Friday, June 5, 2009

Land Conservation Wise Use..Who Knew?

Study finds potential profits in conservation

BANGKOK (AP) — Selling credits for the billions of tons of carbon that are locked in Indonesia's tropical rain forests could be as profitable as converting these areas into palm oil plantations, a study released Friday found.

The study, in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Conservation Letters, also found that conserving the 3.3 million hectares (8.2 million acres) that are slated to become plantations on Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, would boost the region's biodiversity. The 800 proposed plantations that were studied contain 40 of the region's 46 threatened mammals including orangutans and pygmy elephants, the study found.

"Our study clearly demonstrates that payments made to reduce carbon emissions from forests could also be an efficient and effective way to protect biodiversity," said Oscar Venter, a conservation biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia and the study's lead author. "We now need to see policy discussions catch up with science because at the moment the potential co-benefits of linking forest protection to biodiversity are not getting the attention they deserve."

Under an international climate change agreement which would replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, governments are expected to create a framework allowing countries to get compensated for protecting their forests.

Among the scenarios being considered are providing countries with direct financial assistance for reducing their emissions from forests or allowing them to gain credits, which they could sell on an international carbon market to companies that have exceeded their allotted carbon cap.

Under the latter scenario, the study concluded that conserving forests would be more profitable than clearing them for palm oil if the credits could be sold for $10 to $33 per ton. Currently, the rate per ton is around $20, the study said.

A carbon trading market — or "cap-and-trade" system — works much like any commodities market except that traders make their fees selling a ton of carbon dioxide instead of corn or copper. At this point, the carbon dioxide traded for the most part comes from industrial sources.


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