First day at COP21 – Three first side events

By Simon Lhoest

Hi IFSA Community!

Here is my report for the first day of COP21 in Paris! Unfortunately, we were not allowed to assist at the opening ceremony. Thousands of people are present in Le Bourget and we have observers’ badges, allowing us to access only at some key events during the conference. At the site of COP21, there are several halls with a lot of rooms dedicated to exhibits, conferences on key topics, meetings, TV interviews and press reporters. The main interesting activities that we can share with you are side events: these are conferences of 1.5 hours consisting of key speakers’ presentations followed by Q/A. Here is a short resume of the three side events that I have followed today.



The first side event was about the key issues of COP21, especially for developing countries. The main objective of this COP is to know where we are going in terms of global temperature increase for the future. This is also the occasion to revise the previous agreements and to deal with adaptation as a consequence of climate change (notably for losses and damages), even if the possible actions are quite limited. Su Wei, the representative of China, also insisted on the importance of developed countries responsibility in historical GHG emissions. They consequently have the duty to use technologies and funding to help developing countries for limiting poverty and climate change. New agreements will definitively be based on climate justice (i.e. climate finance). This concept is not the same as solidarity, but just an application of historical responsibilities. However, negotiators only have three days to make an agreement on those points. The Prime Minister of India, Ravi Prasad, also added that developing countries already have ambitious programs to limit their GHG emissions but they are not still enough to stay below a global increase of 2 degrees. The use of previous funds allowed from developed countries to developing ones is not clear and will have to be explained in details in future negotiations.



The second side event that I followed was a debate around concrete projects linked to REDD+ framework at the interface of biodiversity, climate change and human rights. Presentations were focusing on the cases of Madagascar, Brazil and Indonesia. The island of Madagascar is currently in a concrete phase for REDD+ development, for diverse types of ecosystems: mangroves, restored forests, etc. In Brazil, some local initiatives show that a real coalition between local stakeholders is possible to reduce deforestation. Even if illegal activities continue and no commitment for restoration of forests is taken, the rate of deforestation in Brazilian Amazon rainforest is really lower (more than 80% lower) that in the beginning of the century. However, the Cerrado forests are today more deforested that Amazonian forest in Brazil. In Indonesia, annually deforested areas reached more than 800,000 hectares in 2012, mainly because of palm oil plantations. The RSPO certification is currently applied in some of the palm oil exploited areas.



The third and last side event for me on Monday the 30th November was analyzing the opportunity of climate change to accelerate integration and development of Africa. This continent is heavily impacted by climate change, mainly with intense droughts and floods. Generally, droughts in a zone are counterbalanced by higher crops productions in other regions. There is therefore a high necessity to integrate and optimize the system of crops production and trade at an adapted scale. For the future, it will also be necessary to work more on risks assessment. The observing systems have to be improved. Indeed, for example, climatic data are not sufficient among the whole continent to rely on robust statistic analyses. There is also a high necessity to make a junction between scientists and institutions dealing with climate challenges.

Do not hesitate to make comments and stay connected to follow our news every day during this decisive conference!



Meet the delegation!

COP 21 (2)

Only a few hours until COP21 will officially start and our week 1 delegation will be at the heart of the action in Paris.

Meet Simeon, Eva, Simon, Olivia, and Jakob:

Simeon Max

Hi, or bonjour, IFSA people!

My name is Simeon, I’m from Germany, currently studying Forestry and Wood Science in my master’s at TU Munich. I’m focussing on international forestry and integrated land use solutions where trees can play a crucial role in the greater land use coSimeonncept. For example, this summer I’ve worked on a project that aims to integrating tree plantings in the palm oil matrix in Borneo, Indonesia. At COP21, I will follow current discussions regarding REDD+, agroforestry and ecosystem restoration. I am interested in monitoring techniques using modern technologies to increase transparency and to ensure a project’s consistent fulfillment of its goals over time. I further want to explore how communities can monitor their projects and thus increase their overall engagement in the projects’ economic, but also ecological objectives.

It will be a great pleasure to inform you about what I will learn and experience here in Paris and I hope you keep following our blog!

Best forestry greetings,


Eva von Schönebeck

Hey IFSA world,

My name is Eva, I am German and I study Forest- and Wood science in my master at the Technical University Munich.Eva

I joined IFSA 4 years ago and already could attend some international conferences. Through this I gained more and more interested in forestry on an international level and especially in climate change related topics.

If you are asking me why, I can just tell you because forests are awesome and one of the bests “weapons” we have to fight climate change. Not just because of its storing carbon but also due to many other ecosystem services like flood control or providing a habitat.

Also I like being outside in the nature and just enjoy the forests for all its beauty.

Simon Lhoest

Hi IFSA-members!

I am Simon, from Belgium. I was President of IFSA Belgium Local Committee in 2014-2015, and have today the immense pleasure to be part of the IFSsimonA Delegation for COP21 in Paris! I have just finished my Bioengineer Master in Forests and Natural Areas Management in Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (University of Liège) and I am now beginning a PhD thesis on ecosystem services and biodiversity assessment in Cameroonian tropical forests.

My motivation to participate to COP21 is a better understanding of all of the negotiations, challenges and stakes between countries pertaining to climate change. Participation at such an international conference could lead me to see how decision makers organise their discussions, arguments and attain a global agreement. All of those procedures and arguments constitute for me a vitally important demonstration of the decisions making process at an international level and could have a significant impact on my future career choices. It would also be very rewarding to share this experience with other students in forestry sciences from all over the world. In addition to meeting many people of diverse origins, it is a perfect opportunity to discuss and argue on a variety of topics of mutual interest. Arguing different points of view and exposure to other cultures is for me essential.

I hope that I will be a good representative for you!


Olivia Sanchez Badini

Hello, IFSA world!

My name is Olivia and I will be part of the IFSA delegation attending COP21 during week one. My hometown is beautiful Mexico City, and I am currently based in the US pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. My focus is on the relationship between human health and nature in urban environments, and the implications for urban planning & design, climate change mitigation & adaptation, and ecosystem service financing. I am passionate about animal rights, and the landscape-level issue of animal agriculture and climate change.


This is the first time I attend COP, and feel very honoured to be representing IFSA in this milestone event! I look forward to following the negotiations up close. But in addition to what happens with the new Paris Agreement and the closed-door negotiations, COP21 promises to be a hub of activity for all climate-related organizations, initiatives, and projects around the world – an opportunity to come together to challenge paradigms, propose new ideas, and demand solid action from our governments and from within our own communities. The climate marches that took place all over the world are just an example of the inspiring momentum around COP21 right now.

Many of these initiatives will be in the form of side events at the COP21 venue and other parts of Paris. Three thematic areas I am interested in and will be reporting about include:

1) Climate change mitigation in cities. The world is becoming urbanized at an increasingly faster rate: by 2030, the global urban area will triple. And by 2050, 3 billion more people could be living in cities. The choices we make now in planning these cities are of the uttermost importance for minimizing heat island effects, decreasing GHG emissions, and improving human health and wellbeing.

2) Animal rights and climate change mitigation. I feel passionately about this not only from an animal rights and social justice perspective, but because the global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector and produces more GHG emissions than the entire transport sector combined (the va
st amounts of deforested lands for animal agriculture plays a big role in this). This is a great example of a landscape-level issue, where land use being at the centre-stage.

3) Human rights and climate change, including the rights of underrepresented peoples, indigenous peoples, and women. Climate change is a social justice issue, and any climate treaty has to uphold human rights and incorporate clear safeguard measures to avoid human rights violations, shifting away from prevailing power structures that have so far dominated a discourse of inequality and displacement.

Looking forward to sharing COP21 updates with you!


Jakob Hörl


Hey, I’m Jakob from Germany and am currently finishing my Master studies in Forest Sciences at Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany.

I have been actively involved in IFSA for more than 6 years now! This has provided me with so many cool opportunities, good friendships and nice experiences,  which have also largely influenced my direction of studies and life in general. Actually, precisely 6 years ago I attended COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was my first international conference and I was also part of the official IFSA delegation back then. Now, the COP21 will be most likely my last conference as student and I am happy that I can represent IFSA once more at such an important event.
In my studies I have mostly focussed on aspects of international forestry and forest policies. A nine-months fellowship program at the UNECE/FAO Forest and Timber Section in Geneva, Switzerland provided me with insight and practical experience on how forest politics work.
Most recently, I am interested in carbon markets and what potential they provide to help finance forestry and land-use projects. I believe that forests and landscapes naturally play a large role in the global carbon cycle. It is now up to us forest experts to promote their importance and alternative solution to fight climate change.
For the COP21 I have quite high expectations and am still hopeful that the international community will manage to come to a groundbreaking agreement. I guess we will only be able to tell in two weeks time! If the decisions taken in Paris will reverse climate change at the end, only our children or grand-children can tell.”


IFSA in Paris

The past week(s) have been filled with heavy news of tragedies occurring all around the world. While we are saddened for our collective world, we are especially sensitive to the attacks which happened in Paris, since IFSA members will be joining the climate events over the next few weeks. We believe it is important to have a strong youth presence at the events and commit to meaningful dialogue, openness and collaborative understanding as we embark for Paris to represent the voices of youth studying forests and related sciences.

We invite you to remain engaged with this important event through our social media channels and through this blog.

Prepping for Paris— COP 21: The Basics


There has been a lot of talk about the “climate change talks in Paris” and a great deal of excitement within IFSA about our delegates to COP 21, the GLF, and the COY! But…as students and young professionals in forestry, how much do we know about this international process? Are we aware of the proposals to be negotiated or what international climate change legislation may look like in 2015?

It can be very difficult to keep up with it all, so the IFSA LC at the University of British Columbia (UBC) hosted an event to clear up any confusion–“Prepping for Paris: What does COP 21 mean to you?” This panel discussion was shared through a livestream this past week and brought together individuals from industry, academia, and IFSA to summarize and share the issues of COP 21. For all those who could not attend, I hope to share the key points brought up during this excellent session of knowledge sharing!

What Will Be Addressed at COP 21??

Many of us know that limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is an important marker and a target for climate change policy. To provide some context, we are set to reach the halfway marker to this threshold – 1 degree – by the end of 2015.  At COP 21 (the gathering of all states in this decision making body) being held in Paris from Nov 30-Dec 11, the goal is to create the first legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees.

  1. Forming the “Mixed Bag” of INDCs–The approach for this year’s legislation is likened to “flipping the Kyoto protocol on its head.” Rather than mandating emission targets, the UNFCCC has shifted to a bottom up approach – where each country is asked what they are willing to contribute. This declaration is known as a countries INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution). Essentially, the combination of each countries INDC forms a “mixed bag” of contributions that is reflective of each nation’s unique circumstances and capabilities. In this ‘bottom-up world,’ national policy-setting (a crucial component to effective implementation) is paired with a global framework that commits to a united and collective path forward.
    1. Update: The deadline for country INDC submission has passed and as it currently stands, if all of these efforts are added up and fully implemented…this effort will not limit warming to 2.5-2.7 degrees, beyond the ‘danger zone.’
    2. Since the INDCs have not met the target, a new proposal to have each country re-evaluate their INDC and “ratchet up” commitment will be negotiated. Hopeful through “ratcheting up” goals and commitments every 5 years, the global effort can successful limit warming.
  2. Climate Finance – Currently, there is no standard international definition for climate finance. This has resulted in each country individually defining this term and, subsequently, blurred lines between development and climate funds. This year, we should expect to see efforts to develop mechanisms for mobilizing and defining climate finance, a number that stands at $35 million for 2015.
  3. Mitigation & Adaptation –Past negotiations have greatly centered on mitigating carbon emissions. But, as we are already seeing the adverse effects of global warming through stronger storms and rising sea levels, you can expect to see adaptation enter the discussions at COP 21. When the impacts of global warming hit, they hit the most vulnerable members of our society the hardest. There is no doubt that the negative impacts are disproportionate, therefore successful international collaboration to this cause will require a new focus and importance placed on climate adaptation. This requires backing research into innovative methods as well as program implementation for strengthening community resilience.
  4. Compliance – Lastly, how will we comply? How will countries be held accountable? These questions must be answered! The development of a compliance mechanism is critical because, as Jennifer stated during the UBC presentation, you cannot “put toddlers in a sandbox and declare ‘I’m leaving, so everyone play nice.’”

These issues are just 4 of many to be addressed at COP 21, but progress in these fields will be what define Paris as a success! There is no doubt that COP 21 already signifies the beginning of global action and hopefully the outcomes of this UN process will set the world in the right direction.

Please comment, question, and provide your viewpoint on any of the topics brought up. What do you think, is this the right approach? Do you prefer a top-down or bottom-up method with climate legislation? Is there another issue that hasn’t been highlighted that should be discussed? This is our time to develop and share our own opinions and contribute to this discussion!

Looking forward to seeing some of you in Paris and sharing this experience with all of you around the world.

Best wishes,

Salina Abraham

**This was a summary of Jennifer Allan’s excellent presentation – Writer and editor for IISD Earth Negotiation Bulletin, PhD Candidate at UBC


We need you!

On 30/11/2015 time will have come. World leaders, diplomats, high profile scientist, and hundreds of international NGO’s will gather in Paris for COP21. This year’s COP will be crucial as the aim is to achieve a legally binding agreement, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and subsequently limit global warming below 2°C.

The IFSA delegation will be attending many events during the two weeks of COP, constantly trying to keep you up to date on what is going on in Paris. In order to improve your COP experience and report about topics of your interest, we would love to hear each of your opinions and thoughts on how you want to experience this conference.

Please help us by taking a few minutes of your time and answer the survey (only three questions!) in the link below. Note, the survey will be open to answer until November 24th.

Click here to answer the survey!

Thanks for your cooperation!

Nic, Salina & The International Processes Commission