Forests are one of the best hopes to curb climate change, and Conservation International (CI) has been protecting them for decades. The new Bali roadmap shows the world is catching on.
At last month’s United Nations convention in Indonesia, countries agreed to consider a greater role for forests in a climate treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol. Forest mitigation activities have been sorely underused, and were met with opposition in past negotiations despite having clear benefits.
Healthy forests remove massive amounts of CO2 from the air, but when burnt down or cleared, they spew harmful gases into the air. Deforestation accounts for about 16 percent of global emissions.
"The forest component of climate is a great opportunity to prevent greenhouse gas emissions," says CI President Russell A. Mittermeier. "But it’s also a tool for biodiversity conservation at a scale never before imagined."
The current treaty only gives credit to countries for replanting – not for maintaining – their forests. Getting such efforts recognized in the next agreement is the driving factor behind the concept of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), a charge that CI has aggressively led.
In Bali, governments took a major step in that direction and agreed to consider how to reward countries that reduce their CO2 emissions by keeping healthy forests standing.
"We're well on the path to getting serious mechanisms put in place to ensure that the carbon sequestered in tropical forest systems is preserved and that the countries receive adequate compensation," says Mittermeier.
With partners, CI has already helped preserve huge swaths of the Amazon – the world’s largest rainforest – and many other priority places on land and at sea. Now we’re pursuing projects aimed specifically at the good of the climate, biodiversity, and communities.
Adapting to Climate
Dying species. Shrinking water supplies. The climate crisis is here and now, as the world figures out how to adapt.
Governments in Bali finally launched the Adaptation Fund, created to help developing countries cope with droughts and other climate change impacts. Another crucial component to the success of adaptation strategies is protecting forest ecosystems. Healthy forests shelter threatened species, but also provide important functions that are vulnerable to climate change, such as flood control and fresh water.
In Madagascar, CI, the World Wildlife Fund, and other partners are working to ensure that the government's plans for a protected area network include climate change considerations.
The deadline for a successor to Kyoto, which expires in 2012, is set for 2009. While the road after Bali is sure to have twists and turns, your future health and the planet’s are riding on it.
Visit www.conservation.org each week to learn how our carbon projects, like the Makira and Mantadia forests of Madagascar, benefit life on Earth.