Carbon Trading has potential to save the rainforests

05 December 2007

While deforestation in tropical countries is often driven by the paradigm that forests are worth more dead than alive, the emerging market for carbon credits could radically alter the situation.


Researchers claim people in forested regions of developing countries could earn substantially more from carbon offsetting if forests were left intact and incorporated in such a system.


Carbon offsetting involves companies in developed countries calculating their total emissions and then purchasing so-called carbon credits from emission reduction projects in order to offset their impact on the environment.


A study presented at the United Nations (UN) conference on climate change in Bali, Indonesia finds European buyers of carbon credits are currently paying around $35 (£17) for an offset tied to a one-ton reduction in carbon.


It suggests forested communities could exploit the demand in order to provide an alternative and more substantial source of income to deforestation.


The report, which looked at the financial gains generated from deforestation in areas of south-east Asia, central Africa and the Amazon Basin over a period of between ten and 20 years, finds ventures which prompted the destruction of forests rarely generated more than $5 (£2.40) for every ton of carbon they released and frequently returned less than $1 (£0.50).


According to the Partnership for Tropical Forest Margins, a global partnership of organisations that aims to tackle deforestation and poverty which led the research, rewarding communities for carbon stored in their forests could help reduce the number of trees cut down for economic gain.


"Deforestation is almost always driven by a rational response to what the market values and for some time now, it has just made more financial sense to many people in forested areas to cut down the trees," said Brent Swallow, head of the study.


"What we discovered is that returns for deforestation are generally so paltry that if farmers and other land users were rewarded for the carbon stored in their trees and forests, it is highly likely that a large amount of deforestation and carbon emissions would be prevented," he added



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