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Helping others to save the rainforest

The Congo basin rainforest is a natural resource of staggering scale, second only to the amazon in size. It stretches across six countries in the centre of Africa and provides shelter, food, income and fuel for millions of local people. However, like most of the world’s remaining forests, it is being destroyed at an unsustainable rate. Like all the world’s major rainforests, it lies in developing countries which are desperate for any small income it can provide. This adds to the sense of tragedy: these great resources are being destroyed for what is a relative pittance to conservationists in the rich countries. Happily, this tragic element is starting to be turned around and may give us our best chance at preserving the forest.

Yesterday, Britain and Norway launched the largest ever fund to fight deforestation, with a purse of £108m. The plan is to offer funds for projects that can prevent forest destruction, for example by providing alternate sources of income or of energy (since there is considerable logging just for firewood). Since the forest is being destroyed for such a small amount of money, it shouldn’t cost much to provide viable alternatives.

This approach is an excellent piece of internationalist policy. By thinking beyond national boundaries, Britain and Norway have been able to fund an environmental project that is much better value than anything they could achieve at home. For example, the estimated price per tonne of CO2 averted by preventing deforestation is £3, as opposed to £50-100 per tonne for carbon capture. And of course there are a host of other environmental benefits as well, not to mention the humanitarian benefits of redistributing money to people in developing countries. Rather than merely complaining about poor countries exploiting their only resources, we are finally showing that we really care by paying for the protection.

It is true that corruption is a serious problem in the region, and the fund will have to be very careful to avoid problems such as the government reneging on promises or making additional logging concessions to keep up the present destruction. However, it appears that the fund can deal with both issues by trickling the money in slowly (thus maintaining an incentive for government cooperatation) and using the satellite surveillance that they are setting up to keep close records on the state of the forest. Hopefully this is just the beginning of projects to use developed countries’ finances to preserve the whole world’s environment.

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1 Comment on this post

  1. I really hope that on a global level we can all help to save the rainforests as they are vital to everyone in the world. We are losing species on a daily basis along with very the extremely important oxygen that the trees create. Given we’ve alrealy drove ourselves in global warming, severly damaged the ozone layer, and nearly destroyed the majority of all of the worlds rainforests it is time that people fight the corporate world and their huge profits.

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