The world is watching as California weighs controversial plan to save tropical forests


By Julia Rosen, Los Angeles Times

via Herald-Mail Media (MD) - Sep 15, 2019


LOS ANGELES — Smoke is still rising from the Amazon as fires smolder in the world’s largest rain forest. The blazes triggered a wave of global outrage over the loss of precious trees. But California says it has a plan to keep tropical forests standing.


This week, state officials will consider a proposal to protect these forests by steering billions of dollars to countries such as Brazil. The money would fund government efforts to fight deforestation and promote sustainable industries that don’t involve chopping down and burning trees. And it would come from companies that offset their own emissions by purchasing carbon credits through markets such as California’s cap-and-trade program.


Preserving tropical rain forests is essential to combating climate change — around the world, roughly a third of the greenhouse gases released each year come from clearing forests. And backers say this plan is the best way to funnel much-needed cash toward that crucial task.


Others agree on the pressing need to halt deforestation, but they say California’s plan is a dangerously misguided way to do it. In their view, it would simply allow polluters to keep on polluting without doing anything about the true drivers of forest loss: rising demand for products such as beef, soy and palm oil.


The issue has divided scientists, environmental groups and indigenous leaders who say the Tropical Forest Standard, or TFS, has ramifications far beyond the Golden State. California is a leader on climate change, and approving the TFS could inspire other states, countries and companies to adopt a similar approach.


“This is a critical moment,” said ecologist Christina McCain, who heads the Environmental Defense Fund’s climate initiatives in Latin America. “The world is watching.”


The TFS wouldn’t be the first attempt to fund forest protection through carbon offsets. Several international programs have employed them as a way to preserve and restore forests while lowering the cost of reducing emissions in wealthy countries and funding sustainable development in poorer ones...