The Multiple Benefits of Forest Carbon Markets


Mitigating Climate Change, Conserving Biodiversity and Helping People

Barcelona, Spain � Conserving the world�s tropical forests is essential for both avoiding catastrophic impacts of climate change and maintaining vital resources depended on by hundreds of millions of people. A workshop at the World Conservation Congress showed how the emerging forest carbon markets offer an additional benefit of generating new revenue as a conservation incentive that can help alleviate poverty.

Organized by Conservation International (CI), IUCN and The Nature Conservancy, the 90-minute workshop featured speakers representing government, indigenous communities, development and conservation interests who examined the strategy of monetizing the carbon sequestration and storage of standing forests and restored areas.

The crucial messages of the session invoked both the urgency of the challenge and the opportunity offered by accounting for the economic value of carbon dioxide that is absorbed and stored by tropical forests:

  • Burning and clearing tropical forests currently emits 20 percent* of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change. That�s more than all the world�s cars, trucks, trains, ships and airplanes combined. Failure to halt this rampant deforestation would result in dangerously high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, regardless of what other steps are taken involving energy use and other contributing factors.
  • Preventing future deforestation helps mitigate climate change, ensures the maintenance of healthy ecosystems for the people who rely on them, and protects habitat for 70 percent of the species on Earth. Right now, we are losing 15 million hectares � equal to an area the size of England � every year.
  • Future forest carbon markets have the potential to generate tens of billions of dollars annually and provide forest-rich nations with access to financial resources that can help them conserve their tropical forests and contribute to long-term economic growth and sustainable rural development. Nearly 1 billion people living in extreme poverty depend on forests for their livelihoods, and forests provide life-sustaining services such as food, fuel, shelter, water regulation and climate stabilization.
  • Forest carbon strategies are performance-based mechanisms that provide financial incentives for activities that can verifiably reduce emissions. Unlike overseas development aid, the revenue from a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism requires all stakeholders to work together to conserve tropical forests for their mutual benefit, thereby enhancing the chances of success. This also requires more transparent and accountable governance in order to demonstrate the required emissions reductions in order to participate in carbon market programs.

More potential benefits of REDD and other forest carbon strategies include job creation, strengthening of rights, empowerment of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities as conservation stewards, and maintenance of vital ecosystem services such as soil regeneration, pollination and water regulation. Some possible risks also discussed included corruption of forest carbon markets and systems, market access, a lack of respect for traditional land tenure and use rights, and the shifting of deforestation to other areas with lower carbon values or weaker governance.

Workshop speakers included moderator Charles McNeill of the U.N. Development Program; Barnabas Suebu, the governor of Indonesia�s Papua province; Johnson Cerda, , Kiwicha Indian leader from Limoncocha in the Ecuadorean Amazon; Glenn Prickett, CI�s senior vice president for climate change, and Joshua Bishop of IUCN.

Currently, the forest carbon market created under the Kyoto Protocol only recognizes afforestation and deforestation projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Afforestation refers to tree-planting projects in areas where there has not been forest cover in the past 50 years, and reforestation refers to projects in areas that were more recently deforested. Projects that protect standing tropical forests and the carbon stocks they hold are currently ineligible for carbon credits through the CDM. Overall, less than 1 percent of the $60 billion global carbon market targets deforestation, which is the source of 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.


For more information, contact:

For Latin America:
Maria C. Hoyos
Phone in Barcelona: +34-63 665 2626

Misty Herrin
The Nature Conservancy
Phone in Barcelona: +32-487-319-682

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth�s richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

*CI regularly reassesses our assumptions and conclusions to ensure they are consistent with the most current and reliable data sources available so that we are delivering accurate and up-to-date information.  Accordingly, in December 2009, we updated our estimates related to global greenhouse gas emissions to reflect the best and most current science. We now estimate that 16% of greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation and logging.
See our deforestation, logging and GHG emissions factsheet (PDF - 2.7KB) for details and data sources.

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