Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

Discovering Global Environmental Interconnections

The New Beast in the Forest Brings Hope and Threats to Indigenous Peoples

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Deforestation for oil palm plantation West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo Karmele Llano SanchezInternational Animal Rescue

by Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic’s NewsWatch

“REDD is the new beast in the forest,” said Patrick Anderson of the Forest Peoples Programme in Indonesia here at Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop in Cairns, Australia.

Deforestation gobbles up an area the size of Greece (13 million hectares) every year. As if that loss wasn’t bad enough, it also produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions — a whopping 15 to 20 percent of all global emissions. That’s second only to the burning of fossil fuels.

Sadly, in our economic system, trees are worth far more dead as paper, lumber, furniture, etc., than alive.

In an attempt to reverse this, countries in the United Nations have agreed to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests in a program called REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

This is how it works. Trees take heat-trapping carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow and store it for as long as the trees live. Instead of cutting down trees and selling the wood, the carbon trapped in the living trees can be sold as “carbon credits” on an open market.

A steel, cement, or coal-fired power company in the U.S. or a European country can then buy those credits instead of reducing its carbon emissions. The current price is around $10 per tonne but this fluctuates.

For example, the newly established Carbon Tax in Australia sets the price at $23 per ton in the first year of operations. (One hectare of tropical forest stores between 250-500 tonnes of carbon but varies considerably. An average car emits 1.5 tonne of carbon per year.)

 

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