Carbon credits to rescue a Madagascar forest?
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society is working with the government of Madagascar to sell about 9.5 million tonnes of carbon credits to help save the Makira Forest, which contains 22 species of lemurs, hundreds of bird species and thousands of plants. Many of those species are found nowhere else on the planet.
“We want to create incentives so people don’t deforest,” Ray Victurine, the finance expert at WCS, told me.
The 9.5 million tonnes is the amount of carbon dioxide stored in existing trees WSC and Madagascar estimate can be saved over 30 years by stopping people from chopping them down.
Victurine said money raised by the credits could encourage farmers to stop slash and burn agriculture through investments in rice cultivation or in taking advantage of cloud formations in the forest to improve irrigation.
In Madagascar about 100,000 hectares (386 square miles) of forest are lost each year by agricultural burning, according to WCS.
The burning of forests by farmers accounts for 20 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions. An agreement at a 190-nation UN conference last year agreed to work on ways to reward countries for slowing deforestation.
Credits in a global climate trade system could generate $2 billion to $14 billion for developing countries, according to a study by EcoSecurities and the University of British Colombia.
The WCS and Madagascar are hoping to sell their credits in the rapidly developing voluntary credit market. Later, they could adapt them for any post-Kyoto global trading system if the world agrees such credits would save forests in a fair way.
Victurine said they are working with the Voluntary Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance to ensure the credits would be high quality and would pay for actions to save the forest that would not have occurred otherwise.
The higher the perceived quality of the credits, the higher price they may fetch. In today’s prices at the EU’s compliance carbon market the 9.5 million tonnes would be worth about $291 million, though carbon prices are volatile. In voluntary, unregulated carbon markets the tonnes would be worth closer to $62 million.
All of which leads to a question. Are financial instruments the best way to change human behavior and save the planet?