Negotiators in Copenhagen are still nowhere near a final overall deal, but they are making significant progress on one very important issue — preserving the world's forests.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide; the destruction of the rain forests is responsible for about 17 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. That's why Environmental Defense Fund supports the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degredation program, better known as REDD.
The 193 countries taking part in the Copenhagen climate summit have been working on a REDD agreement for the past two weeks, and are reportedly very close to a deal.
It is likely to be the most concrete thing that comes out of Copenhagen — and it is a very big thing.
Deforestation is partly a result of poor countries needing the revenue generated from harvesting and selling wood. REDD would provide ways for those countries to make money by conserving their forests instead. Under the program, poor countries would get a new income stream and the world would get more forests. In the U.S., REDD could serve both a political and an economic purpose by helping win support for a clean energy bill with a declining carbon cap. According to the Times:
The agreement is also being closely watched in Congress … Under the cap-and-trade system preferred by Democratic leaders and the Obama administration, companies that cannot meet their greenhouse gas pollution limit could buy extra permits by investing in carbon-reduction programs abroad. Plans to preserve forests under REDD would presumably qualify.
In other good news for the world's forests, the United States Department of Agriculture just announced that it would join Australia, France, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom, to provide the initial public funding for a related program called REDD+ (pronounced "red plus"). The program provides funding for poor countries that are trying to plant more trees and expand their forest cover. Assuming the Copenhagen talks produce a deal on REDD+, the coalition will provide $3.5 billion over three years for the effort; the U.S. will put up $1 billion of that.