Environmental news from California and beyond

« Previous | Greenspace Home | Next »

Tropical forests: Will the U.S. ride to the rescue?


Saving the rain forest is no longer just about helping such countries as Brazil and Indonesia preserve their exotic fauna and flora. Now it is about benefiting American corporations too.

A report released today by a blue-ribbon panel estimates that if American companies invest about $9 billion by 2020 in preserving tropical forests in developing countries, they can save about $50 billion that they would have had to spend on cleaning up their own carbon dioxide emissions.

"It is one of the few major sources of emissions that can be addressed cost-effectively now," concludes the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests, co-chaired by former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.) and John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, an energy think tank.

Left unsaid is that utilities and manufacturers who fiercely oppose federal climate legislation should see the writing on the wall: With the Earth heading toward dangerous levels of climate change, companies now have a chance to do well by doing good -- if they move fast.

Some 17% of global carbon dioxide pollution comes from burning forests and converting them to cattle ranches and soybean farms -- more than all the world's cars, trains and planes emit together.

 Climate legislation passed by the U.S. House in June includes provisions for international offsets, which could allow companies to pay for preserving forests in developing nations instead of buying expensive equipment to control all of their own emissions.

 Some environmental groups are critical of forest offsets, tarring them as a scheme to let corporations off the hook for cleaning up their own emissions. Others worry about bogus schemes claiming false preservation credits, since forest carbon is difficult to measure.

The 71-page report is timed to influence the U.S. Senate as it takes up climate legislation. It recommends that the U.S. government invest $1 billion in tropical forest preservation in the next three years. And it pushes to have tropical forest emissions included in a new international treaty to be considered in Copenhagen in December.

The 16-member commission includes former Sen. Chuck Hagel, former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Army Chief of Staff Gordon Sullivan, as well as business and environmental representatives.

California moved ahead earlier this month, adopting complex rules for regulating and verifying forest carbon in the voluntary carbon market. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched cooperative agreements with Brazil and Indonesia and other forest-rich nations to provide technical expertise with a view toward opening the state's planned cap-and-trade market to tropical forest offset programs.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: A gibbon in Borneo's tropical forest, which is under pressure from logging, fire and palm oil plantations. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (5)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Hello -- (Submitted to: -- requesting a response)

Why is it that some environmentalist, supporting stopping deforestration in Brazil and such, support the idea that: Clean Air -- Not Here but there allows for: Keep Polluting but Plant or Maintain Forests Elsewhere? Pollution domestically causes domestic related Environmental and Human Destruction, EHD, and is not corrected by anything other than stopping domestic emissions! Exclamation!

1. (E-mail) October 8, 2009, Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times: "U.S. companies may look abroad to fight global warming -- Firms could save billions by combating deforestation abroad instead of cleaning up their own emissions at home, report says.

2. U.S. companies could save tens of billions of dollars by investing in efforts to combat deforestation in developing nations instead of cleaning up their own domestic carbon dioxide emissions, according to a report released Wednesday.

3. The report, compiled by a high-powered bipartisan group, backs the use of "forest offsets" in the global effort to curb pollution that is heating up the atmosphere. It was released in advance of the upcoming Senate debate on climate legislation and an international meeting on the issue set for December in Copenhagen.

4. The burning of tropical forests and their conversion to cattle farms and soybean fields is responsible for about 17% of the emissions that are causing global warming -- more than all the world's cars, trucks, trains and planes combined -- scientists say.

5. "It is one of the few major sources of emissions that can be addressed cost-effectively now," said the report from the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests, co-chaired by former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) and John Podesta, chief of staff under President Clinton and now head of the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank.

6. The panel's researchers estimate that if American companies invest about $60 billion between 2012 and 2020 to preserve rain forests in such countries as Brazil and Indonesia, they could achieve the same amount of global emissions cuts while avoiding the expense of about $110 billion on remedies in the United States. That net savings of $50 billion might be enough to make climate legislation palatable to companies that have fiercely opposed tough global warming rules.

7. The 71-page report also calls on the U.S. government to make similar, multibillion-dollar investments to help developing nations survey their forests, measure their carbon, set up legal mechanisms to preserve them and enforce conservation.

8. Preventing deforestation is "an excellent way to mitigate the costs of other climate solutions," said Michael G. Morris, chief executive of American Electric Power and a member of the commission that produced the report. Ohio-based AEP, along with the Georgia-based Southern Co., burns more coal than any utility in the Western Hemisphere.

9. The Nature Conservancy, which has an extensive international forest program, was represented on the panel and endorsed its offset recommendations. "Providing this opportunity can reduce the costs of legislation substantially," noted Eric Haxthausen, the organization's director of U.S. climate policy.

10. Many European environmental groups, however, along with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Rainforest Action Network, oppose offsets as "a way for corporations like American Electric Power to buy their way out of any pollution cuts, and avoid replacing coal with solar and wind power," said Rolf Skar, Greenpeace's senior forestry campaigner.

Two items from the New York Times of April 29, 2007 written by Andew C. Revkin -- discuss issues surrounding the current effort to keep polluting by: "Buying Carbon-Neutral" and "Carbon-Neutral Is Hip, but Is It Green? " with the second asking the appropriate question, "Is it Green?" -- And the answer -- resoundingly -- is "No!" At least that's my answer.

“The worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation,” said Denis Hayes, the president of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental grant-making group. “Instead of reducing their carbon footprints, people take private jets and stretch limos, and then think they can buy an indulgence to forgive their sins.”

Repeatedly, there are approaches that while minimizing carbon emissions involving the use of natural gas, best, renewable natural gas, biomethane. Operationally, local Distributed Energy Systems and in-site Ground Effect Geothermal, together or in combination would both dramatically reduce energy use, reduce transmission line construction and reduce Environmental and Human Destruction, EHD. President Obama must force the emitters to adopt these approaches!

Best, Dick Glick

It's great to see movement toward saving forests in the tropics, but it's been business as usual in Western conifer forests. We are still buying three ply plush toilet paper and thick product catalogs, and building houses out of two by fours. This means further deforestation in North America, already running at breakneck speed.

Clearcutting forests here is just as unsustainable as destroying forests in the tropics, and has worse carbon consequences. Forests in Canada and in the Northwest contain more biomass and carbon per acre than do forests in the tropics. Destroying them produces the same result, in spite of the phony hundred year projections and touting of herbicide/monoculture forestry.

Governor Swarzenegger's people caved in to the timber industry in skewing our own carbon monitoring methodology to allow credits for Sierra Pacific, probably the worst timber company in the West. Let's try to get the science to govern in this most crucial area.

There are plenty of former government folks and plenty of industrialists, but, where are all the conservationists and plant ecologists?

Has anyone really studied the Rain Forest in Brazil? Hmm?
The Rain Forest in Brazil is the leader in making Co2.. Why? The Rain Forest rots; yes the forest has dead trees and marshes. This produces more Co2 then Al Gores fleet of jets or the other none science ramblings of the environmental community.

Perhaps California should clean up it's own house first. We don't want those poor third world countries to pollute or "deforest" and clearcut but what about here in California? Currently California forests are being clearcut at an alarming rate. Clearcutting produces more CO2 emissions than any other form of logging and the replanted non biodiverse tree plantations are heavily treated with herbicides to prevent native vegetation in the very watersheds that CA relies on for most of its' water. This massive amount of clearcutting is cleverly hidden to most of the public by leaving a strip of trees along the highways. But thanks to Google sattelite maps a simple Google on Arnold, CA will show the incredible amount of clearcutting that has taken place in recent years by one company alone. Sierra Pacific Industries. SPI is of course owned by one of Fortune magazines top billionaires and has heavily contributed to our Govenore and to members of the legislature. Now surprisingly the new California Air Resource Board Forest Climate Protocols suddenly have evenaged management - just forestry jargon for clearcutting - in them! So Big Timber industry is laughing all the way to the carbon bank. Unfortunately the laugh is on us the public and the earth who desperately need fewer CO2 emissions now and more carbon sequestration asap. The best way to do that is to use less intensive logging methods and conserve the forests as much as possible. Forests are hugely about carbon and healthy forests supply tourism, wildlife habitat, resist fire, and better insure our water quality and quantity.

To top it off the recently announced huge forestry carbon project in CA seems to have some "issues." See the following from the Union Democrat, Sonora, CA newspaper yesterday. More information about this "project" will likely be revealed soon.

"SPI claims the deal will sequester an additional 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide — equal to taking 300,000 cars off the road for a year — over the next five years."

"The highlighted project in the deal will be to “protect in perpetuity” about 20,000 giant sequoias on over 60,000 acres of SPI land — most of which are in Tuolumne County, said Mark Pawlicki, SPI spokesman. "

“The only little sequoias that are growing on SPI lands are a few scattered small trees amidst its mostly pine-tree plantations that have been planted after fires or clear-cuts,” said John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center.

"Pawlicki admitted that the oldest of SPI’s giant sequoias are only about 30 years old, and many are just seedlings. "


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Recent News
Invitation to connect on LinkedIn |  December 12, 2013, 9:58 am »
New Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary proposed |  December 8, 2011, 8:00 am »