American Electric Power Co. Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. joined other businesses and environmental groups today in announcing their unified support for provisions for protecting tropical forest in cap-and-trade legislation.
The coalition reached an agreement [pdf] with two major facets. The groups support using 5 percent of valuable greenhouse gas emission allowances under the bill's cap-and-trade system to prevent tropical deforestation and reduce international forest emissions. They also want companies to receive credits for tropical forest protection activities.
The groups' proposal largely is consistent with a draft bill now being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, although some details vary. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the issue has been debated for many years, and the groups' coming together marks a "very major significant step" in reaching consensus on an approach to avoiding deforestation.
"This investment will pay dividends in the future, and it will help make a sizable dent in reducing these emissions," she said in a conference call.
Beinecke and Michael Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, emphasized that the projects funded must be measurable and verified. Besides the agreement's environmental benefits, Morris added, "It's a very constructive and customer-friendly way to go about it."
Nigel Purvis, president of Climate Advisers, estimated that the 5 percent set-aside would likely reduce annual emissions equivalent to those of France or Spain. The funding would equal about $3.4 billion annually for tropical forest preservation, with 340 million tons of carbon dioxide eliminated, he said. The business credits would generate by 2015 about $12 billion to $15 billion for international forest conservation, he added.
The groups said the United States should make the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests in developing nations a central goal of federal climate legislation, as tropical deforestation and other land-use decisions account for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Their agreement outlines 14 principles they want included in cap-and-trade legislation. They want emission reductions from forests in developing nations allowed into U.S. compliance-based carbon markets. Major emitters should be required to adopt national strategies for forest emission reductions before joining, while countries with less emissions should be allowed into the markets immediately.
The groups also called for timelines for all countries to develop those national baselines and for Congress to appropriate a "substantial and meaningful sum" for the next three years in foreign aid to developing countries to create the baselines and take other preparatory actions.