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Conservation groups say creating a global market for trading carbon credits from uncut forests is critical to fighting climate change and should be part of a United Nations-backed agreement being whittled down in Bangkok. But, there are many challenges to expanding the carbon market.
The conservation group WWF on Tuesday told journalists any global deal on climate change should take into account the importance of forests in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that cutting down forests accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
The WWF supports a U.N. scheme known as REDD, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, which aims to develop economic incentives to save forests.
Under the REDD scheme, forest rich nations could sell carbon credits to polluters to offset their emissions.
"REDD is critical to a climate solution and financing is critical to make REDD work. In the long term, private capital could play a major role if certain conditions are satisfied," said Don Kanak, the chairman of the WWF's Forest Carbon Initiative. "We need the public sector to support sufficient financing in the near term to help forest countries become REDD ready."
Kanak was speaking on the sidelines of climate change talks in Bangkok where delegates from nearly 200 nations are trying to narrow down a climate change deal for negotiation later this year.
The WWF released a survey showing significant investor interest in forest carbon trading, but only if nations agree to a global emissions deal.
The survey of 25 major investors and analysts also showed the need for stronger legal support to manage the trade.
David McCauley, the top climate change expert at the Asian Development Bank, says some Asian countries with the greatest market potential include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and those along the Mekong River and the Pacific extending down into the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
McCauley says the potential multibillion-dollar forest carbon market cannot be ignored but must be approached with caution.
"As you know, many of those countries also have a lot of challenges with respect to the strength of their institutions, especially in the forest sector, which, is one of the reasons that organizations like ADB sort of got out of the forestry sector some years ago. So, we're very cautiously re-engaging. And, a lot of the work up front is going to have to focus on those concerns," said McCauley.
The Rainforest Action Network says another problem is the current definition being used in the negotiations for "forest" includes tree plantations.
The group says under those terms ancient forests could be destroyed and replaced with new trees without it being called deforestation.