Sunday, 9 August 2009

Australia, Indonesia push rainforest carbon offsets

Tom Arup Environment Correspondent

August 10, 2009 Sydney Morning Herald

AUSTRALIA and Indonesia will make a joint submission on using rainforests to offset carbon emissions from polluting industries at climate change talks that begin in Germany today.

The submission, obtained by the Herald, also says Australia is building a new satellite receiving station near Darwin to monitor deforestation for its neighbours in Asia and the Pacific.

The second combined submission to United Nations climate negotiations from the two countries reflects the Federal Government's wish to use Asian and Pacific forests as a cheap emissions offset for local industry through REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) carbon credits.

The document outlines the extent to which Australia is working with Indonesia to ready the country to sell carbon credits based on carbon stored in forests, including holding ''technical sessions'' between Australian and Indonesian officials on how to monitor the REDD program.

Australia and Indonesia are also developing two REDD demonstration projects under a $200 million Australian-funded global forestry carbon program to take to the final round of climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The submission comes as environment groups express concern about the make-up of REDD credits in the draft text of a new international climate agreement before the UN, before the latest round of diplomatic discussions beginning today in Bonn.

Peg Putt, the international climate change campaigner for the Wilderness Society, said several groups were alarmed that references to ''protecting forests'' in the REDD section of the draft text had been removed, and references to ''sustainable forestry management'' had increased.

Ms Putt also noted the international agreement had adopted references to ''REDD Plus'', a version of the scheme that may create carbon credits for crops such as palm oil that are causing deforestation in Asia.

Australia supports the inclusion of agriculture in global carbon offset markets. A spokeswoman for the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said Australia had consistently said forestry carbon offsets ''must reinforce environmental integrity and avoid perverse outcomes for biodiversity''.