On the eve of the G-8 Summit in Scotland, where climate change and Africa were key subjects of discussion, natural resource experts met in Rome to discuss ways of giving poor countries incentives under the Kyoto Protocol to improve the use of fuelwood and reduce deforestation, loss of vegetation cover and land degradation.
Currently the poorest countries, some of which obtain more than 90 percent of their energy from wood and other biofuels, are excluded from payments for climate change mitigation measures related to non-renewable biomass use.
Practical ways in which poor countries could receive payments for reducing emissions while improving the living conditions of their people include introducing more fuel-efficient domestic stoves and substituting the use of non-renewable biomass with biogas, bioethanol, agricultural residues and sustainably produced and harvested fuelwood.
The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism does give credit for afforestation and reforestation projects. However, it does not provide incentives for a more sustainable fuelwood and charcoal production and use, which could lead to a reduction of deforestation, loss of vegetation cover or land degradation.
"The agreement should better recognize the linkages between land use and biomass, predominantly fuelwood and charcoal, which are key energy sources for many developing countries," according to Ingmar Juergens, an FAO expert on renewable energy.
"Those poorest countries relying largely on woodfuels unsustainably produced, harvested and used are excluded from carbon payments, which could be so useful in moving towards biomass energy systems characterized by natural resource rehabilitation, cleaner indoor air and enhanced livelihoods," Juergens added.
"To make it even more difficult to carry out the promising combined land-use/wood energy projects, afforestation and reforestation projects in developing countries are excluded from the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), which represents one of the biggest buyers of carbon credits," Bernhard Schlamadinger, a scientist working for the Graz-based think-tank Joanneum Research pointed out at the Rome meeting.
Climate change and the G-8
The G-8 and the European Union will have to take a decision prior to the next Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (Montreal in December 2005) on whether the poorest countries, who will suffer most from climate change, should continue to be, to a large extent, excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism that would at least provide some of the badly needed financial incentives to break the vicious circle of resource degradation and poverty, according to participants to the FAO-Joanneum Research meeting in Rome.
In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol established the Clean Development Mechanism, which enables countries (developed countries and economies in transition) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets at lower cost through projects in developing countries.