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European Union Debates ‘Forest Offsetting’

December 5, 2008

On Thursday, Brazil ruled out the possibility of rich countries offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions by helping to save the Amazon rain forest. The idea had been under discussion by the European Union.

Natives attending the climate talks in Poznan protested, saying they wanted money to end corruption in the region and to fortify their land rights.

Currently, nations exceeding their greenhouse gas emission quota must pay for gas emissions cuts in the developing world.  The system is called carbon offsetting.

In Thursday’s discussion, EU member states debated expanding the idea to allow “forest offsetting.”  The agreement would let nations pay for excess carbon emissions by subsidizing rain forest conservation.

“The EU is discussing this right now,” said Brice Lalonde, a representative of France.

The current talks being held in Poland are meant to find a replacement agreement for the Kyoto Protocol.

A French draft paper suggested that forest offsetting could be employed as a way to help companies meet carbon emissions quotas during recession.  

Each year, the world loses forest areas greater than the size of Greece, thus contributing to nearly a fifth of the emissions blamed for global warming.

Brazil announced last week that Amazon deforestation increased for the first time in four years.

The nation says it will block the use of forest offsetting for fear that rich nations would use the loophole as a way to keep from cutting their own emissions.

“Brazil has always been against offsets in forestry,” said Sergio Serra, Brazilian ambassador for climate change.

Indonesia, Mexico, and India are among the countries hoping to receive money to protect their forests from a new climate treaty that would allow forest offsetting.

Instead, Brazil supported a public funding approach to the problem.  The nation wants to build on the $1 billion pledge from Norway to improve conservation and the enforcement of deforestation laws.

Some believe the two methods should be combined.

“It should be open both for those who want to raise public money and for those who want to go to the (carbon) market. But it has to have the market aspect,” said Deogracias Ikaka Nzamio, delegate from Equatorial Guinea.

Native people want their land rights made secure for fear that a carbon market approach could trigger a land grab

“Papua New Guineans depend on the land, the forests provide basic necessities, food, traditional medicines, clean water, ancestral ties, everything for them,” said Kenn Mondiai, delegate from Papua New Guinea.

Expectations for benefits from the private sector have been lowered by logging companies who have not fulfilled infrastructure commitments in forested areas.

“There’s no hospitals, the roads are poorly built, the bridges are made from logs, the schools are not in place, we haven’t seen any benefits on the ground,” Mondiai said.

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