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WWF to Screen Forest Carbon Investments

treesWWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) plans to launch investment screening guidelines for financial investors in the upcoming months to encourage support for responsible forest finance. WWF believes failure by the world’s financial leaders to support responsible forest finance will allow deforestation to continue. WWF is also calling for zero net deforestation by 2020.

The new guidelines will identify key environmental and social principles and criteria that need to be considered in all investment decisions pertaining to the forest sector, such as timber, pulp and paper, and other sectors whose activities impact forests, including palm oil cultivation and mining.

Though investors see a huge potential in a forest carbon market — as highlighted in WWF’s 2009 Forest Carbon Investor Survey — recent studies by the GFTN indicate that financiers are cautious about investing in forestry due to too much risk and volatility. Studies also show that investors think the forest sector lacks suitable collateral from small- to medium-sized businesses, says WWF.

WWF’s GFTN and the Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) asked global financial institutions to take a leading role in stopping climate change during the recent XIIIth World Forestry Congress, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

During the conference, WWF called for an ambitious climate deal at COP 15, the United Nations climate change conference, to give clear guidance and incentives for the forestry sector to do its part in stopping climate change and adapting to predicted changes. WWF proposed a global target of zero net deforestation by 2020 “to avoid runaway climate change and stop the current catastrophic trend of species loss.”

WWF also wants negotiators to agree to strong financial and emissions reduction commitments to craft a climate deal that enables developing countries to stop forest loss.

WWF said despite conservation efforts, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate — 13 million hectares per year, or 36 football fields a minute, and generates almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental group says stopping forest loss is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep the world out of the danger zone of runaway climate change.

In the United Staes, the Wilderness Society, a national group that seeks to preserve wildlands, called on President Obama to set up a National Forest Trust, a series of federal reserves chosen on the basis of their carbon density, to store carbon that contributes to global warming, reports the Idaho Statesman.

Among the forests that could be protected include the 9 million acres of old growth in Oregon, Washington and California already protected by former President Bill Clinton under the Northwest Forest Plan, along with the forests of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, said William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, in the article.

Opponents to the proposal, like Jim Riley, president of the Intermountain Forest Association, called Meadows’ proposal illogical because it would increase the risk of intense wildfires that spew carbon into the air, reports the Idaho Statesman.

Meadows told the Idaho Statesman that establishing a National Carbon Trust would demonstrate the U.S. commitment to fighting deforestation in the United States and help it persuade nations with tropical rain forests to protect them.

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