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Action Alert: Climate Protection Payments Must Avoid Deforestation of Ancient Rainforests AND Their Industrial Diminishment

Selective logging diminishes primary and old-growth forests' carbon stores, ecosystems, and biodiversity; and has no place in proposed carbon market payments for rainforest and climate protection

By Climate Ark, a project of EcoInternet - September 21, 2007

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Additional Background

The concept of "avoided deforestation" -- whereby countries are paid to protect forests -- is the most promising rainforest and climate change policy development in years. It fights climate change at a low cost while preserving other ecosystem services, safeguarding biodiversity and improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people. Unlike other proposed forest conservation solutions, such as "certified" forest logging of ancient forests (primary and old-growth forests), it has the potential to maintain standing rainforests in an intact, fully functioning condition; while meeting reasonable local development needs.

Ecological Internet and others have long urged over-developed nations to pay developing countries to preserve their rainforests rather than cutting them down for timber, to grow crops or to support livestock. Forests contain 60% of the carbon stored on Earth. Deforestation and forest diminishment account for some 25% of human caused carbon release. Protecting ancient forests would thus greatly reduce climate change. Tropical forests cover less than 7 percent of the Earth's total surface area but are also home to more than 50 percent of the world’s remaining species. There is no path to global ecological sustainability and climate change mitigation that does not include paying for widespread maintenance of remaining ancient forests in a series of global ecological reserves.

For the first time a grouping of tropical rainforest rich countries, called the "Forestry Eight" and controlling over 80 percent of the world's tropical rainforests, agree and are proposing a plan to be paid to protect their rainforests and thus reduce global warming. The alliance includes Brazil and Indonesia, the fourth and third largest greenhouse gas emitters taking deforestation into account. Other members include Costa Rica, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Peru. The group is advocating billions of dollars of funding -- most likely from the emerging carbon market -- be allocated to nations that preserve forests within the post-Kyoto global framework, which will begin to be negotiated at the UN conference in Bali in December.

Troublingly, many crucial details regarding how avoided deforestation payments would work remain undefined, this threatens the potential effectiveness of the concept, and not all "protection" schemes are equal. The concept has been described in the "Forests Now Declaration" by the Global Canopy Programme as both strict preservation (protection with no logging), and conservation payments for "sustainable forest management". This is misleading.

Ancient forests cannot be logged industrially in a manner that will not permanently disrupt carbon storage and not result in long term loss of other ecosystem values and biodiversity. It would be disastrous for rainforest rich countries to be paid for supposed rainforest protection and still be allowed to log primary forests for the first time. Payments to maintain already logged production forests in natural forest management and to avoid their outright deforestation may be justified, but this is a different issue.

First time logging of ancient rainforests -- selective, certified, ecosystem based or otherwise -- results in an immediate huge release of carbon, permanent reductions in future carbon storage potential, and reductions in species numbers and diversity. To be maximally effective, avoided deforestation climate payments should only support strict preservation of ancient forests; and not their "sustainable" selective logging, certified or otherwise. Small scale, community based eco-forestry activities may well be compatible with maintaining carbon storage, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity patterns; yet any industrial activities must be excluded to realize the full potential of climate and rainforest protection payments.

There are other serious concerns with the avoided deforestation and diminishment concept that must be addressed prior to establishment. How much carbon forests hold, how much primary forest a country has, and the effectiveness of protection and exclusion of industrial development must be rigorously and conservatively analyzed. And equity and fairness demands that payments are partially channeled to landowners and communities bearing the opportunity costs of not logging local forests, and not just governments.

Let the "Forestry Eight" know that in order to ensure carbon payments for rainforest and climate protection are rigorous and maximally effective, they must be made to avoid both rainforest deforestation AND diminishment, which excludes ANY industrial development. Only equitable payments for strict preservation will maximize climate, ecosystem, biodiversity and local benefit. Anything less is greenwashing and will not solve anything.

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Brazil rainforest canopy
Ancient rainforests will only fully hold their carbon when strictly protected  (link)

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