Companies Could Buy Areas of Rainforest in Return for Being Allowed to Pollute
Companies could effectively buy areas of rainforest to protect them from destruction in return for being allowed to pollute after the UK brokered a groundbreaking deal on deforestation.
The destruction of the world's rainforests is currently responsible for a fifth of the world's carbon emissions and that is set to get worse according to the Met Office.
The problem is a core part of negotiations going on at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, this week to try to halt global warming.
Delegates want to find a way to help poorer nations to protect the rainforests so that the whole world can benefit from the role the forests play in absorbing carbon, releasing oxygen and ultimately regulating the climate.
Several leading figures including Prince Charles and Johan Eliasch, Gordon Brown's special advisor on deforestation, have suggested paying poorer nations not to cut down trees.
One way of doing this is to use the money raised from taxing heavy industries for polluting through "carbon markets" to fund projects to halt deforestation.
Companies could pay millions of pounds for 'rainforest bonds' that would ensure certain areas were given protection.
In a ground-breaking move that will bring the world closer to achieving this, the UK is to sign a mission statement with more than a dozen other countries including rainforest nations in South America, South East Asia and Africa.
The deal is the first time in the world rainforests states have worked with richer nations to measure the amount of carbon dioxide released by chopping down trees, therefore paving the way for a system of payments for halting deforestation.
The UK has also pledged £100 million towards deforestation in a signal of how seriously the Government is taking the issue.
Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said the UK is in favour of finding a way to halt deforestation through the carbon markets - as long as the sovereignty of rainforest nations is respected.
"If the global carbon markets can be used to give rainforest countries an incentive to reduce their deforestation rates then that is the big potential prize," he said.
However, Tom Picken, of Friends of the Earth, warned the move could fund corrupt Governments, disempower indigenous forest peoples and give developed countries an excuse to carry on polluting.
"If the forest carbon trading scheme goes ahead then we won't be able to meet the emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change," he warned.
"We cannot do one or the other - halt deforestation or reduce pollution - we have to do both."
So far the negotiations to move the world towards a deal on climate change have been a "disappointment", according to environmental groups.
They are particularly disappointed in the EU for failing to agree on tough targets to cut carbon emissions, while the US remains a "lame duck" without any firm commitments from President elect Barack Obama.