Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Forests rethink could earn nation $1b

Carbon trading initiative mooted
By Maw Maw San

MYANMAR could earn an estimated US$1 billion if it works to reduce deforestation under a carbon trading initiative proposed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, from November 6 to 17. Under the plan, industrialised nations would pay rainforest nations, including Myanmar, to protect their forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions limits set under international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol. About 20 percent of annual emissions of heat-trapping gases result from deforestation and forest degradation, scientists say.
Money from industrialised countries would flow into a forest conservation fund that Myanmar could draw upon depending on its success in reducing its deforestation rate.
By agreeing to the initiative, Myanmar could increase its per capita income by up to 25 percent, said U Ohn, general secretary of the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA).
“We do not need to cut these forests,” he said. “We can make money by keeping them so they continue to suck carbon dioxide from the air and benefit the environment.”
According to UN data Myanmar is harvesting more than 450,000 hectares of forest each year which emits 32 to 93 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Destroying one hectare of forest produces 80 to 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
According to the proposed scheme, preserving enough forestland to prevent one tonne of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air would earn a rainforest nation from $8 to $32.
Even with only one-half of the country’s 34 million hectares of forest area factored in, Myanmar could make $800 million, said U Ohn.
“If we calculate for the whole area, we would get $1.6 billion,” he said. “FREDA is hoping the government can negotiate to get $800 million for saving half the area or $1 billion for saving more.” “If Myanmar accepts this plan, we can start it right away. It will be good for business, the climate, wildlife – everything,” he said. However, U Ohn acknowledged that reducing the amount of trees cut in the country could affect businesses relating to forest products such as furniture manufacturing.
“In that case, we would suggest that the trees be saved while programs are put in place for factories to plant more trees to use for manufacturing purposes,” he said, adding that such a plan would require negotiations between wood-based industries and the government.
Mr William F. Laurance, a leading rainforest biologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, was quoted on the environmental website as saying that the carbon trading initiative was “potentially a win-win situation for everybody involved”.
“The forests win, the atmosphere wins, the international community wins and developing nations struggling to overcome poverty win,” he said.