Forests for Climate

Page - January 15, 2010
In the race to fight global warming, time is of the essence. Tropical deforestation is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than all the cars, trucks, planes, boats, and trains in the world combined.

The Climate Threat from Deforestation

Greenpeace Congo beauty shot
Tropical forests, the "lungs of the earth," are giant carbon stores. When they are destroyed, massive amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere: currently about 20% of overall greenhouse gas emissions.

After the US and China, Indonesia and Brazil rank as the world's top greenhouse gas emitters due to the devastating deforestation taking place in both countries. The climate risk from deforestation is staggering. For example, in just one Indonesian forest area - Riau province - peatland destruction could release enough carbon to equal five years of emissions from all the fossil-fueled power plants in the world.

Forests for Climate

Forests for Climate
is an innovative proposal for an international funding mechanism to protect tropical forests. The mechanism would become part of the second phase of the Kyoto (post-2012) agreement on climate change. In the race to fight global warming, time is of the essence. If countries commit to Forests for Climate, funding to protect tropical forests could become available as soon as 2009.

Unlike many market-based proposals, a critical part of this proposal would be to achieve climate goals while protecting biodiversity and fully respecting the rights of local and indigenous peoples.

Cutting emissions from deforestation in half would take only an estimated $10 to 15 billion per year from the international community. This is much more efficient and cost effective - per ton of reduced carbon emission - than most other climate solutions. Over time, Forests for Climate could raise far more than that in a balanced, responsible way.

How Forests for Climate works

Forests for Climate builds on the "polluter pays" principle and the agreement struck in Bali that industrialized nations help finance climate solutions in developing countries. In addition to their obligations to make deep cuts in domestic emissions, industrialized countries would provide financing for tropical forest protection based on their overall emission allowances. In other words, the more an industrialized country pollutes, the more it would chip into the forest fund.

It is important to note that Forests for Climate would not allow industrialized countries to increase their domestic emissions in exchange for emission reductions in developing countries. This distinguishes it from market-offset schemes.

Developing countries with tropical forests that choose to participate in Forests for Climate would make commitments to protecting their forests consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) "common but differentiated responsibilities." In exchange, developing countries would have the opportunity to receive funding for capacity-building efforts and for national-level reductions in deforestation emissions. Countries that reliably and accurately report emission reductions would receive a greater return for their services. This would provide a strong incentive for countries to continually improve their forest protection programs.

The Advantages of Forests for Climate

  • Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under Forests for Climate would be additional to - not in place of - climate solutions in industrialized countries. This ensures forest protection overseas does not pave the way for more pollution and business-as-usual at home.
  • The millions of indigenous people who depend on tropical forests would be safeguarded. Forests for Climate would recognize the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and fully respect the land, resource use, and ownership rights of these peoples -- something market-based offset proposals could not accomplish.
  • Forests for Climate also has a global reach. Its "portfolio performance approach" allows the greatest number of countries, including those with varied monitoring capacities and low deforestation rates, to participate in an equitable way. This is an advantage over market-based approaches that would heavily favor countries with developed forest monitoring and governance capacity over others, resulting in a less than holistic approach to a global problem.
  • The global reach of Forests for Climate minimizes risk of "leakage" - where forests are protected in one spot only to displace logging to a different area. This is a major risk with project-based or sub-national approaches.
  • The climate crisis requires urgent action, and Forests for Climate can deliver it. The Greenpeace proposal would make billions of dollars available for capacity building and emission reduction activities through a forward sale (or auction) of emission allowance in 2009. This commitment would give developing countires an incentive to stop deforesting now, well before the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol begins in 2013.
  • Forests for Climate caps the amount of Tropical Deforestation Units industrialized nations can purchase. This limit would stabilize carbon markets and ensure countries could not use this opportunity as an excuse to do nothing about energy and industrial emissions at home.