August 21, 2009

Experts endorse a simple way to keep trees

Scientists, politicians and environmentalists argue one way to end destruction of tropical forests is to pay farmers not to cut trees, as in Brazil.

Deforestation, experts says, is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for 20 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

In Querencia, Brazil, landowners are paid by a Brazilian environmental group to stop chopping down trees, and that goes a long way toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions, supporters say.

Deforestation must be addressed by the new international climate agreement, said Yvo DeBoer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.

People cut down trees because there is an economic rationale for doing it, and you need to provide them with a financial alternative, he said.

A provision for rich countries and companies to pay the poor to preserve their forests is in the most recent draft of the agreement, as well as in the climate bill passed by the U.S. House in late June. However, it is being practiced in only a few areas, such as Querencia, a coastal area near Lake Merin, where farmers get about $12 an acre from the local environmental group.

Payment strategies include both direct payments to landowners not to cut down trees and indirect subsidies that may include higher prices for beef and soy produced without clear-cutting.