The proposal is being advanced by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (www.rainforestcoalition.org), an alliance of 15 developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, which is promoting "carbon trading" to slow the rampant pace of forest destruction within their borders.
The rapid destruction of tropical forests causes a quarter of all human greenhouse-gas emissions, and is a key driver of global warming. Under the proposal, tropical nations that show permanent reductions in forest clearing would be eligible to receive international carbon funds.
These funds would largely come from industrial nations, who could purchase carbon credits to help them meet their emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol or other international climate agreements.
"It's as close to a win-win situation as one sees these days," said ATBC president Dr William Laurance, a biologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. "The forests win, the climate wins, and impoverished people in developing nations win."
All involved agree that there are important technical and political hurdles to be cleared before rainforest-carbon trading becomes viable. This is one of the main reasons that the ATBC endorsement is considered so important.
"We've looked very closely at the technical details of this proposal," said Laurance. "We're convinced that it will work and can lead to major reductions in forest destruction and greenhouse gases."
Dr. Wari Iamo, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Conservation in Papua New Guinea, welcomed the ATBC endorsement. "We're delighted to have the official support of such an important scientific organization," said Iamo. "This will help us keep our momentum internationally."
"Developing nations are trying to save their forests," said Iamo, "but we also need to develop economically and reduce poverty". "This would help us achieve that -- and also help the world breathe easier."
The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (www.atbio.org) has over 1200 members in over 70 countries worldwide. It is the world's leading scientific organization devoted to the study, protection, and wise use of tropical ecosystems.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (www.stri.org) is the world's leading center for research in tropical ecology, evolution, behavior, paleontology, and conservation. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, STRI is headquartered in Panama but its scientists work in over 40 tropical nations around the world.
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