April 20, 2009
The event, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, is the first of several meetings to promote the potential benefits of forest conservation for U.S. business.
"Forests have a critical role to play in promoting the well-being of both our environment and our economy," Rob Portman, a former U.S. Congressman from Ohio and author of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, told conference attendees. "Forests produce raw materials for many of the products that American consumers buy every day, but they also have the potential to make great reductions to the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere."
Roughly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation — the bulk of which occurs in tropical countries. A proposed mechanism — dubbed REDD for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation — seeks to minimize these emissions by compensating developing nations for preserving their forest cover. Analysts say the scheme — which will be a hot topic of discussion at December's U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen — could reduce the cost of meeting emissions limits under a cap-and-trade system while simultaneously conserving biodiversity, fostering sustainable development activities in rural areas, and engaging the developing world in a solution to climate change.
Deforestation accounts for roughly one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
"We believe the private sector will ultimately provide the bulk of funding needed to create incentives for forest conservation in developing countries."
Haxthausen said that reducing emissions from deforestation is also a way to engage developing countries in a future framework on climate change — a key concern among U.S. politicians during the 1997 climate talks in Kyoto.
"Forest conservation was knocked off the table a decade ago in Kyoto, but it is now viewed as a centerpiece for involving developing countries in climate change negotiations," he explained. "The science now exists to ensure that forest carbon projects are producing real, measurable, verifiable and additional carbon reductions."
TNC plans to take its pitch to other cities, including Denver, Atlanta, and Nashville, in coming weeks.
"The Conservancy believes that partnerships with government and the private sector to conserve forests is a powerful way to combat climate change, preserve endangered habitats, and provide economic relief to businesses reducing their emissions," said Josh Knights, the Ohio Executive Director for the Conservancy.