Hope for the rainforest: My business week

Vinod Sekhar, the chief executive of technology conglomerate Petra Group, on the fight against climate change
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In the time it takes to complete the 60km drive on a rough logging road to the Danum Valley research centre, in the heart of Borneo's rainforest, you will have encountered about 20 timber lorries coming the other way. It is a depressing sight.

But it is my belief that in the not too distant future, the chopping down of the rainforest will be no more.

Last week, the world's leaders met in Bali to discuss climate change and how to fight global warming. It was sad to read about America's reluctance to sign up to compulsory cuts in carbon emissions. Let us hope a new president will take a more enlightened view.

But what gave me grounds for optimism was the focus on using rainforests to offset carbon emissions. The Kyoto treaty on climate change does not include the use of rainforests in a carbon trading mechanism. However, there is every reason to believe that this could be about to change.

Several Western companies are already looking at investing in rainforests as a way of counter-balancing emissions. If commercial groups and governments were allowed to offset by replanting trees and restoring rainforests, developing countries could raise revenue through conservation rather than through felling timber.

But before rainforests can be included in the global offsetting scheme, a great deal of scientific research has to be carried out on how best to repair damaged forests and maximise their ability to absorb carbon. Petra and its subsidiary Green Rubber (which is set to list on the Alternative Investment Market in 2008), provide financial support to the research programme in the Danum Valley, and new and better ways are already being discovered to repair the damage done by logging.

It is easy to get depressed about the carnage we are inflicting on the planet. However, I believe we now have room for optimism as well.