Cutting carbon emissions


Low-hanging fruit for cutting carbon emissions

The Manchester Report on solutions to climate change in The Guardian (13 July 2009) lists 20 ideas for cutting carbon emissions, ideas that range from small-scale and immediate (e.g. “cheap biomass stoves”) to large-scale and distant (e.g. “solar power from deserts”), with various shades of ‘blue sky’ between them and beyond.  But given the urgency, I’d like to put the case for large-scale and immediate as well.  Specifically, with up to a quarter of all carbon emissions coming from deforestation and land degradation, mainly in tropical countries, reducing this is a very low-hanging fruit indeed.  Indonesia, for example, has hundreds of proposed protected areas, containing millions of hectares of forest and peat-land.  Fully and verifiably securing them, with conditional payments and continuing surveillance, would head off emissions that will otherwise plague us for centuries.  And it isn’t hard to work out how: the policies, laws and governance arrangements are in place, but under-funded and poorly-coordinated, so staged conditional payments can help motivate each step of the protection process.  Even the UK, acting alone with a grant on the scale of that allocated to the Congo rainforests a year ago (£58 million), could transform the conservation picture on the ground in Indonesia.  Indonesia is also the most biodiverse country on Earth, so saving rainforests there could mean saving more species per pound than anywhere else.  Why wait for inter-governmental negotiations to grind out a post-Kyoto agreement, one that anyway looks set to virtually ignore natural forests, biodiversity and local people?  Surely the time to act is now, before more millions of hectares of Indonesian and other tropical forests are allowed to burn.

Julian Caldecott, 13 July 2009