SPECIAL REPORT: Live from Copenhagen

Snapshots from our reporter first day at the global climate conference

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In a series of special reports provided exclusively to BACKPACKER, Letitia Webster takes us inside the meetings currently underway at the global climate conference in Copenhagen. Letitia is the director of corporate sustainability and marketing for The North Face and one of the leading thinkers in the outdoor industry about reducing the carbon footprint of the products we play with outside. Our very own Berne Broudy, the usual author of this blog has worked extensively alongside Letitia on the industry’s sustainability panel. (Berne is on assignment in Laos until next week.)


The conference is a lesson in chaos theory. There are literally hundreds of things going on at once, including a 60,000-person demonstration that shut the city down, including the metro for several hours. A mix between a tradeshow, sustainability conference, and a policy/government wonkfest, there are opportunities to learn and share constantly. Two highlights from my first day on Saturday included a session on REDD and a panel with National Wildlife Federation President, Larry Schweiger.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is the proposed provision that will compensate countries who are willing and able to reduce emissions from deforestation. There are a wide variety of proposals within REDD, but the overall objective is to create policy and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and the role of conservation, sustainable forestry, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. In the negotiations to date, REDD seems to be the one provision moving quickly through COP15 [the acronym by which this conference is known]. Some discussions have been centered around forestry offsets, which allow individuals and companies to offset some of their carbon footprint with tree planting or potentially by not cutting down the trees. Obviously, creating standardization in measuring, auditing, and reporting are big issues, but everyone agrees that to maintain the biodiversity and carbon sinks provided by forests, we must offer incentives to clear-cutting. Check out the Global Canopy Programme for more details.

I was also able to meet up with the National Wildlife Federation delegation to discuss some of their concerns and hopes for the conference and to hear their President, Larry Schweiger, present his new book, Last Chance; Preserving Life on Earth. NWF is seeing widespread wildlife migration issues due to climate change, which are having such serious impacts on wildlife habitat and migration patterns that land set aside to protect corridors and home ranges is now not able to completely accommodate the changing cycles and pressures. According to Schweiger, “40 to 70 percent of all species could be extinct within our children’s’ lifetimes, if no action is taken.” NWF is here in Copenhagen to push for strong global emissions targets to hopefully slow this migration and potential extinction down.

Stay tuned for more from the Bella Conference Center in Copenhagen, which is buzzing with anxiety and anticipation.

– Letitia Webster

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