Monday, December 07, 2009

Amazon is Best Site for Forest Carbon Investments, Which if Planned Properly Could Also Protect Biodiversity

A new Forest Carbon Index, designed by Resources for the Future and Climate Advisers, aims to help investors identify opportunities to profit from protecting the forest ecosystem service of absorbing the heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide.

Reported in the the British journal, Nature:

Amazon nations will be the early winners in a future market for forest carbon credits, which could grow to US$20 billion annually by 2020, according to a new report.

(T)here is general agreement that the next global climate deal – under negotiation next week in Copenhagen – should include a forest protection plan.

The plan would let rich nations meet their emissions targets in part by investing in forest preservation in developing countries. If the plan goes through, governments will then have to work out where to put their money.

The Forest Carbon Index, released by the environmental think tank Resources for the Future and consultancy firm Climate Advisers, both based in Washington DC, aims to help investors and policy-makers choose between forests around the world.

The index is calculated based on an area's biological potential to store carbon and the local opportunity costs of protecting forests rather than cutting them down for timber, or to clear land for agriculture and grazing. The index also takes into account the investment risk based on each country's capacity to monitor and market its forests, the ease of business, the political stability and local governance conditions.

I like how this study incorporates not only the biological potential of forests to store carbon -- reflecting the measurable ecological process of forest carbon uptake -- but also reflects key weaknesses of forest carbon offsets.

In the past, efforts to use forests in offsets have prompted considerable questions about the long-term stability of protected forests.  For example, how secure are the forests involved in purchased offsets?  What is the likelihood that they will be illegally logged?

This index, which will undoubtedly undergo revision as its inventors track its usefulness and accuracy, will help carbon investors address such questions.

Ideally, efforts to pay communities to protect forests for their carbon storing services will account for the costs required to keep included forest parcels safe from logging.

Read more>>

Efforts will also protect biodiversity

Another benefit of these forest protection schemes, of course, is that they will help protect biodiversity.

However, they must be properly designed if they are to successfully protect this additional -- and crucial -- ecosystem service:

A program aimed at protecting forests in developing countries to save on carbon emissions could also help slow down the rapid loss of the planet's species, say researchers.

But, they add, only if it compromises on the amount of carbon emissions it saves.
Oscar Venter from the University of Queensland in Brisbane and colleagues report their study on the UN-REDD Programme in today's issue of the journal Science.

"Massive increases in biodiversity protection can be achieved at very low cost to carbon outcomes," says Venter, who did the research for his PhD under the supervision of Professor Hugh Possingham and Dr Kerrie Wilson.

Read more about this study>>

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