World Rainforest Movement

Central America: To the rescue of the U.S. and Canada

Responding to a request of the U.S.-based independent electrical power producer Applied Energy Services Inc. (AES), in 1988 the World Resources Institute identified and evaluated forestry projects to compensate the carbon dioxide emissions of the company’s new coal-fired powerplant in Connecticut, expected to emit about 14.1 million tonnes of carbon over its 40-year lifespan. According to the WRI, “There were a number of reasons for pursuing such a project in a developing country rather than in the United States”, among which that “alternatives in the United States to avoid the release of carbon dioxide or sequester it at the source appeared to be considerably more expensive” reads the presentation of the project in WRI’s web site.

In 1989, the WRI gave its support to a project located in GUATEMALA proposed by CARE to convert tree planted lots established since the mid-1970s into carbon sinks. The programme had been supported by the Guatemalan Directorate General of Forests (DIGEBOS) and the U.S. Peace Corps, with funding provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The plantation of about 12,000 hectares of so-called community woodlots with pine and eucalyptus for poles and lumber is an essential component of the project. Based on WRI’s initial calculation, the CARE project would sequester an estimated 16.3 million metric tonnes s of carbon over 40 years. Even though presented under the guise of “community forest” promotion, the CARE project is essentially a plantation-based project through which –surprising as it may seem– Guatemala would “help” the US to reduce its carbon emissions.

Also HONDURAS will probably soon become a carbon garbage dump. In September 1999 Canada reached a deal with the Honduran authorities to “buy” oxygen from Honduras within the framework of a “debt for nature” swap and the Clean Development Mechanism. CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) will “forgive” about US$ 680,000 of Honduras’ U$S 11 million debt with Canada. In exchange, a so-called joint implementation office will be established in Honduras to promote tree plantations and monitor forest conservation programmes in that country. Canada will benefit by getting credit for “cutting” emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Minister for the Environment Xiomara Gomez was very enthusiastic with the idea since, according to her, this is a good opportunity to obtain resources from developed countries for forest protection. Honduras is also expecting that the U.S. and Germany will come to similar agreements on “oxygen sales”. Unluckily the Honduran authorities have not shown the same enthusiasm in protecting the country’s forests from illegal logging or combatting corruption at the forest administration level.