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Rainforest conservation gains in U.S. and U.N. climate proposals

A proposed mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) figures prominently in the draft climate bill released last month by Congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey as well as a U.N. document posted last week following a climate meeting in Bonn, Germany. Deforestation is the source of roughly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Under the draft bill, up to five percent of emission allowances issued by the Environmental Protection Agency could be used to provide incentives to reduce deforestation in developing countries between 2012 and 2025. The Waxman-Markey bill seeks to achieve “supplemental emissions reductions” of at least 720 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2020 and a cumulative amount of at least 6 billion tons CO2e by the end of 2025 through avoided deforestation. Assuming carbon storage of 825 tons of CO2e per hectare of tropical forest (U.N. estimate for lowland tropical forest), the proposal is equivalent to the U.S. conserving 7.3 million hectares (28,000 square miles) of rainforests in developing countries, or a little over half the annual deforestation rate from 2000 through 2005.

Deforestation is a bigger source of emissions than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, and ships combined.

To qualify for forest carbon incentives under Waxman-Markey, a country must be experiencing deforestation or degradation or have standing forest carbon stocks at risk of deforestation or degradation; enter into a bilateral or multilateral agreement with the U.S.; have the capacity to measure, verify and monitor emissions reductions from avoided deforestation; prevent leakage at the national level; develop governance structures to reduce deforestation and illegal logging while promoting sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation; and “give due regard to the rights and interests of local communities, indigenous peoples, and vulnerable social groups”. The provisions acknowledge some of the key concerns among groups that oppose forest carbon offsets: establishment of baselines to measure reduction in deforestation, leakage, limits on forestry credits, governance, and human rights.

Deforestation in Laos


  • World leaders meet to discuss future of rainforests (04/02/2009)
  • Greenpeace opposes forest conservation initiative in Indonesia (04/02/2009)
  • Brazil: ‘Soy King’, Environment Minister strike deal on Amazon deforestation (04/02/2009)
  • Can carbon credits from REDD compete with palm oil? (03/30/2009)
  • Norway emerges as champion of rainforest conservation (03/19/2009)
  • Kerry, Lugar: U.S. has opportunity to lead on climate, forest conservation (02/10/2009)
  • Meanwhile a document released by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following last week’s meeting in Bonn, Germany also set a preliminary five percent allowance for REDD under a future emissions-reductions compliance regime. The draft noted the significance of soil carbon in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and included wetlands restoration, soil carbon management, agricultural practices, afforestation and reforestation as potential activities that could qualify for carbon credits under the clean development mechanism (CDM). The language is important because it could potentially provide incentives for peatlands conservation as well as soil carbon enrichment (possibly through biochar/terra preta).

    The news came as representatives from the state of California met in Brazil with governors from states and provinces that share the Amazon rainforest. California, along with other Western and Midwestern states but independent of the U.S. federal government, is exploring ways to reduce emissions by supporting forest conservation in tropical countries.

    For more on these developments, see Strong Push for Reducing Deforestation in 1st Draft US Climate Bill [Forest Carbon Porta], Brazilian Stakeholders Urge Feds to go REDD [Ecosystem Marketplace], and REDD signal turns amber [Global Canopy Programme].

    Relevant text from Waxman-Markey [PDF] appears below.



    In this part:

    (1) INTERNATIONAL DEFORESTATION REDUCTION ACTIVITIES — The term ‘international deforestation reduction activities’ means activities in developing countries authorized by this part.

    (2) LEAKAGE PREVENTION ACTIVITIES — The term ‘leakage prevention activities’ means activities in developing countries that are directed at preserving existing forest carbon stocks, including forested wetlands and peatlands, that might, absent such activities, be lost through leakage.

    (3) NATIONAL DEFORESTATION REDUCTION ACTIVITIES — The term ‘national deforestation reduction activities’ means activities in developing countries that reduce a quantity of greenhouse gas
    emissions from deforestation that is calculated by measuring actual emissions against a national deforestation baseline established pursuant to section 754(d)(1) and (2).

    (4) SUBNATIONAL DEFORESTATION REDUCTION ACTIVITIES — The term ‘subnational deforestation reduction activities’ means activities in developing countries that reduce a quantity of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation that are calculated by measuring actual emissions using an appropriate baseline established by the Administrator.

    (5) SUPPLEMENTAL EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS — The term ‘supplemental emissions reductions’ means greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved from reduced or avoided deforestation under this part.

    SEC. 752. FINDINGS.

    Congress finds that

    (1) land use change, primarily deforestation, is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, amounting to roughly 20 percent of overall emissions globally;

    (2) recent scientific analysis shows that it will be substantially more difficult to limit the increase in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees centigrade above preindustrial levels without reducing and ultimately halting net emissions from deforestation;

    (3) reducing emissions from deforestation is highly cost-effective, compared to many other sources of emissions reductions;

    (4) as part of a global effort to mitigate climate change, it is in the national interest of the United States to assist developing countries to reduce and ultimately halt emissions from deforestation; and

    (5) in addition to contributing significantly to worldwide efforts to address global warming, this assistance will generate significant environmental and social cobenefits, including protection of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and forest-related livelihoods.


    (a) REGULATIONS — Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this title, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture, shall promulgate regulations establishing a program to use emission allowances set aside for this purpose under section 781 to achieve the reduction of 1 greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in developing countries in accordance with the requirements of this part.

    (b) OBJECTIVES — The objectives of the program established under this section shall be to —


    (a) ELIGIBLE COUNTRIES — The Administrator may support activities under this section only with respect to a developing country that—

    (b) ACTIVITIES — Subject to the requirements of this part, the Administrator may support activities to achieve the objectives identified in section 753(b), including—

    (c) MECHANISMS —

    (d) STANDARDS — The Administrator shall promulgate standards to ensure that supplemental emissions reductions achieved through supported activities are additional, measurable, verifiable, permanent, monitored, and account for leakage and uncertainty. In addition, such standards shall—

    (e) EXPANSION OF SCOPE — The Administrator may decide, taking into account any advice from the Advisory Board, to expand, where appropriate, the scope of international deforestation reduction activities to include—

    (f) ACCOUNTING — The Administrator shall establish a publicly accessible registry of the supplemental emissions reductions achieved through support provided under this part each year, after appropriately discounting for uncertainty and other relevant factors as required by the standards established under subsection (d).

    (g) TRANSITION TO NATIONAL REDUCTIONS — Beginning 5 years after the date that a country entered into the agreement required under subsection (a)(2), the Administrator shall provide no further compensation through emission allowances to that country under this section for any subnational deforestation reduction activities, except that the Administrator may extend this period by an additional 5 years if the Administrator determines that—


    (a) REPORTS — Not later than January 1, 2014, and annually thereafter, the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, and make available to the public, a report on the support provided under this part during the prior fiscal year. The report shall include—

    (b) REVIEWS — Not later than 4 years after the date of enactment of this title and every 5 years thereafter, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of State and taking into consideration any evaluation by or recommendations from the Advisory Board established under section 731, shall conduct a review of the activities undertaken pursuant to this part and make any appropriate changes in the program established under this part based on the findings of the review. The review shall include the effects of the activities on—