Poor nations plan to use ‘avoided deforestation’ as bargaining chip

Poor nations plan to use ‘avoided deforestation’ as bargaining chip

New Delhi: Deliberations on including reduced greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding deforestation in the new climate change treaty will gather momentum from Wednesday at the United Nations Climate Change Conference at Bali, said a member of India’s negotiating team at the Indonesian island resort, who did not wish to be identified.

The biggest ever climate change conference, which hopes to kick off the process that will pave the way to a new climate change deal, started on Monday.

“Though there is a lot of pressure for a decision on this, the discussions will go on for at least two more years," said N.H. Ravindranath, member of the national scientific committee on climate change and chairman, Centre for Sustainable Technologies at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

The proposal asks for developed nations to compensate poorer countries for protecting and conserving each hectare of forests. Madagascar, Nigeria, Indonesia and Brazil have registered rising deforestation rates, which will continue. But countries such as India, China, Thailand and the Philippines have stabilized forest cover and cut deforestation rates.

Critical issues, however, remain. “Monitoring of forest cover is very difficult and unreliable. There are also issues of leakage (avoiding deforestation in one area but increasing in another area to fulfil domestic needs), benefit sharing of the value of forest and scale of the forest area to be monitored. These questions need to be answered and it will take time," Ravindranath said.

Developing countries have been demanding compensation for reduction in emissions from the so-called avoided deforestation and are hoping the discussions come to a head at this conference.

Though some hope that reduced emissions from such processes will be included in the carbon market, numerous bottlenecks remain in monitoring and benefit sharing aspects. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a decision to reduce emissions from deforestation in developing nations is expected to include an agreement on measuring avoided emissions.

The proposal, drafted by a group of developing nations including Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia and Thailand, has established a baseline on the basis of the rates of deforestation in the past five years. “A contact group has been constituted for this, which will be coordinated by Brazil," the Indian delegate said.

“The argument is that the forest which would have been cut down would have gone ahead to serve the country’s development needs and in its absence, the countries should be compensated," added Ravindranath.

But developing countries are divided on how the compensation should be delivered to these countries. One group says compensation from avoided deforestation should be delivered through carbon credits. Carbon credits are generated by carbon reduction projects in developing nations and are bought by developed nations that have accepted emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol to reach their targets.

The other group argues that flooding the market with carbon credits would depress prices, making it easier for developed countries to fulfil their commitments.

“It is very hard to prove real emission reduction (fossil fuel reduction) through this," said Ravindranath. India currently leads the world in the number of carbon reduction projects.