The Age (article), March 31, 2009
AUSTRALIAN-backed proposals to reward companies that stop deforestation in poor countries will derail efforts to tackle climate climate, according to a report.
Released overnight at United Nations climate talks in Germany by Greenpeace International, the report says plans to recognise forest protection in a global climate deal would trigger a collapse in the carbon permit price of up to 75 per cent.
It found issuing forestry credits for avoiding deforestation would also drastically reduce investment in clean energy technology, locking in "dirty" technologies such as coal-fired power.
The report comes as climate bureaucrats meeting in Bonn consider proposals on how to reduce the 20 per cent of annual global emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.
In a speech in New York last week, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said she supported a global forestation credit program, suggesting it could cut the cost of reducing greenhouse emissions by up to 25 per cent. Greenpeace campaigner Paul Winn said the introduction of forest credits would encourage rich nations to buy cheap offsets overseas instead of reducing emissions from energy at home.
"(Senator) Wong seems to think Australia can keep polluting and push the burden of its emissions reduction responsibilities on to developing countries and their forests," he said.
He called for forests to be excluded from carbon markets, backing the creation of a fund to stop deforestation and protect biodiversity.
The Greenpeace report was released at the year's first major meeting of climate bureaucrats.
The Bonn meeting plans to lay the foundations for a post-2012 climate agreement, due to be signed in Denmark in December. Beyond forestry, it will consider emission reduction targets and how to find the billions of dollars needed to cut emissions in the developing world.
US climate envoy Todd Stern won sustained applause on the summit's first day after promising that the Obama Administration would take a markedly different approach to that of the Bush administration, which opposed the Kyoto Protocol.
"We want to make up for lost time," he said. Mr Stern said the US recognised its "unique responsibility … as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases".
He praised China, now the world's largest emitter, for its efforts to rein in carbon emissions, but said developing economies must join with rich nations to tackle climate change. "America itself cannot provide the solution, but there is no solution without America."
He urged delegates to adopt a long-range plan. Mr Obama has pledged to introduce policies that will return emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and cut them by 80 per cent by 2050.
UN climate chief Yvo de Boer urged delegates to heed the call of the millions who switched off lights for Earth Hour.