Monday, 7 December 2009

Copenhagen climate summit: Ending deforestation key to stopping global warming

Protecting rainforests will be a central part of any climate change deal at Copenhagen.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 8:00AM GMT 06 Dec 2009

Deforestation causes around fifth of greenhouse gas emissions every year, more than all the forms of air and surface transport combined.
This is because trees suck up carbon dioxide as they grow, so every time forests are chopped down it reduces the Earth’s ability to absorb the greenhouse gas.

Therefore if the world wants to reduce emissions, it must stop deforestation.
It is also a relatively easy way to reduce carbon dioxide, compared to the effort required in asking the world to stop driving cars and running factories.
The big question is how do you stop poor people in rainforest nations like Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo chopping down trees to feed their families. Or indeed to produce beef, palm oil and timber to export to countries like Britain.
The answer lies in an innovative scheme that would pay the poor countries not to chop down trees.
REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (Redd) has been talked about for years but the summit at Copenhagen is the first opportunity to see it implemented on a global scale.
Richer countries would need to put forward money to set up the mechanisms such as a satellite monitoring service to ensure countries being paid not to chop down trees are keeping their promises. There will also need to be cash to help provide alternative incomes for people in and around the forests.
WWF is calling for funding of around £27 billion per year by 2020 to keep the forests standing.
The money could be raised by making forests part of the carbon markets. This would mean industries could pay to protect forests to offset some of their pollution. People could even buy ‘forest bonds’ that grow in value over time as polluting becomes more expensive.
However there are serious concerns. Many of the rainforest nations are dogged by corruption and there are fears that the could end up in the wrong hands. If the scheme is not set up correctly it is in danger of causing more deforestation because logging simply shifts elsewhere.
Indigenous people who rely on the forests need to have a say in how their homeland is managed but in many countries they are marginalised.
The Prince of Wales is leading the world in his fight to make sure trees are worth “more alive than dead”.
He points out that trees not only suck up carbon dioxide but provide ‘water services’ by regulating rainfall and ‘ecosystems services’ in maintaining wildlife.
“If we lose the battle against tropical deforestation, we lose the battle against climate change,” he warns.