photo: Eric Molina via flickr
Though there's growing agreement that protecting the world's forests from deforestation and degradation is a crucial component of combatting climate change, there is some serious squabbling however over whether to allow industrial nations to offset their pollution by preserving forests elsewhere in the world will be effective and is the right approach philosophically. Recently a broad coalition of environmental groups presented a consensus statement to climate negotiators in Bonn which asserts that forest carbon offsets will do not help forests:Forest-based Carbon Offsets Socially Just Climate Policy
The coalition, which includes nearly 50 environmental groups, including green heavyweights The Wilderness Society, Global Witness, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Wetlands International, Friends of the Earth, (Mongabay has the full list and the full coalition statement), says that,
Any form of carbon offsetting, including CDM afforestation/reforestation and REFF offset projects will only increase the ecological footprint and carbon debt of developed countries and must thus be avoided. Due to a broad range of ethnical, social and methodological risks, forest-based carbon offsets will undermine an effective, equitable and socially just climate regime. Climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management must be based on different mindsets with full respect for Nature, and not on carbon offset mechanisms. Public funding mechanisms that ensure environmental integrity and equitable distribution of funds must be made established.
45% Emissions Reductions by 2020
Furthermore the coalition calls upon developed nations to "recognize the historical debt to developing countries caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions;" and to commit to 45% reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 95% reductions by 2050. Plus, provide sufficient funding for developing nations to help stop the destruction of forests.
A Hybrid Approach is Needed
Back in March, Greenpeace released their analysis of the effect of including forest offsets into international carbon markets. They found that this would effectively depress carbon prices by 75%, reducing the very funding for green investment that forest offsets are intended to generate. This isn't to say that avoided deforestation schemes aren't a good thing, only that linking them to international carbon markets is counterproductive, and that a hybrid approach is needed.
Offset Programs Can Make Forest Worth More Standing Than Chopped Down
This is countered somewhat by recent analysis in the journal Conservation Letters that shows, at least in Borneo, carbon offsetting could work to stop deforestation there—the money from offsets being more than from converting forest to oil palm plantations.
Will Too Much Bickering Result in Inaction?
My heart is with the coalition. There's a large part of me that thinks that offsetting emissions in the developed world by preserving forests elsewhere doesn't recognize that the sources of that pollution and the way of life that depends on them needs to evolve to something more sustainable. Also, the emission reductions proposals in this document are far more in line with what climate scientists say are required to keep temperature rise to a minimum
However, we must slow and eventually stop deforestation and forest degradation, full stop. And there is the small pragmatic demon on my shoulder whispering in my ear that if we bicker too long the moment for action will have passed.
What do TreeHugger readers think?
Deforestation & Forest Degradation
Including Forest Protection in Carbon Markets Will Harm Emissions Reductions Efforts
Rainforest Preservation Can Be More Profitable Than Palm Oil Plantations
Missing the Trees for the Forest: Carbon Emissions from Forest Degradation Can be Just as Bad as From Deforestation