Wipe debt, save carbon
Humane Society International (HSI) is calling on major parties to commit to “debt for carbon” swaps in their climate change election policies. Debt for carbon swaps would see Australia forgive debt owed to us by developing countries in return for those countries protecting carbon and biodiversity rich ecosystems from degradation and destruction – as one strategy in the global war on climate change.
25% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to deforestation, peat drainage, and other unsustainable land management practices around the world. “Debt for carbon deals are one piece of the armoury that could be swiftly deployed by rich countries like Australia to put a stop to this source of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager.
In many instances there is a limited chance of recovering the debt from the developed countries. “Debt for carbon deals will at least ensure there is a beneficial return to the international community in the form of greenhouse gas savings,” said Ms Beynon.
Independent conservation organisations are usually involved as third parties in such deals to oversee the projects paid for by the forgiven debt and to ensure the returns to conservation and greenhouse gas savings are reliable and enduring.
Indonesia would be a prime candidate for debt for carbon deals. It has $1.3 billion in outstanding debt to Australia and alarming rates of deforestation that are responsible for 85% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. It has been predicted that 98% of forests in Borneo and Sumatra could be cleared within the next 15 years. This would release massive greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and have a devastating impact on species conservation.
HSI recommends the next Australian Parliament moves quickly to pass a Tropical Forest Conservation Act that would, among other forest protection measures, enable Australia to begin brokering debt for carbon swaps with countries like Indonesia as soon as possible.
The United States is one developed country that has already brokered “debt for nature” swaps with many countries and this year announced that Indonesia would be eligible for such deals under their Tropical Forest Conservation Act.
The Australian Labor Party has already announced an intention to offer a “debt for health” swap to Indonesia, forgiving $75 million of Indonesia’s debt in return for health programs to fight tuberculosis. Debt for carbon swaps would follow similar principles.
HSI will have a team of lobbyists at the UN Climate Change meeting in Bali next month to ensure a suite of forest protection strategies are included in negotiations for a post 2012 climate change agreement.