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Deforestation a ‘thorny’ issue at the Bali talks

Bali, Indonesia-

As anticipated, deforestation has emerged as something of a thorny issue at the UN conference on climate change, currently nearing a close in Bali.

It was announced yesterday that measures to avoid further destruction of tropical forests, such as the Amazon, will be included in the agreement to come out of the talks at the end of this week. The Bali agreement is expected to act as a guideline for negotiations on an international climate change deal up until the end of 2009.

Daniel Nepstad of Woods Hole Research Centre, US said today in Bali that the Amazon rainforest is expected to see a 55% dieback by 2030 through deforestation, logging and drought. Rainforests in other nations, such as Indonesia are facing similar pressures. So, any effort to avoid deforestation, which accounts for an estimated 20-25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is to be commended. But the solution being put forward to in Bali , known as REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is being met with opposition on many sides.

REDD protests.jpg

Under the proposed scheme for ‘avoided deforestation’, carbon sequestered by forests in developing countries that are not being cut can be traded on the carbon market, where developed countries can buy the credits and ‘offset’ them against their own emissions targets.

A draft text on deforestation is ready to go forward for discussion by the high level ministers, who arrived at the Bali conference today, said executive secretary of the UN conference on climate change, Yvo De Boer.

Countries such as Indonesia and numerous conservation NGOs are celebrating inclusion of the scheme. And given that emissions from deforestation were omitted from the Kyoto Protocol, it is the first such international effort of its kind.

But much remains to be agreed upon. The issue of whether such a scheme should include forest conservation is a remaining “bone of contention”. As reported in the Hindustan Times, the Indian delegation wanted to add ‘conservation’ to ‘avoided deforestation’ , owing to the fact that India is one of the few developing countries where the forest cover is going up, not down. “We should not be penalised for that” said secretary of the ministry of environment and forests, Meena Gupta


Today, Brazil’s environment minister Marina Silva told the press in Bali that Brazil is entirely opposed to the concept of awarding credits to rich nations for avoided deforestation in developing countries, on the basis that it could lead to further emissions from developed nations that could simply pay to pollute.

“Brazil does not agree with credits for deforestation because we want 100% additionally. Otherwise we do 100% of our homework and only get part of the credit”, said Silva.

Last week, campaigners from non-governmental groups demonstrated outside the conference venue to highlight the plight of indigenous communities who could be displaced from forests under the proposed scheme.

On a high note, however, Norway has been commended by showing leadership on deforestation, following an announcement from Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday that it will spend three billion kroner a year to help prevent deforestation in developing countries.

We’ll be covering more on deforestation on our upcoming podcast from Bali, so listen in for further discussion…

Photo: Campaigners protest against REDD last week outside Bali conference

Olive Heffernan


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