1 Nov 2008

Saving Forests

The UN wants
to use the sale of fully fungible REDD [reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation] credits to help developing nations halt logging and in return allow rich nations to meet a portion of their UN emissions reduction goals. Estimates vary but REDD could yield between $10 billion and $30 billion a year in funds for the developing world, with REDD credits fetching $4 to $10 a tonne.
I am in favor of this plan because it puts the UN -- a reasonably neutral, scientific organization -- in the broker role. The UN can ensure compliance (for buyers) and simplify sales and marketing (for sellers).*

As many know, avoided deforestation is the lowest cost means of reducing carbon emissions [prior posts]. Areas that stay forested will also protect habitat and biodiversity.** Revenue can be used to support local communities (assuming pass-through -- a big assumption), and there's no need to figure out what "would have been done anyway" since intact forest can be observed.

Bottom Line: Go buy lease some trees!

* The UN has no monopoly: An Australian company is trying to monetize forests in Papua New Guinea.

** Grist reports on a UN project on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity:
the world is burning up between $2 trillion and $5 trillion of capital a year through global forest loss. That's the cumulative value of the lost services forests provide, including carbon sequestration, water filtration, and erosion prevention.


  1. The only way to stop deforestation is to offer other sources of materials to the building industry and other work for loggers. Indonesia seems happy to strip its nation bare to profit from the sale of tropical hardwoods, as are Canada and the timber communities up here. Surely these groups would be happy to take money for doing nothing but watching the trees grow! Somehow, I just don't see that really happening...

  2. Jackie -- a MAJOR problem in Indonesia (Burma, Brazil, etc.) is that property rights over forests are weak, i.e., those who cut the trees pay little to the "owners," i.e., the people because they can get access for a lot less by bribing politicians and bureaucrats.

    Sustainable deforestation is possible but not without better property rights.

  3. If Indonesia and other tropical rainforest countries don't legislate protection/regulation of the timber industry, they could find their country feeling and looking a whole lot like Haiti--impoverished and denuded. Standing timber, like water, is undervalued. The PNW learned this the hard way as well. The Reagan Administration and Secretary Watt sold off huge tracts for clearcutting (for practically nothing) in the 80s until halted by lawsuits predicated by threats to endangered species and the total desregard of rules for protecting streambeds from erosion. Lately, the Bush Administration adheres to this mentality, fighting "activist" judges who upheld these forest policies. As an "owner" of our National Forests, which also serve as our watershed, I feel a little "weak" as well. We did exert enough citizen pressure to keep some areas of North Idaho roadless, but the "four wheelers" (loggers) contingent pushed hard the other way. They want roads and logging jobs, period. I can only imagine the forces of greed and lack of empowerment for property owners in Indonesia!


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