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Why ignore tropical deforestation?: a proposal for including forest conservation in the Kyoto Protocol

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P. Moutinho
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This paper argues that though greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are the principal causes of global warming, tropical deforestation is responsible for 20 to 25 percent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions. However, the Kyoto Protocol has not adopted any mechanism for considering tropical forest conservation or prevention of deforestation as an action for mitigating climate change.Because the Kyoto Protocol does not address forest conservation or prevention of deforestation, tropical countries that have large areas of tropical forests and a so-called "clean" energy matrix (i.e. many renewable energy sources and low use of fossil fuels) or low energy consumption are restricted in their opportunities to benefit from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).Unlike wealthy countries, which have obligatory emission reduction targets, developing countries need incentives to promote voluntary emission reductions. Therefore:the Kyoto Protocol must develop other mechanisms more appropriate than the CDM to address the emission profiles of developing countries undergoing large-scale tropical deforestationin addition to the CDM mechanism, the protocol needs instruments that would better link international cooperation for environmental protection to emission reduction initiatives in developing countries.The paper proposes that developing countries that elect to reduce their emissions from deforestation during the five years of the first commitment period would receive financial compensation for the emissions avoided, based on the average market value of carbon in 2012.The paper concludes that for governments as for private actors in tropical forest areas, there are more economic incentives for deforestation than for leaving forest standing. Forest protection implies high costs and few tangible returns. Compensating both private parties and governments for forest conservation would provide positive economic value for standing forest.