Make Rainforests Pay

by Jackson Cooney

Deforestation significantly impacts our world’s climate. Within the last 40 years, one billion acres of tropical forests have been cleared, contributing to a massive increase in overall CO2 levels. Because forests store huge amounts of carbon, cutting or burning them releases their stored carbon back into the atmosphere where it mixes with oxygen to create CO2. CO2 increases at an annual 12 to 15 percent due to deforestation. Although there are economic incentives to cut down these forests, for timber, farmland and mining sites, there may be a greater incentive to preserve them. Forest carbon reserves can be monetized and traded or sold to offset releases by companies that produce greenhouse gases. This benefits companies that need these reserves to stay below a polluting limit set by the government. The offsets are subtracted from their emissions, keeping them within the legal limit. Revenues can then be used to support energy efficiency or energy saving projects. Until recently, it was difficult to quantify “emissions avoided by not destroying tropical forests”. However, techniques have been implemented to quantify the emissions that would be saved, specifically, a process that protects an acre of forest, even if the specific acre in question is destroyed. The proceeds of the sale would then be returned to the local communities.

Recently, the Rainforest Standard, a new system that brings into account all of these ideas, has been developed and is being tested on a 1.6 million acre forest in south America. Due to the high cost of employing people to patrol the forests, there is relatively little enforcement of forest protection. The offset method provides money that could be used to ensure that the forests are adequately protected. Protecting a million acres, for example, could stop 367 million tons of CO2 from being released. Because of such high rewards, this offset method could be very beneficial.

Melnick, D., Pearl, M., & Warfield, J. (2015, January 19). Make Forests Pay. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/opinion/a-carbon-offset-market-for-trees.htm

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