Carbon cap-and-trade efforts are becoming one long chain of unintended consequences. To whit: Greenpeace released a report arguing that allowing official trade in carbon credits representing forest preservation would crash the price of carbon by up to 75%.
Deforestation is responsible for up to 20% of all carbon emissions, so stopping it would seem to be a pretty effective way to halt global warming, as I chronicled last year. But there are too many forests worldwide, and the oversight and regulation in the tropical, less developed countries where they are located is generally too weak to allow robust verification of reforestation or preservation projects, according to Greenpeace. Polluting countries could meet their targets by buying cheap, dubious forest offsets, instead of investing in clean-energy projects stateside, delaying the hard work required to truly halt global warming.
Now Greenpeace wants to cut forests out of the carbon trade. Instead, they're proposing a dedicated public-private international fund that would invest to protect people and forests without demanding a monetary return. The report will be released at the United Nations climate meetings in Bonn tonight, part of the run-up to the renegotiation of the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in December; Obama's climate adviser, Todd Stern, is in attendance and has signaled that the U.S. is ready to get real.
Image: An Indonesian forest replaced with a palm oil plantation, Greenpeace.