How do you persuade private industry to support biodiversity conservation and climate change
mitigation? Talk about carbon dioxide (CO2), says Sonal Pandya, senior program manager for the Conservation Carbon program at CI’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB).
“Companies don’t get that excited about just planting trees,” says Pandya. “However, if you talk about it in the context of cost-effective ways for mitigating CO2 emissions, they’re all ears.”
Driving this newfound concern over curbing industrial pollution is the Kyoto Protocol, which requires ratifying countries to reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 5.2 percent from their 1990 baseline by 2012. Although the United States did not ratify the protocol, California, Oregon, and Massachusetts have gone ahead and established reduction benchmarks.
Nations and industries comply with regulations primarily by reducing CO2 in their smokestack emissions. An alternative, or complement, to cleansing industrial discharges is investing in carbon offsets. These land-based projects mitigate CO2 levels either by preventing deforestation (trees absorb CO2 and release it when cut down) or by the reforestation of degraded land, thus offsetting a company’s polluting practices.
CELB launched its Conservation Carbon initiative in 2002 and now has offset projects in five hotspot
, and the Philippines
. Beyond CO2 mitigation, the programs are also designed to enhance biodiversity conservation, watershed protection, and the well being of local communities
“With offsets, there is a danger that companies will make investments that do little to support biological diversity or sustainable livelihoods,” says Pandya. “We’re trying to demonstrate to the business community that carbon offsets can also be a powerful force for conservation and human welfare.”
Projects include reforestation in buffer zones around protected areas, protection of primary forests
, and agroforestry initiatives that plant a mix of valuable native species
for eventual harvest to generate income for local communities.