Some advocates of geoengineering have touted fake, plastic “trees” as a promising technology for absorbing carbon. But other experts are promoting a solution that also filters water, encourages rainfall, prevents erosion and desertification, offers economic opportunities, and provides a vital source of food for a growing global population: real trees.
“All REDD requires is making forests worth more alive than dead,” explained Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, at a recent event on REDD and local communities hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and several other environmental groups. Climate experts hope that assigning a monetary value to trees’ carbon stock will encourage states and citizens to better protect and maintain forest areas and plant trees to earn income through the carbon financing market.
“If we can build partnerships with countries to help small farmers improve their agricultural output and make it easier to buy and sell their products at local or regional markets, we can set off a domino effect,” Clinton explained. “We can increase the world’s food supply for both the short and the long term; diminish hunger; raise farmers’ incomes; improve health; expand opportunity; and strengthen regional economies.”
Trees and agroforestry are critical to this effort. “The right kind of trees in the right place can be enormously important for helping to increase the yield of fruit crops,” said ICRAF Director Dennis Garrity at the Nairobi conference.
As Miranda Spitteler, chief executive of Tree Aid, told BBC News, “‘Conventional’ crops are often not native and require expensive inputs, significant irrigation and land preparation in order to produce a successful harvest,” she said. “Trees, on the other hand, often survive when other crops fail” and provide sustenance in the form of fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, sepals, and sap.
“Trees throughout the world provide new opportunities for farmers to generate cash by growing fruit trees and other high value trees for both local and international markets,” Garrity told the conference.
If a REDD regime decreases illegal logging, planting and harvesting trees in a sustainable manner also “offers an opportunity for timber production and thus alternative livelihoods” for the rural poor, Steiner elaborated.
A spokesman for the indigenous Benet communities, Moses Mwanga, told IPS News that “the evictions have caused indescribable suffering to the Benet who are now living as squatters, having lost their land and other belongings to armed park rangers.”
The tree-planting effort, a partnership between the FACE Foundation and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, is designed to offset the carbon emissions of a new 600 MW coal-fired power plant in the Netherlands.
“[S]imply locking away forests to secure their carbon as if they are the Queen’s jewels, or putting up the modern equivalent of a Berlin Wall between forests and people, is almost certainly folly and almost certainly a recipe for disaster,” UNEP Executive Director Steiner urged in Nairobi.