Despite the vast number of books and reports on tropical deforestation, there's confusion about the causes of forest loss and forest poverty, and the effectiveness of policy responses.
This book seeks to describe ways to reconcile pressures for agricultural expansion in the tropics with the urgent needs for both forest conservation and poverty alleviation. It diagnoses the causes and impacts of forest loss and the reasons for the association of forests with poverty. It looks at how policies - modulated by local conditions - act simultaneously on deforestation and poverty, creating tradeoffs or complementarities, depending on the situation.
In Latin America, dense tropical forest is often cleared to create pastures worth as little as $300 a hectare, while releasing large amounts of CO2. In Africa and Asia, some deforestation is equally unproductive. These forests may be worth five times more if left standing, providing carbon storage services, than if cleared and burned. If developing countries could tap this value, they could also stimulate more productive agriculture in degraded areas, while preserving the environmental services of forests.
But current carbon markets do not tap the potential benefits of forest carbon. The report reviews the obstacles impeding the use of global carbon finance to reduce deforestation, and offers workable solutions.
The report argues that with stronger financial incentives for avoiding cutting down trees, poor farmers in Madagascar and other forest countries could invest in sustainable agriculture in already-cleared fields, rather than cutting down more forest for paltry and often temporary gains.
Tropical deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global CO2 emissions, so the report says global forest carbon finance could therefore be a tool for slowing global warming.