Andrew Mitchell: While politicians fiddle in Bali, the trees are burning

Share

In two weeks time, Heads of State and thousands of delegates will gather on the Indonesian island of Bali for the mother of all climate change meetings. Well, what a difference a year can make! Al Gore's won an Oscar and a Nobel Prize for telling us the 'Truth', floods have ravaged British homes and the Arctic ice is vanishing faster than anyone expected. At last the world is waking up to the fact that climate change might actually be happening, and like Bob, Bing and Dorothy Lamour, on 'The Road to Bali', we all live in hope that Global Government will act to tackle the causes of climate change before it is too late.

But there is something that can be done now, which even Mr Brown seems to have missed this week in his first major environmental speech. Not a word on what could be massive action on climate change that also offers the poor a real opportunity and a big win for life on earth – and that's to halt deforestation.

Uncomfortably for Indonesia, the host of the Bali conference, it was labeled this year the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, behind China and the US 85 per cent of its emissions come from cutting and burning forests for timber and land, much of it for palm oil production. Britain is the EU's largest importer of palm oil that is an ingredient in hundreds of products we use every day from cakes and crisps, to vegetable spreads. The fact is we are all in this together, from Britain to Borneo. So, well done Sainsbury's for announcing this week to make palm oil used in its products sustainable. So what else is to be done?

Burning rainforests cause around 20 per cent of all carbon emissions, more than the entire global transport sector, and just behind energy, yet until this year it has been little more than a footnote on the international climate change agenda. Forests fall because they are worth more dead than alive – and that is what has to change. Conservation has proved about as good as England's football heroes: a valiant effort every time, but ultimately no match for the competition - in this case the behemoth of international demand for cheap commodities.

All that may change at Bali, where a system of positive incentives is being negotiated which will attempt to redress the balance, by paying countries to deforest less. Nations that do will get rewarded with tradable carbon credits that could be worth billions. Great news for climate, trees and 1.4 billion of the poor, who depend on these forests for their livelihoods. The trouble is, not everyone is invited to the party.

Those who have deforested most in the past also stand to gain the most now, but there's little in it for those nations which have opted to save their forests mostly untouched – like Guyana. Stopping the chainsaws from just finding a new home in these countries means working out how to value these amazing global forest utilities for what they are before they go up in smoke. They provide vital services to humanity – storing carbon, making rain, and harbouring over half of life on earth – and it is high time we all paid the bill, because the forest utility benefits us all.

These are ecosystem services we simply cannot afford to lose and which could become the eco-industries of the future of immense potential value. Innovative investors are waiting to step up and lend a hand and they are increasingly supported by forest leaders worldwide. In Bali, Governments must act to make this a reality – pushing on full-steam ahead to pay countries which cut deforestation without inadvertently encouraging it elsewhere. So push on Mr Brown of Bali, for all our sakes and deal with Forests Now!

Andrew Mitchell is a leading authority on tropical forests, director of the Global Canopy Programme and architect of the Forests Now declaration calling on governments to take action on deforestation ( www.forestsNow.org)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher Thetford Secondary

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

Secondary Teacher Great Yarmouth

£115 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are currently work...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Special Needs Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jules and Delaney  

Disney needs a princess with Down's syndrome

Keston Ott Dahl
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge  

Step away from Pottermore, JK Rowling. Your new Harry Potter stories are driving me mad

Caspar Salmon
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes