Amazon: Deforestation rate drops


Deforestation in the Amazon is at its lowest rate for 20 years according to the latest data from the Brazilian government. Only - and it is a painful only - 7,000 square kilometres of forest was destroyed or damaged in the year August 2008 to July 2009.

This compares very favourably to 2004 when 27,000 square kilometres was lost and will no doubt help the Brazilian government's case in the Copenhagen climate talks where deforestation avoidance will be a major political weapon in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

what are forests worth?Of course, any deforestation is too much, and these figures may only be a lagging signal of the global recession. The world will watch with interest what happens to the rates of deforestation as the global markets pick up.

But, the talks leading up to Copenhagen are faltering - with major fissures appearing between the major powers - and now there's something else to think about. A report in Nature Geoscience has demonstrated that carbon dioxide emissions from the deforestation of tropical forests may have been overestimated.

Ever since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 published the figure of 20% (greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation) in 2007 it has been quoted all over the world - including here - and has become the metaphorical hanger for many coats and hopes. It has been perceived as a figure so robust that governments surely can't carry on ignoring it; thereby allowing the destruction of the world's forests to continue unimpeded.

iguazu waterfall by dan ryanThe figure published by researchers, led by Guido van der Werf, is a measly 12%. That's 40% smaller... Van der Werf feels the data that gave us 20% was based on "inaccurate and out-of-date information." But is it enough to change the game plan?

Probably not: 12% is still a huge figure, but van der Werf also says that this number is open to huge fluctuation (between 6 and 17%). And ironically if forests are worth 40% less in terms of their carbon storage it may mean investing in them is easier. Resulting in more global protection.

But it's worth remembering in the melee of the climate talks that forests are about a whole lot more than carbon. They are the home to a multitude of unique plants and animals. They are also home to millions of people around the world, many of which must be quite confused about why people are only talking about their backyard in terms of carbon. To them it's a whole lot more important than that.

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Guyana: Norway pledge investment in forests


rainforestThe government of Norway has pledged up to $250 million in the protection of Guyana's forests. The agreement will ensure an initial payment of $30 million into the countries REDD+ fund and the rest will come if this investment succeeds in reducing emissions and tackling poverty.