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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Katie Price is due to divorce second husband Alex Reid today  

Lay off Katie Price – she’s entitled to state help for her disabled son

Rosie Millard
Burning vehicles are seen near the village of Ghajar on Israel's border with Lebanon January 28, 2015  

Israel vs Hezbollah: Why another war is unlikely

Maya Gebeily
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore