Pay up to save the rainforests

A A A

A bloc of developing countries plans to make a radical proposal this week at the United Nations summit on climate change in Montreal: pay us, and we will preserve our rainforests.

The group of 10 countries, led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, argues that the rest of the world is benefiting from the rainforests' natural wealth without sharing the cost. Sir Michael Somare, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said timber was one of the few natural resources available to the countries and their only real option for economic growth involved the destruction of the forests.

The Rainforest Coalition of countries calls that a recipe for failure - failure to preserve biodiversity, pressure to release the poorest people from poverty and failure to protect the world from the greenhouse effect.

Pointing out that the world and its climate benefits immensely from what remains of the developing world's tropical forests, but the rich countries pay nothing to ensure their safety, the Rainforest Coalition points out that: "In many forested rural areas, the only real options for economic growth involve the destruction of the natural forests."

In its natural state, the forest provides little that its unhabitants can take to market. Only by logging or burning the trees, and selling the timber, or planting the cleared ground with crops, can they increase their wealth. But the value of the tropical forest to the rest of the world is far more than just a sentiment. The forest acts as a "carbon sink", sucking up the greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels that create the greenhouse effect. Conversely, cutting or burning the forest adds enormously to the emission of carbon dioxide, whether the trees are burnt or simply rot.

During the 1990s,according to the findings of a UN panel, 20 to 25 per cent of global carbon emissions were generated through land-use change, primarily through the degradation of forests. The amount is comparable to emissions from burning fossil fuels in the US, the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Now the Rainforest Coalition is offering to put a stop to that - at a price. They want to be included in a scheme bringing the ingenuity of market mechanisms to the challenge of hauling the world back from the brink of ecological self-destruction.

Already under the Kyoto protocol, billions of dollars are changing hands annually in the form of what are called "carbon offsets". The protocol requires countries progressively to lower their gas emissions. Industrialised countries that have trouble reaching emission targets can offset their excess emissions by buying credits from countries that are doing better.

Until now, the countries of the developing world where the tropical forests are concentrated have been excluded from this scheme - as they are also excluded from the obligation to cut emissions, which apply only to the wealthy industrialised countries.

The Rainforest Coalition is now asking to be taken into the scheme. A heavily polluting country in Europe will buy carbon credits from developing countries that can prove - and there are two independent boards that will verify it - that they have managed to keep their "carbon sinks" intact. That way, for the first time, the developing countries will have a powerful financial incentive for doing what the rest of the world has been urging them to do for decades: control the logging.

"The objective," said Sir Michael Somare "is to align the interests of rainforested developing nations with industrial nations - with the latter offering markets for carbon off-sets and forest products. Sir Michael said: "If we, the rainforested nations, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we should be compensated for these reductions, as are industrialised nations.

"It's that simple."

The American economist Joseph Stiglitz, has given the proposal a warm endorsement. "Developing countries have long provided a vital global public good: maintaining global environmental assets," he said. "Their rainforests are a vast storehouse of biodiversity, and forests are major carbon sinks, reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere."

The next obvious opportunity for changing the Kyoto protocol to bring the rainforest countries on board is 2012. But Papua New Guinea and others in the coalition argue the change needs to happen now - and there is nothing to stop it happening.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Life and Style
life
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee