Under the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement to cut emissions to below 1990 levels that almost everyone apart from the USA has signed up to – there is no incentive for countries to keep their forests standing. It actually makes more sense to clear them and plant new trees under current carbon regulations.
One option that is currently being pushed for by the eight biggest rainforest nations is ‘reduced emissions from deforestation’ or RED. The group, know as the Forest 8 or F8, include Indonesia, Cameroon, Congo, Brazil, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Gabon and Papua New Guinea. Very sensibly, they want to see reductions in emissions from forested areas eligible for global carbon trading.
The scheme will mean that avoided deforestation becomes a major economic incentive for these nations. Indonesia plans to present the case for ‘RED’ at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change being held in Bali in December of this year which Cool Earth will be attending.
There are some concerns that such a scheme will not help all rainforest regions, particularly if it rewards countries who reduce deforestation rates rather than those who have historically protected their forests.
A study published in August 2007 studied the potential impact of RED by looking at 80 tropical countries and placing them into four categories.
- Low forest cover and high deforestation rate
- Low forest cover and low deforestation rate
- High forest cover and high deforestation rate
- High forest cover and low deforestation rate
The study concluded that those countries with high forest cover and low deforestation rates (including Suriname, Gabon and Belize) wouldn’t see anything like the scale of benefits from RED that might be expected. Ironically it is the countries in this group that have been the least destructive in terms of their forest. These countries have an annual carbon emission from deforestation of 3%. In comparison, those benefiting most from the scheme (those with low forest cover and high deforestation) have an annual carbon emission from deforestation of 48%.
The study advocates the use of Preventative Credits to ensure that the deforestation doesn’t shift to the countries that have fewer incentives to maintain their low rates of deforestation. Such a scheme would use a reference emission rate that was equivalent to the global deforestation rate for these countries. The incentive to maintain their low deforestation rate would arise from the forfeit of the credits should their deforestation rates increase. With the gap plugged, these preventative credits could be traded on the same basis as the current credits for industrial emissions.
Such proposals are all being considered by the UK Government’s review of financing options for avoided deforestation and clean energy led by Cool Earth co-founder, Johan Eliasch.
Gustavo A.B. da Fonseca, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Guy Midgley, Jonah Busch, Lee Hannah, Russel A. Mittermeiler, 2007, No Forest Left Behind, PloS Biology 5.8:1645-1646