Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why We Want to Be in the REDD

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) is a UN program that uses market incentives to reduce the release of greenhouse gases from rainforest destruction. Companies work with international conservation groups and tropical countries to create investment funds to conserve large tracts of land. REDD has become recently popular as companies, nations and intergovernmental organizations seek to reduce or offset their own emissions. For example, Merrill Lynch ($432 million), Norway (more than $2.5 billion), and the World Bank ($165 billion) have created programs in Indonesia to save large expanses of rainforest. REDD programs are not limited to Indonesia; programs are being created throughout the tropics.

REDD is an important conservation and economic strategy. A recent study performed in Indonesia by Australian scientists found that REDD programs, if priced properly, make tropical rainforests more profitable standing than cut down. Carbon credits, which represent the cost of carbon stored in the environment, must be priced at or above half the expected profits to be had from cutting down the forest and converting into a plantation.

The ramifications of this study are immense. REDD will become (and this may have started already) particularly attractive to both those looking to balance their emissions and those looking for economic growth.

The study, however, did not include an important factor in their calculations: ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people derive from environmental processes such as pollination of crops, production of oxygen and the detoxification of water. These services are essential. As such, they are can be considered as environmental infrastructure. Without environmental services, the world would be in terrible trouble.

Ecosystem services make REDD programs vital. REDD programs prevent the destruction of rainforests and the important services they provide. Not only can they reduce emissions and create economic growth, but also they are an important investment in environmental infrastructure.

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