Forests vital as US climate change talks get underway
This week, two critically important meetings are being held in the USA to discuss the post-Kyoto framework to harness global action against climate change. The United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Climate Change in New York has happened overnight and the US Government’s Meeting of Major Economies on Energy Security and Climate Change in Washington takes place 27 – 28 September; both are seeking to advance negotiations towards the most important global talks yet to take place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia in December.
Recognising that the destruction of the world’s forests and land use change is estimated to contribute between 18 – 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, momentum is building to ensure the preservation of forests to combat climate change is high on the agenda. Today the World Bank will announce a $400 million Forest Carbon Protection Facility to preserve forests and reduce global warming.
“The value of forests as carbon sinks is becoming increasingly acknowledged worldwide, and there is a growing awareness of the massive contribution of deforestation and land clearing practices to global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations,” said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager. “This has resulted in an emerging consensus that strategies to address climate change, both internationally and domestically, must incorporate forest protection as a priority.”
“It is therefore crucial that all movement towards advancing this global strategy includes credits for ‘avoided deforestation’, which is essentially the provision of incentives to landholders to maintain existing stores of carbon in the biosphere by preserving forest habitat and other carbon stores,” added Ms Beynon. “While reducing emissions from industrial sources remains absolutely essential, Australia and other nations must not miss this opportunity to incorporate avoided deforestation as an immediate cost effective means of combating global climate change in any future post-2012 framework.”
While the inclusion of ‘avoided deforestation’ is essential to any future carbon offsetting scheme under the UNFCCC, there is the very real possibility that the time lag until it becomes effective in 2012 leaves an incentive to clear forests ahead of regulation. It is imperative that initiatives between governments, corporations and conservation NGOs to protect forests commence immediately, and continue while future international agreements are negotiated and other technologies and mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions are developed.
“The pressure on the world’s forests from illegal logging practices and unsustainable agriculture is escalating, and they are disappearing faster than ever,” said Ms Beynon. “These habitats cannot wait until 2012 before serious action by Governments is taken to preserve them. Having recently signed the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership to cut 700 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years by conserving and rehabilitating forest habitat in Indonesia, Australia will be in the ideal position at these meetings to encourage other Parties to pursue similar pilot projects in developing countries. It is an opportunity to garner immediate and lasting action against climate change that must not be underestimated.”
HSI is calling on the Australian Government to work with other governments, scientists, non-governmental organisations and others to urgently identify priority areas of high carbon value such as tropical forests, peat lands and tundra, and work towards a global binding instrument within an appropriate treaty framework to afford such areas international legal protection.