Carbon credit sale helps rainforest communities

Bolivia received $25m for the sale of carbon credits it had earned by protecting an area of Amazon rainforest from logging, thus preserving the 'carbon sink' that the trees provide for atmospheric carbon, in the first ever such deal for the impoverished South American country.

The project in the Noel Kempff Mercado national rainforest park on the border with Brazil, one of Amazonia’s biggest and most intact protected areas, began a decade ago but its results have only just been divulged by the Bolivian government’s special investigator Louis Aliaga.

The money has gone directly to communities living in the protected area as compensation for lost agricultural land and logging revenue, cutting their dependence from logging as a means of subsistence, he said.

Bolivia’s government ministries worked with local communities and logging companies on the project, which is helping preserve the rich biodiversity of the area as well as preventing the carbon dioxide stored in the forest from escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to the greenhouse effect.

The 1,523,000 ha Noel Kempff Mercado national park, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000, is the site of the largest forest-based carbon projects in the world, ran by several NGOs including the Friends of Nature Foundation and the Nature Conservancy.

Carbon trading remains a controversial way of dealing with climate change – although trees aborb carbon dioxide and can thus be seen as net carbon “sinks,” they will not store the carbon forever.

Companies paying to save or plant trees in the developing world may also divert attention from the need for longer-term solutions that replace fossil fuel-generated energy by renewables or cut energy use, critics say.

Greenpeace dismisses “this whole theory of creating ‘sinks’ in forests, plants and soils, whereby carbon dioxide is taken out of the climate system to offset higher fossil fuel emissions” as ineffective.

“Unfortunately, carbon stored in trees is not permanently removed from the atmosphere and there is a high probability that the ton of carbon counted as stored in the tree will find its way back into the atmosphere eventually,” according to the environmental group.

“The main point, however, is that the use of sinks must not divert any political or financial resources away from the primary task: reducing emissions from the burning of fossil fuels,” Greenpeace said.

Goska Romanowicz

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