Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Role of Forest Carbon in Emerging Ecomarkets Will be Significant, Says Environmental Economist Ricardo Bayon

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Forest carbon will play a significant role in emerging environmental markets designed to address climate change, despite the reluctance of some countries to accept forest carbon offsets, predicted environmental economics expert Ricardo Bayon at a seminar for forestry professionals representing all facets of the industry.

“Forest carbon has been ostracized by the world’s largest carbon markets – those in the European Union,” said Bayon, co-founder and partner of merchant bank EKO Asset Management Partners, which invests in new and emerging markets for such environmental commodities as carbon, water and biodiversity. “But that will change.”

U.S. carbon markets, which have been slower to emerge than those in the EU, have, however, embraced forestry, he said, noting that several states already have developed emissions cap-and-trade systems that rely on land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) projects to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“California is a bellwether,” said Bayon, speaking at ImageTree Corporation’s headquarters and live via the Web at the third and last event of this year’s ImageTree Idea Leadership Series. “Not only is forestry not the ugly duckling in California; but, in fact, it also is currently the preferred carbon-offset mechanism, largely because other offsetting methodologies are still being approved, and I expect other states to follow California’s lead in developing forestry carbon projects,” he said.

“Carbon markets have gained popularity around the globe as natural resources have become less plentiful and, therefore, more valuable,” continued Bayon. “Because we don’t pay for natural resources, we use too much and there’s no money to invest in maintenance; but this will change and world markets will decide the value of ecosystem services.”

Bayon added that the markets are also likely to compensate countries for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), as the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in industrialized countries, draws to a close in three years. “REDD is firming up as part of the international compliance carbon market agenda,” he said.

The major sticking points with REDD, Bayon said, are additionality (where planned carbon reductions would not have occurred without the additional incentive provided by emission reduction credits) and leakage (where there’s an increase in emissions in one area as another area introduces a strict emissions policy).

Countries can address the latter “by measuring forests at the national level, thereby minimizing intracountry leakage, and/or by using technology, such as remote sensing,” he said. “The future of REDD is tricky and politically risky, but it’s hopeful.”

In addition to such regional markets as those in California, and the U.S. Northeast, Bayon said he believes that the United States will approve a national cap-and-trade system. Early Senate legislation has been vetoed, he explained, but the House is considering the Dingell-Boucher climate change bill, designed to cap greenhouse gases and reduce emissions by some 80 percent by 2050.

A founder and former managing director of Ecosystem Marketplace, Bayon said that inherent in any cap-and-trade system that includes forestry is the need for independent mechanisms to measure and monitor carbon.

Bayon has co-authored a number of publications on environmental economics, including “The State of Voluntary Carbon Markets 2007: Picking up Steam,” “Voluntary Carbon Markets: An International Business Guide to What They Are and How They Work,” and, most recently, “Conservation and Biodiversity Banking: A Guide to Setting Up and Running Biodiversity Credit Trading Systems.” He also is a member of ImageTree’s advisory board.

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