Saturday, 13 June 2009

Reducing deforestation - road to Copenhagen

OPINION: Two Developments Climate Negotiators Should Heed
by Gary Gardner on June 10, 2009

At the opposite side of the carbon cycle, the United Nations Environment Programme released an interesting report [PDF] on the potential of the world's forests, farmland, and peatland to soak up atmospheric carbon.

Among the findings: "Reducing deforestation rates by 50 percent by 2050 and then maintaining them at this level until 2100 would avoid the direct release of up to 50 Gt of carbon this century, equivalent to 12 percent of the emissions reductions needed to keep atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide below 450 ppm."

The report also found that the agricultural sector could be essentially carbon neutral by 2030 if sustainable management practices were followed, echoing the findings of a Worldwatch Institute report issued last week. But achieving this carbon "sponging" potential requires a conservation approach to agriculture, forests, and peatland. Will conservation issues - less sexy than carbon sequestration and other technological fixes - receive the attention they deserve at Copenhagen?

Less coal and more carbon sponges are potentially good news for climate stabilization. But neither development is automatically an assist to the climate. Negotiators will have to do the heavy lifting to leverage these developments into climate-friendly commitments and policies.

Gary Gardner is a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C.