Eleven countries that have avoided widespread destruction of their tropical forest are at risk of being left out of an emerging carbon market intended to promote rainforest conservation to combat climate change.
A study written about in the Public Library of Science Biology journal says that the “high forest cover with low rates of deforestation” (HFLD) nations could become the most vulnerable targets for deforestation if the Kyoto Protocol and upcoming negotiations on carbon trading fail to include intact standing forest, according to Conservation International.
The study by scientists from Conservation International, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and the University of California-Santa Barbara calls for the HFLD countries to receive “preventive credits” under any carbon trading mechanism to provide incentive for them to protect their intact tropical forest. Otherwise, the same market and economic forces that cause deforestation elsewhere will quickly descend on regions that so far have avoided significant loss, the authors say.
Until now, the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent discussions have focused on carbon credits for new or replanted forests that replace the carbon storage services of destroyed forests. New rules being discussed by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change for implementation subsequent to Kyoto are likely to create a carbon market for countries that reduce their deforestation from levels of recent years.
That would cover countries that have lost large portions of their original tropical forest, as well as those that still have more than half their forest cover but face current high rates of deforestation. In contrast, 11 HFLD countries with more than half their original forest intact and low rates of current deforestation would receive no credits for standing forests.
“The minute that you exclude those countries, their forests lose economic value in the global carbon market, leaving governments with little reason to protect them,” said study co-author Gustavo Fonseca of CI and Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.
The HFLD countries are Panama, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Belize, Gabon, Guyana, Suriname, Bhutan and Zambia, along with French Guiana