Last week the Eliasch review of Climate Change: Financing Global Forests was published. The Review was commissioned by the Brown Government to try and find a way of preventing global forest loss through financial solutions as a contribution to debate about a new global climate deal post Kyoto, negotations for which start next year. The Eliasch Review proposes inclusion of the forest sector in global carbon markets.
The Review drew rather different reactions from the environmental campaigning community. Some welcomed it – some criticised it for its lack of ambition on tackling the root causes of climate change.
Here at the Trust our role is UK focused rather than on international matters but global deforestation releases nearly 20% of all CO2 emissions, and is therefore a major contributor to accelerating climate change which has direct impacts ofn woodland in the UK. So what do we think?
Well, we welcome the Eliasch report. Any major authoritative contribution which gives greater political profile to the imperative of protecting global forests has to be welcome. It will also remind us to look after our own very modest resource in the UK which is still being nibbled away by development in the name of economic progress.
As Eliasch argues, money is certainly part of the solution to preventing forest loss; losses will not be stopped or reduced without it since many of the reasons for forest clearance are driven by the fact that the economics of alternative land uses which can be created by clearing forest are far more attractive than leaving forests intact.
But money is not the whole solution. We know that from experience in the UK paying land owners and managers not to do things is ultimately a hostage to fortune and as others have commented in an international context can open the door to threats of clearance and corruption. There is also a need to reward countries and forest managers who have no intention of clearing vast tracts of forests. Will carbon credits help them? How will carbon markets work in preventing forest degradation and supporting afforestation as well?
By admitting the forest sector to global carbon markets, the role of forests in providing a carbon store to the world is acknowledged but world leaders also need to hear it for all the other life support systems which forests provide us with – clean air, shading, soil protection, water management . All of these and more will be vital in a world where we need to adapt to the change which humankind has already made inevitable as well as trying to mitigates its worst effects.