OK, OK, OK, I must write up the minutes of this gathering. In fact, I will call it a moot – Michael’s Moot. He called it to discuss the ongoing deterioration in the global forest and the eminent failure of current methodologies to counteract less even correct this increasingly catastrophic scenario. Sleepwalking to a treeless planet.
Insufficient support is being drawn into forest communities and forest planting and market conditions increasingly prevail to encourage harvest of forest trees. Carbon credits, a theoretical source of funding for these urgent needs, have been debased in value down to practically zero and, due to the lower profile and difficult to quantify nature of forestry work, most of this now paltry stream of revenue is drawn to bijou energy projects and the like – short term, high visibility, quick return projects.
Several participants were determined the carbon price should be driven up. Some seemed to think a wee bit of adjustment should bring this about – restricting allocation, even retiring them out of circulation. However, I cannot feel there is coincidence in the fact that the sharp decline in the value of carbon credits has followed the flooding of the market with new sources of fossil carbon, driving back the apparent “Peak Oil” moment by a considerable, maybe unmeasurable, time.
So aside from US fracking and now UK and doubtless many other upcoming locations, we also have the prospect of massive Israeli/Syrian oil reserves under the Mediterranean Sea and onland in Syria and, if they can only extract it, there’s masses of tar sands in Jordan – more there than in Canada, it seems. Oh, yes, and there’s Falklands Oil in the South Atlantic.
So I reckon it’s safe to say that this is going to come to market. And be burned. Whereas there will be ongoing desire to burn it cleanly and efficiently and the carbon market can help drive this I feel the carbon producers will bear a constant pressure to keep the carbon price low.
There are several strands to the push for forestry. First, in Avoided Deforestation, is a drive to find as much local and exported use of the trees whilst reinforcing the trees’ health and productivity in terms of carbon fixation – ie increased bulk. Now, we have Dr Simon Lewis et al of Leeds University, and other groups, too, who figure they can demonstrate ongoing annual increments in tropical forest bulk, presumedly concordant with elevated atmospheric carbon levels and, possibly, higher mean ambient temperatures. Michael is referencing hands on management techniques to bring about even greater carbon sequestration.
To encourage this it seems rational to offer ways and means to generate capital reward for such activity. Undoubtedly this is where efficient baseline – starter point – measurement is required. Whereas simply keeping a control plot seems appealing such an action would be waylaid by oh so many possible slip ups. Dr Genevieve Patteneuve at Edinburgh University talked with me of her group’s increasing confidence – and competence, I guess – at establishing GPS baselines of considerable accuracy, and such seems to me to be “the way ahead”. There’s other teams offering the same lines of development.
To provide individual project baselines is, thus, achievable. Perhaps there could also be whole country baselines, too, to avoid displaced deforestation. Several contributors bemoaned the fact that standing forest has a hard time fighting off the short term desire to harvest a “cash crop” – even if it only goes to make dirt cheap furniture – and to establish a more rewarding crop on the site – soya beans and beef cattle in Brazil, palm oil in the Phillipines, coffee, sadza, you name it in Africa. Conservation and carbon management, even with Michael’s new inputs cannot and will not compete without drastic extra interventions.
Top down global organisations breathing down the necks of the national governments are unclear as to their benefits. Whereas some say these are essential as the market alone has no drive to conserve, it is equally pointed out that countries like Brazil, where there’s so much hue and cry about conservation and protection, have appalling records and continue to rapidly loose their forest.
Possibly overridingly importantly several, such as Javier, pointed out that saving and establishing forest, with additional benefits other than just an entry in the carbon log, are much more popular with the public. They actively want these projects to be supported. Here is a crucial psychological support for this movement and it must be highlighted to the maximum.
On the other hand all seemed to agree or indicate that the recent Doha shindig practically drove the last nail into Kyoto’s coffin. The process limps on but with so few countries on board as to be near worthless. Andrew pointed out the only beneficiaries of these extravagant gatherings were the delegates, jetted off to meet up in sundry beautiful resorts all round the planet – Copenhagen, Rio, Durban and now Doha.
Finally, and in positive and constructive mode, Steven suggested there was a mood to collaborate so why didn’t we. After all, the only way to achieve results is to amalgamate and grow. This is what Exxon and Mobil oil companies did in 1999 and they are far stronger now. He didn’t spell it out but, of course, these are the opposition and there needs to be strength to push back against their might.
Or, perhaps, we must use slightly more subtlety in this. I spelled out my Carbon Extraction Levy, which Michael reckoned might just have it’s time coming now, as Kyoto wanes. I said I saw it as additional to carbon credits as it tackles a different area of the equation. As such it must attain approval from the big oil producers. With that, it could be relatively plain sailing.
Who’s for the ride?