World 'on borrowed time' over carbon emissions says report

The world is living on "borrowed time" when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, the Prime Minister's special representative on deforestation and clean energy has said.

Speaking at the launch of a review on international deforestation, Swedish businessman Johan Eliasch called for a "critical" new plan to be put in place in order to tackle 'slash and burn agriculture' in forest nations. His proposals, which have been presented to Gordon Brown, involve using money from rich nations to prevent forests being cleared in poorer countries.

The plan uses a "carbon trading" model to tackle deforestation, which now accounts for a fifth of the world's carbon emissions, by paying poor countries to preserve their forests.

It also details how such a scheme would work in practice, by imposing national baselines and targets for preserving forests and making sure governments act effectively and distribute money properly.

Eliasch said: "Without acting on deforestation, avoiding the worst impacts of climate change will be next to impossible. Saving forests is critical for tackling climate change. Deforestation will continue as long as cutting down and burning trees is more economic than preserving them," he warned.

"With climate change we are living on borrowed time, and if we don't address this issue today, it's going to be much more expensive later on, and that's why we need to take action now."

The scheme is expected to cost the international community four billion dollars over the next five years and aims to halve deforestation by 2020.

In Bali last December, world leaders agreed that measures to prevent the destruction of forests should be in a "roadmap" which will lead to a new international deal on climate change in Copenhagen next year.

The existing Kyoto protocol, which established the current international carbon trading scheme, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), makes no mention of deforestation.

There are fears that including forests in a new deal might swamp the market with carbon credits and reduce the value of carbon.

Concerns have also been raised about "leakage", where protection for one area of forest would shift logging to another. The rights of indigenous people who depend on forests for their homes and livelihoods could also be ignored in any deal between governments, it is feared.

But Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband welcomed the report, saying it would "help us chart a course to reduce deforestation, help the world's poorest people and cut carbon emissions".

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