Carbon trading could save threatened forests

Better management of tropical forests could cut carbon emissions while creating wealth for some of the world's poorest people, according to the World Bank.

The world is currently losing some 5% of its forests every decade, with poverty usually given as the cause for the rapid felling and clearance of land.

But, according to a new report released by the World Bank this week, global carbon finance could make keeping the forests intact an economically, as well as environmentally, attractive option for developing countries.

The report, At Loggerheads?, looks at the apparent conflict between agricultural expansion and environmental preservation and possible incentives and solutions to address the problems it creates.

It considers the different issues that effect the boundaries where farmland and forest meet, deep forest away from agricultural land and the often-overlooked ‘mosaiclands’ that are made up of a patchwork of forest and fields.

According to the report, for example, in Latin America dense tropical forest is often cleared to create pasture worth as little as $300 a hectare, while releasing huge amounts of CO2.

In Africa and Asia, meanwhile, some deforestation is equally unproductive and these forests on three continents may be worth five times more if left standing to provide carbon storage services rather than cleared and burned.

If developing countries could tap this value, says the bank, they could also stimulate more productive agriculture in degraded areas, while preserving the environmental services of forests.

The report, however, claims current carbon markets are missing out on this potential and considers ways to overcome existing obstacles.

“Global carbon finance can be a powerful incentive to stop deforestation,” said François Bourguignon, chief economist and senior vice president of development economics at the World Bank.

“Compensation for avoiding deforestation could help developing countries to improve forest governance and boost rural incomes, while helping the world at large to mitigate climate change more vigorously.”

Katherine Sierra, vice president for sustainable development at the bank, said: “Now is the time to reduce pressures on tropical forests through a comprehensive framework that integrates sustainable forest management into the global strategy for mitigating climate change and preserving biodiversity.”

Sam Bond

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