There's a small but growing community of people who are trying bring some clarity to the debate about forest protection in the run-up to Copenhagen - specifically the REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) process.
Natasha Loder, who writes for the Economist, is covering the intricacies of the carbon trading markets in Papua New Guinea on her blog. Her latest post is a look at the tangled web of project-based carbon offsetting. A 'project based' approach for REDD would allow bits of forest to be 'bought up' by organisations, who'd pay to protect the forest in return for securing rights to the future carbon credits from it.
There are real problems with the project-based approach. Without a wider plan for making emissions cuts, it’s difficult to know how long the project will last, whether it represents additional carbon savings compared to 'business as usual', whether the forest being protected leads to other forest being cleared – a problem known as 'leakage' – and increased vulnerability to corruption. We'd actually argue that project based offsets operate as a distraction, discouraging real solutions to climate change and biodiversity protection.
With the opportunity for profit on the horizon, even before REDD is agreed people are now running around buying up project locations. Natasha's piece is an interesting discussion of the legal implications of a trading-based approach, and it also unpicks some of the difficult questions that REDD will raise. It's good reading to help understand why we suggest a simpler baseline approach to REDD.
While REDD policy wonks debate about whether it should work at a project level or a national level, the private sector is busy answering this question buying up projects all over the place. Instead of a national baseline for deforestation that the government tries to minimise, bits of forest here-and-there are being tied up in deals ... How will these project level forests avoid 'leakage' and the movement of forest destruction to other areas of the country? They probably won't, which makes them a concern and which is why people argue about whether REDD should work at a project or national level.
Read her blog - overmatter - here.