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Posted on  

November 14, 2001

Kyoto Could Help Developing Nations

It's a massive project Chile could never afford. But the U.N. global warming treaty, under negotiation by more than 160 countries in Marrakech, may provide the answer.

If it becomes international law, the Kyoto Protocol (news - web sites) on climate change will benefit countries like Chile by encouraging industrial nations to transfer technologies to them, finance their development projects to reduce emissions, or help them financially to adapt to changing climate conditions.

``In the south, we have 200,000 people, mostly small landowners. Every day, they are destroying the land. Desertification is getting worse,'' said Sanhueza, envisioning revival of an area covering 35 million acres.

As a consultant for Chile's National Environment Commission, Sanhueza is working out how to reforest the south - at an affordable cost.

He can do it through the Kyoto treaty's ``flexible mechanisms,'' which allow countries to deduct from their commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases - measured in tons of carbon - blamed for the Earth's rising temperature.

``My aim is to study how to use the mechanisms to make the most profit for my country,'' said Sanhueza.

Likewise, funds provided under the treaty will benefit farmers in Cambodia's Mekong Delta who are displaced by floods that happen with increasing frequency, and fishermen in the Philippines whose catch has been hurt by the warming of ocean water. The amount of money available is still under discussion.

The mechanisms are geared for specific small projects, and probably won't make much impact on the economy of a developing country. But they also are meant to stimulate change in those countries.

Under the agreement negotiated in 1997, industrial countries agreed to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases by an average 5.2 percent from the base year of 1990, obtaining that goal by 2012.

The primary gas is carbon dioxide, a byproduct of power stations, factories and automobiles. Scientists say its accumulation in the air since the 19th-century industrial revolution has caused the Earth's average temperature to rise. That has begun to melt ice caps, raise sea levels, and affect rainfall, causing dry areas to get drier and temperate zones to become wetter.

Many countries see the ambitious Kyoto targets as beyond their reach. It would mean actions like phasing out coal-burning power plants or fitting them with expensive filters, developing alternative power resources such as wind turbines and biomass, and replacing gasoline car engines with natural gas.

So the framers of the treaty allowed for buyouts that would let countries delay such tough measures. A country falling short of its target can buy carbon credits from countries that exceed their targets, at a price set by the market like any commodity.

Another way of gaining credits is to participate in projects like Sanhueza's foresting scheme. In the jargon of the climate treaty, this is done under the Clean Development Mechanisms, or CDMs.

Sanhueza outlined the potential project during a break in negotiations on the legal language that will govern CDMs at Marrakech.

Details are still being worked out, but Sanhueza might have two possibilities to make the forest project pay for itself, at least in part.

A country like France could finance the project. If the trees are calculated to absorb 10 million tons of carbon through photosynthesis, France could claim credit for reducing its own carbon level by 10 million tons - thus making it easier to meet its emissions target.

Or Chile could plant the forest itself. If the project is approved by a committee being established under the Kyoto pact, it would earn credits in the form of Certified Emission Reductions that can be sold on the international market. Other countries could then buy those credits for cash to reduce its obligation to cut emissions.

 

 

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