Forests are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. When forests and bogs and wetlands are destroyed daily around the world carbon dioxide stored in trees, bogs and wetlands is released into the atmosphere. This release accelerates global warming., When 20% of our rainforests are destroyed annually, it is estimated to account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
If this agreement is achieved some progress towards providing a system through which countries can be paid for conserving disappearing natural assets based on their contribution to reducing emissions.
Today the final draft of Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD, will be distributed to some 200 ministers to hammer out a framework for a global climate treaty. Negotiators and other participants said that though some details remained to be worked out, all major points of disagreement — how to address the rights of indigenous people living on forest land and what is defined as forest, for example — had been resolved through compromise.
A final agreement on the program may not be announced until the end of the week, when President Obama and other world leaders arrive — in part because there has been so little progress on other issues at the climate summit meeting, sponsored by the United Nations.
For poorer countries, the payments will provide a much-needed new income stream. For richer nations, the lure of the program is not cash but carbon credits that can be used to cancel out, in part, their industrial emissions under a carbon trading system, like the cap-and-trade plan currently under consideration by Congress.
The agreement is also being closely watched in Congress, where climate legislation passed the House in June and is currently stalled in the Senate.
Under the cap-and-trade system preferred by Democratic leaders and the Obama administration, companies that cannot meet their greenhouse gas pollution limit could buy extra permits by investing in carbon-reduction programs abroad. Plans to preserve forests under REDD would presumably qualify. This could help U.S. companies to reduce emissions at lower cost.
For more information on the progress on international climate reform in Copenhagen.
Excerpts courtesy of http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/science/earth/16forest.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
Images courtesy of http://earth.rice.edu/mtpe/bio/biosphere/topics/biomes/forest.jpg