The REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) plan, developed by UN commissions at the Bali summit in 2007, seeks to institute a scheme of carbon credits for countries who agree to stop or slow deforestation in tropical rainforests. In a nutshell, it’s payment to countries with rainforests not to cut down trees. The REDD plan is subject to the same sorts of questions that swarm around almost all international proposals to mitigate environmental issues: how are its goals enforced? What if a country buys credits without achieving meaningful reductions in deforestation? What is the economic burden to poor countries versus rich ones? One of the main concerns with any carbon credit scheme is whether it really will help foster emissions reductions and deforestation, or whether the governments or businesses that eventually obtain the carbon credits will just have a heyday trading them without implementing any real policies with teeth. I think this is the way in which the flaws in the REDD plan could threaten species: suppose Brazil is granted a large number of carbon credits in recognition of a policy to save X,000 acres of rainforest. If the policy is not enforced or has loopholes–and if there’s no international body to hold Brazil to its agreement–what’s to stop the Brazilian government from simply cashing in on the credits and opening the X,000 acres to development, which could impact species? Nevertheless, the REDD plan is at least a basis for a good idea going forward. In my view more study should be given to how best to connect carbon credit trading with actual on-the-ground mitigation efforts. Once that hurdle is overcome, we can at least have some confidence that carbon credit schemes will function as intended.
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