World Bank says carbon trading will save rainforests
October 23, 2006
[Related update]

Monday the World Bank endorsed carbon trading as a way to save tropical rainforests increasingly threatened by logging, agricultural development, subsistence agriculture, and climate change itself.

In its report, "At Loggerheads? Agricultural Expansion, Poverty Reduction and Environment in the Tropical Forests", the bank estimates that deforested land worth $200-500 per hectare as pasture could be worth $1,500-$10,000 if left as intact forest and used to offset carbon emissions from industrialized countries.

"The trees are worth more alive, storing carbon, than they would be worth if burned and transformed to unproductive fields," says Kenneth Chomitz, lead author of a new World Bank report on tropical forests. "Right now, people living at the forest's edge can't tap that value."

Deforestation in Madagascar

Most "tropical rainforest", 2005.
These rankings are estimates.

2Congo, Dem Rep
6Papua New Guinea
13French Guiana
Globally around 800 million people live in or around vulnerable forests or woodlands, depending on them heavily for subsistence. Marginal agriculture and fuelwood collection are significant sources of deforestation in the tropics. Currently these populations see no benefit from existing carbon trading markets, which do not reward forestholders for reduced emissions from avoided deforestation. Presently about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation.

"Global carbon finance can be a powerful incentive to stop deforestation," said François Bourguignon, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Development Economics at the World Bank. "Compensation for avoiding deforestation could help developing countries to improve forest governance and boost rural incomes, while helping the world at large to mitigate climate change more vigorously."

The World Bank report comes on the heels of a proposal by a coalition of developing countries to seek compensation from industrialized countries for conserving their rainforests to fight global warming. Brazil is expected to announce a similar plan at upcoming climate talks in Nairobi.

Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the initiative attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people and preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development experts have already endorsed the idea.

"Avoided deforestation has great potential both in the struggle against global warming and as a means of maintaining Amazonian forest with all of its environmental services, of which carbon storage is only one," Dr. Philip Fearnside, a Research Professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon in Manaus, told in an interview. "The proposals by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations and by Brazil's Ministry of the Environment are certainly positive."

"It's potentially a win-win situation for everybody involved," said William F. Laurance, a leading rainforest biologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in a statement earlier this year. "The forests win, the atmosphere wins, the international community wins, and developing nations struggling to overcome poverty win."

The World Bank report says that poverty alleviation should be part of the carbon trading-forest conservation framework.

"Now is the time to reduce pressures on tropical forests through a comprehensive framework that integrates sustainable forest management into the global strategy for mitigating climate change and preserving biodiversity," said Katherine Sierra, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank.

Deforestation in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo
Overall the World Bank estimates that at least 5 percent of the world's tropical forests are cleared each decade.

"That may not sound like much, but that's equivalent to losing an area the size of Portugal every year," Chomitz said. "It means by the middle of the century, vast tropical forests may be reduced to just shreds of what they once were."

According to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world loses about 13 million hectares of forest each year, including 6 million hectares of primary forests. Primary forests -- forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities -- are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. While net deforestation rates -- as measured by total area cleared -- have fallen slightly since the 1990-2000 period, tropical deforestation rates -- as a percentage of total forest cover -- actually increased 8.5 percent since the 1990s. Annual loss of primary forests may have acclereated by 25 percent over the same period.

Steps ahead

Concluding its report, the World Bank offers a simple framework for formulating the poverty-reducing and climate-fighting forest policy. Emphasizing carbon finance as a way to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable agriculture, the bank says the international community must set aside funds for the conservation of "globally significant" biodiversity through the establishment of protected areas and roadless zones. It urges increased transparency on the part of national and local governments and the definition and implementation of simple land use regulations and property rights. The bank encourages the creation of a forest monitoring system which includes remote sensing and the use of independent observers to watch logging concessionaires and protect forestholders against encroachers. Finally, the bank promotes the development of new markets for environmental services to "support more productive, sustainable land management".

"Better institutions for forest management can help bridge the forest transition—preventing deforestation for small and ephemeral gains while providing more sustainable livelihoods," concludes the report.

Avoided deforestation could help fight third world poverty under global warming pact -- 10/31/2006
Avoided deforestation will be a hot point of discussion at next week's climate meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Already a coalition of 15 rainforest nations have proposed a plan whereby industrialized nations would pay them to protect their forests to offset greenhouse gas emissionsm. Meanwhile, last month Brazil -- which has the world's largest extent of tropical rainforests and the world's highest rate of forest loss -- said it promote a similar initiative at the talks. At stake: potentially billions of dollars for developing countries. When trees are cut greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere -- roughly 20 percent of annual emissions of such heat-trapping gases result from deforestation and forest degradation. Avoided deforestation is the concept where countries are paid to prevent deforestation that would otherwise occur. Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the idea attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people and preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development agencies including the World Bank and the U.N. have already endorsed the idea.

Highest deforestation of natural forests, 2000-2005.
Average annual rate of forest loss. All area figures are in hectares. All countries

3Russian Federation-532,200
5Papua New Guinea-250,200
7United States of America-215,200

This article used press materials from the World Bank as well as information from previous articles.

CITATION: (October 24, 2006).

World Bank says carbon trading will save rainforests.