I am in Durban, South Africa at the Seventeenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-17).  These annual negotiations address issues of great importance for developed and developing countries (e.g. finance, technology transfer, adaptation, mitigation, reducing deforestation, capacity building) during the two weeks.  On the margins of COP-17, USAID has organized and participated in several side events at the U.S. Center that address climate change issues in the context of development.

Women Farmers in Kenya Holding Tree Seedlings. Photo Credit: Andrea Athanas (AWF)

Developing countries are key partners in achieving success toward climate-resilient, low emissions development.  For this reason, in December 2009 at COP-15 in Copenhagen, President Obama and the leaders of other developed countries agreed to provide up to $30 billion in Fast Start Financing between 2010-2012 to help developing countries address climate change mitigation and adaptation.   The U.S. government is committed to providing our share of the $30 billion.

Last week I joined U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change  Jonathan Pershing and OPIC President Elizabeth Littlefield at a side event on Fast Start Financing to discuss how we are meeting this commitment in a transparent manner.  Working across Agencies, the United States has recently released our FY 2011 report on Fast Start Financing which details U.S. assistance in adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable forestry.  The report details U.S. Fast Start Financing in FY 2011 and our contributions toward advancing progress in climate change globally.

Beyond financing, another key challenge for developing countries is reducing emissions sustainably while at the same time promoting economic growth and protecting marginalized groups. Since the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in many developing countries is deforestation and forest degradation, reducing these destructive trends can have a powerful impact on both GHG emissions and local quality of life.  Many communities in developing countries depend on forests for their livelihoods, so the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) has to be balanced with helping people meet their basic needs and improve their livelihoods.

At another side event last week, we highlighted how women farmers in Kenya, who are critically connected to forests, are balancing many priorities to care for their families and promoting forest stewardship at the same time. But because women and other marginalized groups are too often left out of REDD+ planning and decision making, global REDD+ efforts must make progress toward creating sustainable, inclusive and equitable access in order to be impactful. The U.S. Government’s REDD+ Strategy emphasizes the importance of social and environmental soundness.  USAID is looking for ways to make sure social considerations, including how REDD+ might impact women and other vulnerable groups, are part of the discussion.

For more information about U.S. participation at COP-17, see:  www.state.gov/cop17