A Bit More on the Forests

Two interesting things that I heard during the CGI plenary on deforestation (see below):

Franz Tattenbach, the Executive Director of FUNDECOR, talked about the progress that has been made in reforesting Costa Rica, which has gone from 26 percent coverage to 50 percent coverage. “How did we do it? We put a price on carbon.” FUNDECOR works directly with individuals who own rain forest land to create incentives for not clear cutting their property. They do so by sending foresters and strategists to develop sustainable individualized plans to help the owners selectively harvest their forests and maximize their profits from that harvest. Stuart E. Eizenstat, President Carter’s Chief Domestic Policy Adviser and President Clinton’s Deputy Treasury Secretary, speculated on why deforestation measures weren’t included in the Kyoto protocol. He gives three reasons:

  • “We were so occupied with macro issues,” like negotiating with the EU and Japan on what level of reductions below the 1990 level could be afforded and trying to get developing countries on board.
  • There are legitimate concerns about the verification of forestation credits. What happens if a forest is planted and then burns down three years later?
  • We simply didn’t know then what we know now. We didn’t have the Stern and IPCC reports that tell us that 20 percent of all carbon emissions can be traced back to forestation and land use issues. That is more than all global transportation emissions. It is the cheapest, most reliable way of reducing emissions.

Eizenstat also expressed his surprise at the lack of knowledge on the Hill about the issue. Language addressing deforestation was only a last minute addition to the last energy bill.

Also, he is Pessimistic about the probability of Congress passing a post-Kyoto framework. As a safety measure, he suggests that in the cap-and-trade legislation that he expects to pass before the end of this Congress we should incorporate the ability for American companies to trade credits abroad and for foreign companies to trade in our system.

Jane Goodall ended the session by paraphrasing an “Eskimo” that she had met. He said, “Up in the north we know everyday what you in the south are doing. What will it take to melt the ice in the human heart?”