Cash Incentives Needed to Save Rain Forests
BONN, Germany — Developing nations should be paid to preserve tropical rain forests from the Amazon to Africa as part of a drive to slow deforestation and global warming, a Papua New Guinea delegate said on Tuesday.
Most efforts to rein in global warming, widely blamed on a build-up of greenhouse gases, have so far focused on curbing emissions of carbon dioxide from cars, power plants and heavy industries.
"Forests are our assets and should be valued," said Robert Aisi, Papua New Guinea's representative to a two-day 190-nation climate seminar in Bonn on ways to widen the U.N. Kyoto protocol on slowing climate change.
The international treaty sets caps on gas emissions from factories, power plants and cars in developed nations as a step to avert potentially catastrophic climate changes this century and entered into force on Feb. 16 despite a U.S. pullout.
Under the extension plan, farmers in the developing world would get a cash incentive to preserve trees, which soak up greenhouse gases as they grow, rather than sell them to loggers or cut them down to make way for crops.
"The loggers come in and tell villagers we'll give you $10 for your tree -- then they cut it down and sell it for $1,000. Who wins? We lose because we get land degradation. The whole world loses," Aisi told Reuters.
"The commercial value of cutting down our forests is now far higher than retaining them," he said. He said Papua New Guinea's rainforest was third biggest in the world after those in the Amazon and Congo.
A new system would hand out credits to farmers for averting deforestation that could be traded on an international market, mirroring a European Union scheme to squeeze industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.
Details of how forestry credits would be allocated and policed were yet to be worked out, Aisi said.
He added that the scientific panel that advises the United Nations estimated 20-25 percent of global greenhouse gases in the 1990s stemmed from land-use changes, mainly deforestation.
Carbon constitutes about half the weight of a tree, and wood and roots begin to release carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for warming the planet, as soon as they begin to rot.
Aisi said a similar idea for forests had been suggested in vain some years ago. Many countries said it would be impossible to monitor -- trees might simply be cut from another forest.
But Aisi said satellite measurements were more accurate now and could be used to measure the size of all tropical forests to avoid cheating.