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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • carbon accounting;
  • carbon-cycle management;
  • Kyoto protocol

Abstract

The Sixth and Seventh Conference of the Parties (COP 6 and 7) at The Hague, Bonn and Marrakesh came to a final Agreement on the Kyoto Protocol, which is thus ready for ratification by the individual nations. The Agreement was only achieved by allowing countries to offset their fossil fuel emission targets (on average 95% of the 1990 emissions) by increasing biological carbon sequestration, and by trading carbon credits. Activities that would count as increasing biological carbon sequestration include afforestation and reforestation, and changes in management of agriculture and forestry. According to the Agreement reached in Marrakesh, biological carbon sequestration may reach an offset of up to 80% of the required reduction in fossil fuel emissions (4% of the 5% reduction commitment). We explain why the allowable offset rose as high during the course of the negotiations. It is highlighted that major unintended consequences may be a result of the policy as it stands in the Marrakesh Accord. Major losses of biodiversity and primary forest are expected. We present scientific concerns regarding verification, which lead to scientific doubts that the practices encouraged by the Agreement can actually increase sequestration under a full carbon accounting scheme. We explain that there is a ‘win-win’ option that would protect high carbon pools and biodiversity in an economically efficient way. But, this is not supported by the Agreement. Despite the very positive signal that most nations of the United Nations will devote major efforts towards climate protection, there remains a most urgent need to develop additional rules to avoid unintended outcomes, and to promote the ‘win-win’ options that we explain.