Skip to main content

Deforestation

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

The Petition of Ellen Pisolkar and others,

Declares that in the next 24 hours deforestation will cause as much carbon to be released as eight million people flying between London and New York. The destruction of the rainforest is recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Tropical deforestation accounts for one-fifth of all carbon emissions, more than the entire transport sector (including the aviation industry). The burning of trees is releasing as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the United States and has pushed Indonesia and Brazil into the world’s top four polluters. The Stern Review concluded that forests offer the single largest chance for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the British Government to encourage nations to halt deforestation in the Tropics and adopt the following policies:

Ensure that carbon credits for reducing emissions from deforestation and the protection of standing forests are included in all national and international carbon markets, especially those created by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change;

Simplify and expand carbon market rules, including the Clean Development mechanism, to encourage reforestation, afforestation and sustainable forest management;

Include topical forest and land use carbon credits in the European Union Trading Scheme, while maintaining strong incentives to reduce industrial emissions;

Encourage early action and new market mechanisms that recognise the value of carbon stocks and forest ecosystem services, and support appropriate voluntary carbon market standards;

Provide assistance for developing nations to build capacity to fully participate in the carbon markets, and to evaluate the ecosystem services their forests provide; and

Incentivise the sustainable use of degraded land and ecosystems, and remove incentives that encourage forest destruction.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Lynne Jones, Official Report,18 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 824 .] [P000100]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

The Government’s advice and calculation is that emissions from deforestation every 24 hours are equivalent to approximately 25 million people flying across the Atlantic.

The Government worked with international negotiating partners to achieve a successful decision on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries at the UN climate change conference in Bali, in December 2007. The decision notes the need for stable and predictable resources in order to provide positive incentives for reducing emissions from both deforestation and forest degradation, and encourages early action through demonstration activities, to help build the capacity of developing countries to participate and to trial the approach. The UK is supporting early demonstration activity through the World Bank forest carbon partnership facility, and in Bali announced a contribution of £15 million to the scheme. We have also committed £50 million for deforestation and poverty reduction in the Congo basin.

The decision provides indicative guidance for these activities, consistent with sustainable forest management, and notes their potential recognition under a post-2012 climate agreement.

The Prime Minister has appointed Johan Eliasch as a special representative to review innovative financing mechanisms for avoided deforestation. The review will report on the development of carbon credits for avoided deforestation and sustainable forestry and how they could be introduced.

The Government are pleased about overall progress with the clean development mechanism (CDM). CDM projects that cover land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) are currently restricted to afforestation and reforestation (A/R) project activities—deforestation was not included because of the risk of project activity simply displacing deforestation within a country. To date there is only one A/R project registered by the CDM executive board. The reasons for the lack of take-up have been the subject of much discussion under the climate negotiations and are presented in developing parties' submissions to the UNFCCC ahead of COP/MOP3 in Bali. Lack of demand is thought to be the main cause, but forestry projects are also expensive—relative to the potential emissions saved—and time-consuming to set up. To facilitate the establishment of A/R CDM projects, parties agreed in Bali to raise the threshold for small scale A/R projects—which have reduced administration fees—from 8 ktCO2e to 16 ktC02e per year. Parties also approved the use of non-renewable biomass in the CDM, meaning that projects encouraging the use of more efficient cooking stoves for example, are now possible through the CDM. These types of projects, together with recent guidance provided by the CDM executive board on programmes of activities under the CDM, will mean that project activities which were previously uneconomical to develop under the CDM can now be replicated on a large scale throughout the developing world.

The efficient and effective functioning of the EU emission trading scheme is dependent on a robust system for monitoring, recording and verifying emissions. The UK supported further consideration by the European Commission (the Commission) of including forestry credits in the EU emission trading scheme (ETS) as part of the discussions on the revised EU ETS Directive. The Commission have indicated that they will only consider new credits for inclusion that are capable of meeting the current standards of monitoring, recording and verification, but that forestry and land use projects do not currently meet these standards. Including credits from reforestation and afforestation would require a robust monitoring system, an understanding of the potential impact on the EU ETS allowance price, and assurance that non-permanent credits would not damage the environmental integrity of the scheme, before they could be included in the EU ETS. It is important that access to the EU emissions trading scheme is considered in relation to wider international agreements, for example on how to incentivise reduced emissions from deforestation in developing countries.

On 19 February the Government announced the final framework for a code of best practice to set standards for how carbon offsets are sold to UK consumers. The code will be voluntary and offset providers can choose to sign up to it. The code will allow the use of Kyoto compliant offsetting credits. The Government recognise, however, the value the non-regulated market can add, and are inviting the industry to agree and put into practice its own standard which can provide a similar level of assurance as the compliance mechanisms. This standard should address the principles of additionality, avoiding carbon leakage, permanence, verification, transparency and avoiding double counting. Once industry has reached a consensus on a standard and it has been fully operational for six months, the Government will conduct an audit to confirm whether credits approved under the industry standard can be included under the Government code.