In conversation with… UNFCCC


Martin Frick, Senior Director for Policy and Programme Coordination at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), moderated a panel discussion on ‘Bamboo and rattan for climate change and green growth’ at the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC). Here, he talks to INBAR about the importance of bamboo as a climate change solution.

You are already very familiar with bamboo. Where did you learn about its climate change potential?

Before [my post with the UNFCCC] I was the Climate and Environment Director of the FAO, which is not only a food and agriculture organisation but also the world forestry organisation. We were looking into combined solutions for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction. Very much like mangroves in coastal regions, bamboo offers a lot of benefits that really combine the SDGs and the climate agenda. FAO foresters are keen on bamboo, so I learned about the possibilities.

Were you surprised by any of the things bamboo can do?

Yes – and no. ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation’ is a fancy name for something people have been doing for thousands of years. Now, we are basically coming back to our roots, but also mixing traditional solutions with hi-tech and new possibilities.

Ecosystem-based approaches are particularly important for least developed countries, because money and capacity is an issue. Bamboo is not only sequestering carbon – it’s available; it’s cheap; and it has the ability to replace other building materials, such as concrete and steel, which gives it a double climate benefit.

There’s also an element of empowerment [for developing countries using bamboo]. You don’t have to be a rich nation to do your share in addressing climate change. And climate change mitigation and adaptation can also create big opportunities for development. For many years there was a wrong impression of trade-offs between climate and development policy. What we see here [at this Congress] is they go hand in hand. The SDGs are just the other side of the climate agenda coin.

Martin Frick speaking in plenary at BARC

If bamboo is a ‘win-win’ solution, why is it not used more frequently?

This is one of my frustrations. Things like bamboo actually do many things in tandem – from the empowerment of rural women, to fighting poverty, climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction, food security, and housing. You would believe that if something ticks so many boxes, it’s very easy to fund! But quite often it’s the contrary. Funding agencies are specialized in very different areas of technical expertise – so if you offer something that works on ten different levels, you might end up not getting funding at all.

Pradeep [Monga, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification] is very right: we always have a difficulty addressing things that are interlinked. We should never forget that all three Rio Conventions belong together. We need to address climate change in context – getting different silos of expertise to come together. Bamboo is a wonderful area where you can actually do this.

What are some aspects of this Congress which have most interested you?

There’s a lack of understanding about how important bamboo building material has become. It’s not just building a hut. You can build high-rise buildings, concert halls, airports, out of bamboo. That’s an absolutely massive opportunity – and this Congress is showing how it’s possible.

Today we also heard that bamboo might be eligible under the Chinese emissions trading scheme. This is very important news.

Currently, a lot of bamboo products use is resin to hold [the material] together. I learned this morning that there are new possibilities to produce resin in a more sustainable way, and that means we can aim for a 100% sustainable product.

What do you want the main message of this Congress to be?

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we have ever had. It’s very serious. But [at events like this Congress] I also see how people get it, and the enormous creativity that is being released under this pressure.

People always think that when we propagate something green and sustainable, it means sacrificing something. It’s actually the contrary. Bamboo is a very nice material – it works just as well [as other materials], and the demand for the raw material can help lift people out of poverty. If people can change this perception, they would see that bamboo is very important, and one of the many steps we need to take to keep this planet habitable for human beings.

Excerpts from an interview conducted with Mr. Frick on Wednesday 27 June, at the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress.

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