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Ecosystem Services of Tropical Forests to be Protected with Precedent-Setting Memorandum
Sarah Kuck, 20 Nov 08

life%20as%20a%20fern.jpg Earlier this week California, Illinois and Wisconsin joined forces with six states in Brazil and Indonesia to fight climate change in an unprecedented way: the states will develop programs that will protect and restore tropical rainforests to ensure the safety of these essential carbon sinks.

According to a recent release from Marshall Maher of Conservation International, by signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU), the governors are stating that they are willing to pay for the service the tropical forests are providing: storing and absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

"When a tropical forest is destroyed, it hurts everyone, no matter where they live," said Peter Seligmann, the chairman and CEO of Conservation International (CI)…The US governors' leadership in this area will help stabilize the Earth's climate by providing effective incentives to conserve these threatened tropical ecosystems that are so critical for supporting the livelihoods of forest-dwelling communities and indigenous peoples."

Governments and institutions around the world are seeing the MOU as a hopeful sign that legislatures are finally willing to take action at the state level, and are optimistic that this proactive measure will encourage others to do the same.

"This would open the door for carbon credits derived from protecting forests to be used for compliance purposes under US climate legislation," said Toby Janson-Smith, the senior director for forest carbon markets in CI's Center for Environmental Leadership in Business. "International negotiators will see that it can be done in a credible and robust way, and that reducing emissions from deforestation should finally be included in the global climate change framework."

The Kyoto Protocol only allows for emissions trading for new or replanted forests. As far as carbon markets go, this has mostly resulted in voluntary financing for forest conservation. Last year’s U.N.-led negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, looked into forest protection as a possible strategy for climate change mitigation, but they have not yet agreed upon such a measure. This measure is unparalleled, for now. Many hope that this effort will provide a model for success that the U.N. can look to during next year's negotiations in Copenhagen.

Thanks to the Environmental Media Alliance for bringing this story to our attention.

Image credit: Flickr/Andy Hadfield.

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