While afforestation is allowed under the Kyoto Protocol as a way to offset carbon emissions, avoiding deforestation is not, explains environmentalresearchweb.
The article by Lynn Dicks, a contributing editor for the website, reports that a study by a team of international researchers argue that leaving trees standing should feature in the UN’s global climate agreement.
They state that retaining existing forests is more beneficial for biodiversity and other ecosystem services than planting new trees.
A mechanism developed by the World Bank that includes avoided deforestation, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), will be considered at the key UN climate summit in 2009, which is being held in Copenhagen.
The findings by the researchers will add weight to the REDD proposals.
By using models of global land use, the study showed that leaving trees standing compared favourably in economic terms to other emission reduction options.
If the cost of carbon within trading schemes was £10 per tonne, the researchers showed that avoided deforestation would reduce emissions by 1.6-4.3 gigatonnes each year over a 25-year period.
To put it in context, Ms Dicks said the latest assessment suggests emissions need to fall by 3.5 gigatonnes each year to stabilise CO2 levels in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million (ppm).
The researchers said that the cost to nations of not cutting down trees (measured as loss of income from the land) would be relatively low (10% reduction in deforestation would cost £1-£2.50 per tonne of carbon dioxide).
“These are well within the range of costs for other climate change policy options,” says Brent Sohngen, a researcher from Ohio State University and one of the report’s authors.
The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).