June 17, 2008

Protecting the Congo Basin Forest

A few days ago I wrote of the possibility of polluter-pays taxes levied as part of the way to deal with climate change being used for a stewardship fund for the great forests, such as the Amazon. See:

Another candidate forest for such support is in the Congo Basin, the focus of an article in today's Guardian. See:

Here is an extract:

---extract begins
The biggest ever fund set up to battle deforestation was launched today, targeting the vast Congo basin rainforest in central Africa. Britain and Norway are providing £108m and will also supply satellite imaging technology to monitor the area.

The fund is intended to provide African governments and people living in the rainforest with a viable alternative to logging, mining, and felling trees for firewood and subsistence farming.

The Congo basin rainforest is the world's biggest after the Amazon, at about twice the size of France, but is rapidly dwindling. It is being cut down at the rate of 25,000 football pitches a week. Loss of trees is one of the biggest sources of the carbon dioxide warming the atmosphere, accounting for 18% of annual emissions.
---extract ends

The forest is a resource for the people of the Congo Basin. They can live off it sustainably, they can use it as a timber resource, they can clear the land for agriculture (as is happening with the Amazon forest). I imagine the situation is similar to Brazil where there are conflicting demands between preservation and using the forest to earn foreign income, perhaps on a managed way, more likely in an uncontrolled way.

An alternative option is to use the forest to earn income for preserving it.

Perhaps the UK and Norway are making funds available in a paternalistic way - you can find out more about the fund at:

There is the potential for the great forests to be valued as carbon sinks, with the capacity sold to carbon emitters. Instead of selling felled trees, rent the trees still standing. This provides a business for people in the region and, I think, is far better than arguing that the great forests should be internationalised or governments punished for not protecting them.

The Guardian article suggests this is a cheap way of off-setting emissions: "The estimated cost of reducing emissions by halting deforestation is £3 per metric tonne of CO2, compared to £50-100 a tonne for carbon capture schemes. Norway believes that their annual expenditure on combating deforestation could cut emissions equivalent to twice Norway's annual total."

Paying the Congo the basic cost of stopping deforestation is undervaluing their resource. The Congo can charge far closer to the costs of carbon capture schemes and still find custom, using the income to both protect and expand the forest and fund development.

The problem is there is an unequal power balance. Polluter nations feel they can offer a pittance for their carbon offsets, because there is not as yet a rigorous scheme in place such as 'Contraction and Convergence'. If such a scheme was brought in through the Simultaneous Policy, countries with forests would suddenly find they have a resource that earns them money by protecting the planet.

1 comment:

kasey said...

I agree that saving the congo is important.I don't think its fair to the animals or us with more trees being cut than grown. The more trees we cut down = less oxegn