Science - December 16, 2015

Climate agreement puts puzzle pieces together

Rob Ramaker

The climate agreement concluded in Paris offers reason for optimism according to Martin Herold. All the practical puzzle pieces of recent years are finally fitted into a larger plan.

Counteracting deforestation in the tropics is one of the weapons against climate change. Photo: Lubasi

In Paris Martin Herold, professor geo-informatics and remote sensing,  experienced his tenth climate conference. In the previous years he was sometimes really optimistic, for example when developing countries – that do not participate with the Kyotoprotocol – started joining. But there were also low points such as the failure of the climate agreement in Copenhagen. All progress in detail, for example deforestation, has never been part of a broader agreement .

Such a framework is now present, says Herold. ‘That is a big deal, a big step after all those little steps. You do not often see that 195 countries agree.’ According to the professor, COP21  had a larger success because it is a bottom-up agreement; countries were allowed to bring forth own ideas. Furthermore, this time social organizations and companies explicitly joined. ‘This agreement, makes the little steps that we had already made far more valuable’, he says. Finally a framework is used to work towards goals.

You do not often see that 195 countries agree
Martin Herold, professor geo-informatics and remote sensing

This time forests have a prominent position in the agreement. Both preventing deforestation and sustainable management. Herold thinks that Wageningen UR can help to prevent deforestation. For example, it must be monitored that indeed no tropical rainforest is being cut during production manufacturing operations of companies that have promised to combat deforestation.

Herold also hopes that some disciplines will work together. For example combating deforestation and climate friendly agriculture have a lot in common. At the one hand effective agriculture makes it less necessary for farmers to mine new ground. But tropical agriculture profits in many ways also from healthy forests in the surrounding.  ‘Wageningen UR must also want to be a world leader in these types of domain combinations.’

Despite his optimism, Herold remains cautious about the future.  ‘Now that an agreement has been made, I wonder what will happen’, he says. ‘A lot of work still needs to be done. Now we must actually do something.’