Forests and the Planet

A New York Times Editorial

A major shortcoming of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change was its failure to address the huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the destruction of the world’s rain forests. A proposal that rich nations be allowed to offset some of their emissions by paying poorer counties to leave their rain forests intact was shot down after European environmental groups objected. They argued that it would allow rich countries to buy their way out of their own obligations. The planet has been paying for that colossal blunder ever since.

Deforestation accounts for one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — about the same as China’s emissions, more than the emissions generated by all of the world’s cars and trucks. And the world is doing far too little to stop it. An estimated 30 million acres of rain forest disappear every year, destroying biodiversity and pouring billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The global warming bill now working its way through the House seeks to change this destructive dynamic in two ways. It sets up a carbon trading system that is expected to raise upward of $60 billion annually through the sale of pollution allowances. Five percent of that would be set aside to help prevent deforestation, either through a special international fund or as bilateral grants to poor countries.

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