Jeff Hayward, manager of the Rainforest Alliance’s climate initiative, discusses a recent seminar on perceptions about tropical deforestation and forest carbon.
Last month I attended a seminar discussing a new study on perceptions about tropical deforestation and forest carbon within the United States legislature. Resources for the Future (RFF) surveyed staff members and leadership in the United States House of Representatives and Senate and found that most do not think that international forest carbon will produce real, reliable greenhouse gas reductions.
According to RFF, their sample was culled from the more “climate-informed” representatives. However, researchers determined that there wasn’t a very “deep understanding” about the role of international forests in achieving carbon emissions reductions. A most troubling point — there is an awareness gap among United States policy makers when we most need them to be on top of the subject.
A few of the take home messages from the research are below.
1) There is a widespread skepticism about the ability of developing countries in the tropics to produce real, verifiable and measurable carbon offsets.
2) There is a general perception that reduction of emissions from tropical forests is an international issue, without much room for traction within domestic politics.
3) There is a low opinion, in general, of foreign aid held by these politicians, translating into an equally low opinion of funding foreign carbon projects.
4) There is more interest in supporting domestic forest offsets than foreign ones.
5) There is a belief that conservation organizations are divided about forests and carbon.
These findings are startling. I think anyone who believes that carbon finance can support forest conservation in the tropics just realized that their work is going to be even more challenging. The United States is pivotal in how markets evolve for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degredation — and we need to make a convincing case for the conservation of forests through payments for carbon.
If you recall, nearly all of the mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions that can come from forestry in this century should come from the tropics and neotropics. Most northern and temperate forests are carbon sinks, and even thought there are regional sequestration benefits from such forests, their role in the fight against climate change is less significant than the role of forests in the tropics. It is fundamentally important for international forest carbon offsets to be supported by United States policymakers, as the United States remains one of the largest emitters in the world.