A Greenpeace Scientist on Forest Carbon Offsets

From the Macau Times:

Including forest protection measures in carbon markets would cause carbon prices to crash, and could undo efforts to rein in global warming, according to a Greenpeace report released earlier in the week.
Prices in a future carbon market would plummet by 75 percent, making it cheaper for industries in rich nations to buy deforestation offsets than reduce their carbon output at home, a study commissioned by the green group found.
It would also starve developing countries of investments for clean and renewable technologies, said the report, released on the margins of climate talks under the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change.
“Cheap forest credits sound attractive, but a closer examination shows they are a dangerous option that won’t save the forests or stop runaway climate change,” said Roman Czebiniak, a forest expert at Greenpeace International.
Negotiators from 175 nations have gathered here to hammer out a climate treaty – slated for completion by year’s end – to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
Finding a way to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries – an effort known as REDD – has emerged as a key element in the negotiations.
The continuing destruction of tropical forests accounts for 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and it will be virtually impossible to curb global warming unless forests are protected, scientists say.
Brazil and Indonesia each account for about one third of forest-related emissions, making them the world’s top carbon polluters after China and the United States.
“There is broad consensus now that the post-2012 agreement will include some sort of incentives for tropical countries to reduce their deforestation,” said Steve Schwartzman, a forests expert at Environmental Defense, an advocacy group based in Washington D.C.
But sharp differences remain on whether these aims are best achieved primarily through market mechanisms, including a future global carbon market, or varvious forms of public funding and grants.
“Forests are the wild card in these negotiations – it could be used to bring us closer to our goals, or to water them down,” said Czebiniak.
Currently, the largest functioning carbon market operates within the European Union. The market has proven fragile, and has been hit hard by the economic crisis and the drop in oil prices.
The Greenpeace report argues that flooding carbon markets with offsets would devalue carbon even further, and make it too easy for the industrialised world to avoid making necessary energy reductions.
“Of the many options for forest financing currently on the table, this one ranks as the worst,” said Czebiniak.