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Investing in Cancún: Behind the Carbon Market, a Money Trail

In the debate over the climate-plan REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”), the wealthy players have no shortage of chips on the poker table.

Partly to appeal to private investors and partly to establish a cheaper way to reduce their carbon footprint, developed nations want any Cancún agreement to embed REDD in a global carbon market, effective 2012. But meanwhile, those countries have failed at the ostensible purpose of the talks: to agree to a new round of drastic reductions in line with recent science — as much as four to ten times more drastic than Kyoto’s cuts. Those measures would require a costly retooling, threatening economic stability and growth. “It’s about avoiding change as long as possible, ” says REDD critic Anne Peterman, director of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

A REDD agreement at Cancún would not only help distract from another failure to enact adequate binding emissions cuts, but it would also release billions of dollars in national pledges from pro-REDD nations. And if it brings REDD into the mandatory carbon market, investors would add a massive vote of financial confidence.

According to the UN-REDD Programme, combined public and private funds could then reach up to U.S.$30 billion a year annually. That could help set aside many hectares of tropical forests, finance government partnerships with NGOs, and provide tools for community development — although the debate continues about whether the program is the best way to mitigate climate change.


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