's a sense of urgency in Paris. NPR's Christopher Joyce joins us. Chris, thanks for being with us.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: People from almost 200 nations in the world are there. What's it like?

JOYCE: A little bizarre, I think. I mean, I think of it as kind of a medieval city here. Inside, you've got the nobility, if you would. The official delegates and their advisers are hammering away at a treaty, arguing over every comma and semicolon. But outside the wall, it's more like a market day with the activists and salesmen hawking their wares, people selling solar panels and wind turbines. There are mayors here, who are talking about putting up green buildings and city bike paths and... But everybody is actually just waiting to hear what the delegates inside are going to come up with.

SIMON: They'll be there another week. What can you tell about what's going on inside so far?

JOYCE: It's been slow. They do have a draft now, and that was expected. It's full of caveats and full of conditions. It's, after all, not easy to remake the world's energy economy. And it's not going to be cheap either. And everyone is worried, you know, that doing this is going to hurt their economy. So the text is still a mess. And it's now up to senior ministers to fix that. At the same time, everyone's happy and they're having a sort of pep rally now. And they call it Action Day. And everyone in - is showing off what they're doing to attack climate change.

SIMON: And what are some of the things they're proposing?

JOYCE: Well, for developed countries, it's mostly switching from fossil fuels - oil, gas, coal - to things like wind and solar power, making cars, vehicles, buildings more energy efficient. For a lot of the developing countries though, the question is more like, how do we contribute to lowering emissions? And for many, the answer is forests because they have trees - lots of them. Trees suck up carbon dioxide, the biggest greenhouse gas, and they're like a sponge. But when you burn them and cut them down, you put carbon back up into the air. So I talked with a forestry expert, Jason Funk, from a conservation group called the Union of Concerned Scientists. And he says that what many countries could do is just not cut down or burn their forests.

JASON FUNK: For almost 60 countries, that's that majority of their emissions. So if they're going to contribute to emissions reductions globally, they're looking to those activities as a way to do it.

SIMON: Those activities mean saving forests instead of clearing them to grow things or for timber.

JOYCE: Right, right. I mean, of course doing that means that they'll lose income from those forests, from timber and from agriculture that would have replaced the forest. So they want to get paid for not cutting down the forests. And in the past, this has been a very difficult thing to convince the Western countries to do, is to pay for not cutting down forests. But for the first time in many years of negotiating, it now looks as if this might actually be part of this new climate deal. But we won't know until the end of next week.

SIMON: Chris, is there a pronounced split that you can discern there between developing countries and their interests and the more affluent parts of the world?

JOYCE: Indeed, with India, in particular, taking notice that they and others in the developing world have not had a chance at the luxury of developing as we have using coal and oil and fossil fuels. And, you know, this is the first time actually since the Kyoto treaty that the developing countries have promised to do - lower their emissions - and they want something in return. And that's where the friction is. How much do they get?

SIMON: NPR's Chris Joyce in Paris. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOYCE: A pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.