At a side meeting of the Bali climate change conference today, Greenpeace launched a new proposal that will encourage and reward countries for reducing emissions from deforestation. It's long, complex and full of acronyms but with forest destruction responsible for around one-fifth of our greenhouse gas emissions, it could represent one of the best chances we have of slashing global emissions.
It tackles a subject which is a big stumbling block in attempts to stop deforestation: money. There's not enough of it, at least not in the right places. Most countries with large tracts of forest, such as Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are still developing and see them as sources of much-needed finance. Even though the link between deforestation and climate change is now being widely acknowledged, these governments rarely have funds available to protect their forests.
For some time, Indonesia has been saying it will protect its forests if it's given the funds to do so by the international community, and Guyana recently offered up its entire rainforest for protection in return for aid and technology. What's been lacking is an internationally agreed plan to help forest producing countries preserve their remaining forest areas. Our proposal - the Tropical Deforestation Emissions Reduction Mechanism (TDERM) - is intended to be that plan.
Although the details are complex, the essence is fairly straight-forward and it has the potential to raise several billion US dollars a year to finance urgent action to cut emissions from deforestation. Under the proposal, rich countries such as the UK can meet a certain percentage of their total emission reduction targets by buying what we're calling Tropical Deforestation Emission Reductions Units (TDERUs); money from the sale of these units would help forest countries permanently reduce and, eventually, eliminate deforestation.
This isn't an excuse for rich countries to do nothing at home though; these nations (including our own) also need to slash their emissions through energy efficiency and clean energy generation.
As with any international agreement, there are a number of issues that need addressing. For instance, how will forest communities be protected? How will reductions in deforestation be monitored and measured? How do you decide what the current levels of emissions from deforestation are, given that they're harder to calculate than emissions from industry and transport? Nevertheless, we're confident the proposal deals with all of these and more, presenting a real chance for us to get a grip on climate change.
Emissions from deforestation need to stop completely within ten years, and as Paulo Adario, co-ordinator of our Amazon campaign, said at today's launch: "No money, no forests, no climate, no future." What could be simpler?