About 20% of global greenhouse gases arise from deforestation.
There is a move to address this through REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).
I like to approach things in simple steps, working from the axioms to the policy. So:
1. It is vitally necessary to stop deforestation as part of addressing climate change.
2. Poor countries with forests will be tempted to call in the loggers in order to improve their current account in the short (but not the long) term.
3. REDD seeks to address this problem by paying forested countries not to destroy their forest.
4. If we reject REDD, we need a comprehensive worked out alternative.
But a lot of good people, including many greens, are critical of REDD. Why?
For a quick take on this I dive into Wikipedia*.
1. The availability of a large supply of potentially cheap carbon credits could provide an avenue for companies in the developed world to simply purchase REDD credits without providing meaningful emission reductions at home.
RL: Companies will have REDD payments on their balance sheets, proportional to their carbon usage. Their carbon costs have gone up. The pressure is still there for the company to cut its costs by cutting carbon, for instance, by installing its own CHP, or by buying low-carbon electricity.
So argument 1 lacks force.
2. Large number of carbon credits could swamp developing carbon markets.
RL: That depends on the value set on carbon credits. The European system has failed because the carbon price was set too low.
3. Putting a commercial value on forests neglects the spiritual value they hold for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
This sentence could equally well be written " Putting a commercial value on forests complements the spiritual value they hold for Indigenous Peoples and local communities."
This argument has no force at all. There is no necessary logical exclusion between spiritual value and commercial value. Recall that the "commercial value" of REDD is in fact more a conservation value than a commercial value, since the whole point is that the trees shall not be killed and traded.
4. There is no consensus on a definition for forest degradation.
How about "reduction in the total area covered by the forest" for a start? This can then be determined very simply and accurately by satellite surveillance (think Google Earth).
On top of quantitative area counts, there is also the matter of quality, which could be assessed by ecological surveys. Perfectly possible, though it comes at a cost, but the upside is that it provides work for our friends the ecologists.
5. * Fair distribution of REDD benefits will not be achieved without a prior reform in forest governance and more secure tenure systems in many countries.
Ok, so let's set about doing just that.
Now, I am just a peripheral observer, and amateur in the sense that I just love trees. There are deeply held views against REDD, and there are many other detailed objections. I may be wrong. REDD may indeed turn out to be the worst thing since sliced white bread. In that case, prove me wrong with robust logical arguments, and also show us what the alternative strategy should be.
*Yes, I know. But if you think that the Wikipedia article is deficient, then bloody well dive in and improve it if you're such a smart ass. Or point me to a better summary of the criticisms against REDD.
[update: Link to detailed piece on REDD, and how it could help forest peoples].