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REDD: A blessing and a curse

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As part of a continued effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) which was launched during the 2007 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN has coined 2011 the International Year of Forests.

It is no question that there can be no long-term success and sustenance of human beings if there is not also a thriving system of tropic forests. Trees from these bio-diverse areas store roughly 25 percent of the planet’s terrestrial carbon, more than 300 billion tons. Clear-cutting these forests causes a high concentration of carbon to be released into the atmosphere. To date, tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all human-based global emissions - more than the off-gassing from all planes, ships, cars, and trucks combined.

A protocol demanding strict reductions in global forest degradation and deforestation such as REDD must be a godsend, right? Although the REDD program stands to greatly reduce deforestation off-gassing, it may allow for “business as usual” to rule the day in wasteful, industrious nations.

The REDD program will effectively place a line-item value on the carbon stored in forests. Since the program targets aid and labor efforts in tropical forest, which are largely in developing countries, the financial value alloted to said carbon will be extremely small when compared to the cost a company might incur to change their internal operations or practices to reduce life cycle impacts. Thus, this may eliminate the incentive for large corporations to “get their act together” once the crucial American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) passes through the legislature allowing for the establishment of a legal limit for carbon off-gassing - the ever-controversial cap and trade program.

“From a domestic standpoint one of the things that makes REDD a really attractive policy option is that it is a mechanism to encourage developing countries to take on emissions reductions goals. At the same time, it offers to these developing countries a potential pathway to use forests in a sustainable matter for development. Finally, REDD offers a very interesting, potentially very effective cost containment measure for U.S. businesses under the cap-and-trade program. REDD will make it easier for the U.S. to reduce emissions further at a lower cost” - Tracy Johns, Forest Policy Expert, Woods Hole Research Center.

It is true that the REDD program adds a new layer of green-commerce to our industrial model. Yet it may prove to be a silent enemy, allowing us to ignore an even more dangerous threat to global sustainability - our domestic consumption rate which is currently at five times the earth’s carrying capacity.

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