Climate Change Reduction or ‘Green Global Welfare’?

The idea seems simple enough. The rich world would pay the poor world to
save a type of natural commodity from which we all benefit – trees.

Forests and jungles absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, which
is stored in trees. Cutting trees down releases CO2 and triggers the emission
of additional greenhouse gases from denuded soils. Forest loss and land
degradation could be responsible for 20 percent of the planet-warming
gases attributable to human activities, some experts suggest.

That has made the question of what to do about forests central to talks
underway this week in Poznan, Poland, that aim to shape a new global
agreement to fight global warming. Scientists and environmentalists want
mechanisms to reward the developing world for saving its forests
incorporated into any such treaty.

Even champions of the idea, however — called R.E.D.D., for Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation — admit they have

They acknowledge that it will be hard to monitor whether people or
companies are cutting down forests and jungles they have promised to
preserve, or whether deforestation simply is shifting to unregulated areas.
They also acknowledge that it will be hard to guarantee that promises
made by one government to preserve forests will be respected by future
landowners, governments or regimes.

[At the same time, groups like The Center for International Forestry Research,
or Cifor, say that a properly designed system could help with alleviating
poverty, improving governance, and protecting biodiversity and other
environmental services.

“REDD also has the potential to achieve significant co-benefits, over and
above reducing carbon emissions,” said Frances Seymour, the director
general of the center, which released a new report on Friday Moving ahead
with REDD: Issues, options and implications, which details ways that paying
people to maintain forests could be a success.]

Even so, the idea has triggered a furious response from groups that say that
the developing world has a right to boost its economic development through
forestry. They say that the World Bank, Australia, the European Union, Norway
and environmental groups like WWF and Greenpeace are overlooking how better
management of forests — rather than preserving forest stocks — may be the
most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions.

One such group, World Growth, disputes that deforestation is generating
nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and argues that when
timber is processed into wood products or paper, as the majority of logged
timber is, the carbon remains stored — even when dumped into a landfill.

World Growth, which describes itself as a non-profit organization that favors
globalization and free trade to help disadvantaged populations, says the
strategy also risks reducing food production in poor countries and would halt
job creation and ways for countries to generate taxes and earn export income.

From a World Growth report issued this week, titled “Winners All: How Forestry
Can Reduce Both Climate Change Emissions and Poverty”:
If the leading mitigation strategy for forestry is deforestation and, as is proposed
in the R.E.D.D. strategy, developing countries are paid to cease deforestation,
they will be paid to cease conversion of land to produce food and sustain society.
This is an anti-development strategy. And where this activity reduced commercial
forestry in plantations and natural forest, this would remove an activity which
created jobs, generated taxes and earned export income. Productive economic
activity is halted and in return money is paid. This is a form of Green global welfare.