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Page added on July 30, 2007

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Coal could pay to save forests

THE HIGH-level conference on global deforestation held in Sydney a few days ago, co-hosted by the Australian ministers for environment and foreign affairs, attracted large numbers of ministers, diplomats and officials from about 70 countries and international development agencies.

This impressive turnout demonstrated, if nothing else, that the subject of large-scale loss of natural forests is a matter of considerable global interest, as well it should be.

Apart from the local environmental impacts of forest loss, in global terms deforestation is generally believed to contribute at least 20 per cent of all human-sourced greenhouse gas emissions.
The Australian Government has made a high-profile commitment of about $200million to a global initiative on forests and climate, and will be joined in this by the United States and other countries, the World Bank and other interested groups. So far, so good.

According to the Minister for the Environment, Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s contribution will focus on “practical measures”, such as the promotion of better forest management, plantation of new forests and the use of remote-sensing technology to monitor the progress of deforestation in Indonesia, the Philippines and Pacific nations.

Again, this is welcome news, but there is one major caveat.

The stark truth is that sustainable forest management in natural forests in the tropics is very often simply not as rewarding economically as the combination of rapid logging and conversion of the land to other uses.

Crudely put, natural forests are seen by many national and local interest groups as being worth more dead than alive.

The Canberra Times



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