A group of leading U.S. businesses and environmental groups today formed a coalition calling for the inclusion of forest conservation in domestic cap-and-trade legislation.
The pact — signed by American Electric Power, Conservation International, Duke Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, El Paso Corporation, National Wildlife Federation, Marriott International, Mercy Corps, Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E Corporation, Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Walt Disney Company, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Woods Hole Research Center — endorses policies that would allow companies to receive credit for reducing emissions by financing activities that protect forests in tropical countries. It also calls for five percent of proceeds from the auctioning of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system to go towards funding forest conservation projects.
Deforestation in Madagascar
The initiative is attractive to U.S. business because it offers a lower cost mechanism for complying with emission caps. Environmental groups see the concept as a way to potentially generate substantial funds for forest conservation and sustainable development, while simultaneously helping mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.
Destruction of 50,000 square miles of tropical forest annually accounts for roughly 20 percent of global emissions from human activities-a share larger than all the world’s planes, ships, cars, and trucks combined. Put another way, despite the attention given to the fuel efficiency of cars and the number of flights taken by celebrities, parking all the world’s jets and cars still wouldn’t offset the annual emissions from global deforestation.
The new agreement [PDF] highlights the important contributions forests can make in the effort to slow climate change and urges the U.S. to “make the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests in developing nations a central goal of forthcoming federal climate legislation.”
Coalition members voiced support for the proposal.
“To prevent the most dangerous impacts of climate change, we must conserve the world’s tropical forests,” said Peter Seligmann, chairman and CEO of Conservation International. “These investments will also protect the vital resources that forests provide — fresh water, food, medicine, and habitat for more than half of all the species on Earth. The United States needs to be at the forefront of protecting these vital assets, which are important not only for stabilizing the climate, but for ensuring the long–term security of all nations, including our own.”
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
“Strong protections for tropical forests are critical to solving climate change,” added Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.
“These tropical forest protections will help make tackling climate change both more affordable and comprehensive,” said Michael G. Morris, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power. “Climate legislation that appropriately values preservation of our world’s largest and most vulnerable forest regions is good for the planet, but also is good for the U.S. economy and electricity customers.”
The agreement — coordinated by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a Berkeley, CA-based forest carbon policy group — outlines 14 principles members want to see in a cap-and-trade system, including allowing tradable “avoided deforestation” credits from tropical countries into U.S. compliance-based carbon markets, establishing protections for indigenous and forest-dependent peoples in tropical countries, limiting the quantity of international emission reductions that may enter U.S. compliance markets, and setting up standards for measuring, monitoring and verifying forest activities to ensure emissions reductions are real. The agreement notes that international forest conservation is not a substitute for reducing domestic emissions from industrial activities, but should be seen as an additional activity for avoiding “dangerous climate change”.
The agreement is generally consistent with the draft Waxman-Markey bill currently under consideration by House Energy and Commerce Committee, although it calls for greater flexibility for sub-national projects in the early years of a climate framework.
Avoided deforestation is expected to be a hot topic of discussion at talks this December to layout a future international framework on climate. Supporters say the mechanism — known internationally as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation — could engage developing countries, thereby breaking a deadlock that has stalled international climate negotiations for over a decade.
The text of the agreement appears below.
Consensus Principles on International Forests for U.S. Climate Legislation [PDF]
We, the undersigned, urge the United States to lead the effort in crafting domestic and international solutions to end
global deforestation to help solve the climate crisis, enhance our security, save our planet’s biodiversity and reduce global
poverty. In order to achieve these objectives in an efficient, effective and equitable way, our organizations have come
together to strongly recommend that U.S. policymakers incorporate the following principles into federal climate
legislation. Given the importance we attach to unity, we pledge to work together in a coordinated way to advance these
principles as the legislative process unfolds.
1. Include International Forests: The United States should make the conservation, restoration and
sustainable management of forests1 in developing nations a central goal of forthcoming federal climate
legislation, as tropical deforestation and other land-use decisions account for approximately 20% of
global greenhouse gas emissions.
2. No Substitute for Domestic Action: International forest provisions should be paired with science based
domestic emission reduction objectives to ensure that collectively U.S. policies are designed to
avoid dangerous climate change.
3. Leverage Cap-and-Trade Allowance Funds: The United States should set aside 5% of the overall
value of emission allowances in a federal cap-and-trade system to reduce international forest emissions
and to help developing countries build the capacity necessary to make these emission reductions.
Appendix 1 lists appropriate uses for these funds.
4. Harness the Power of U.S. Carbon Markets: The United States, in addition, should permit verified
emission reductions from forests in developing nations into U.S. compliance-based carbon markets,
subject to the conditions outlined below.
5. Encourage Forest Countries to adopt National Strategies: U.S. climate policy should encourage
tropical forest countries to move toward nation-wide, environmentally sound, measurable, reportable and
verifiable emission abatement goals and programs for their entire forest sector (“national forest emission
baselines.”) But because many nations will require time to adopt such baselines and because action on
climate change is urgent, for a limited time the United States should adopt a flexible, evolving approach.
6. Create Flexible Rules for Small Emitter Countries: Verified emission reductions from projects and
programs undertaken in developing nations that are not major emitters2 should have access to U.S.
compliance-based carbon markets, even before these nations establish national forest emission baselines.
7. Require Baselines for Major Emitter Countries: Major emitting developing nations should only have
access to U.S. compliance markets if they adopt national forest emission baselines. When they do,
however, they should be allowed access. Furthermore, states or provinces of major emitting nations that
would themselves be considered major emitters (alone or in partnership with other states and provinces)
and that have adopted state- or province-wide forest emission baselines, should have access to U.S.
compliance markets provided they have domestic authority to supply forest carbon assets into the United
8. Establish a Timetable for National Baselines: The United States should set fixed dates by which
access to U.S. compliance markets will be limited to only those emission reductions that result from
national forest emission baselines. The date for states and provinces within major emitter developing
countries should be five years from the date that compliance obligations begin under the cap-and-trade
program. The date for project- and program-activities in small emitter developing countries should be
eight years from the date that compliance obligations begin under the cap-and-trade program, with
opportunities to request an extension if specific requirements are met.3. Special accommodations should
be made for the least developed countries, which will require time to develop national forest emission
baselines. Verified reductions from international forestry that enter U.S. compliance markets prior to
such dates should remain valid.
9. Impose Quantity Limit: U.S. cap-and-trade legislation should impose a quantity limit on international
emission reductions that may enter U.S. compliance markets. This fixed limit should be expressed in
terms of tons of emission reductions and should apply to all emission reductions originating outside the
United States, not just to those from international forests. Because emissions trading between two
nations with strong, credible and domestically enforceable caps on emissions strengthens global climate
action, this limit should not apply to emission reductions occurring under a strong, credible, and
domestically enforceable limit on total emissions or total emissions from the forest sector.
10. Support Early Action: To create strong incentives for early action, verified emission reductions
occurring after a near-term date should receive compliance credit as appropriate if they meet all other
standards and safeguards.
11. Make International Forest Assets Fully Fungible: Subject to the safeguards discussed below,
international forest emission reductions should be fully fungible with other emission reductions in the
cap-and-trade system, with any adjustments needed to account for uncertainties applied before the
tradable assets enter U.S. compliance-based carbon markets.
12. Create Strong Environmental Safeguards: U.S. agencies should adopt strong safeguards to ensure the
integrity of international forest activities and U.S. compliance markets. These safeguards should make
sure that all international forest emission reductions are measured, monitored and verified in a manner
that appropriately accounts for uncertainties. The safeguards should also ensure that international forest
emission reductions are additional, permanent, and account for the potential for forest emissions to shift
to other jurisdictions as a result of climate policy. Tradable emission reductions from international forests should be registered transparently and in a way to prevent double counting. Safeguards also are
needed to protect critical ecosystems and conserve global biodiversity.
13. Protect Forest Dependent Communities: Social protections upholding the rights and interests of
indigenous peoples, other forest dependent communities and the rural poor should be incorporated in a
mandatory form within U.S. climate legislation and the approval criteria for receiving set-aside funding
and/or access to U.S. compliance-based carbon markets. As part of these protections, the United States
should prohibit the use of international forest emission reductions from any nation that the U.S. State
Department determines has failed to adopt and effectively implement nationally and internationally
appropriate social safeguards, legal systems and policies. In addition, the Department of State should
report regularly on how U.S. and global climate policies are affecting indigenous peoples, other forest
dependent-communities and the rural poor.
14. Help Developing Nations Prepare: As it is economically and environmentally essential that forest-rich
developing countries have the capacity to sell significant quantities of verified emission reductions by
2012, Congress should appropriate a substantial and meaningful sum each year for the next three years in
U.S. foreign assistance legislation to assist developing countries create national forest emission baselines,
as well as pursue other activities to prepare for participation in U.S. carbon markets and international
forestry programs when those programs take effect.