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Forest funding in climate bill at risk

By Juliet Eilperin

As Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) put the final touches on their climate proposal draft, one of the questions many conservationists are asking is how generous it will be when it comes to protecting tropical forests overseas.

The House passed-climate bill included both a generous set-aside provision and opportunities for carbon offset purchases that could steer billions of dollars to protect against global deforestation, which accounts for between 15 and 17 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Duke University professor for conservation ecology, environmental sciences and policy Stuart L. Pimm, who visited Capitol Hill earlier this month to press for forest funding, called the matter "hugely significant." When it comes to combating climate change, he added, "It's a very big piece of the overall puzzle."

In an interview Friday, Kerry said the compromise climate bill would have money to help poor nations adapt to global warming, and he would seek a way to ensure money to preserve tropical forests.

"I'm committed to make sure we address these issues," Kerry said, though he did not specify the details.

While sending money overseas may not always be popular, Pimm said, it would both save U.S. greenhouse emitters money and produce a range of other benefits.

If the program "is done well, it's the biggest thing for biodiversity conservation, and it's the biggest thing for protecting indigenous peoples that we have ever seen," he said.

Lawmakers might be eager to use the 5 percent of federal allowances set aside for forests elsewhere, but Glenn Hurowitz of Avoided Deforestation Partners warns this will actually cost U.S. consumers in the long run because it will make it more expensive for utilities and other emitters to offset their carbon output.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  April 23, 2010; 12:22 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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