The annual average estimated value of ecosystem services is $33 trillion, twice the value of the entire U.S. national debt and equivalent to nearly 90 times the general government gross debt of Greece.
By Brian McFarland
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Tropical deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate, particularly in Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Global estimates range from a patch of tropical forest the size of a football field or soccer field being cut down each second -- to one every 10 seconds.
This drastic clearing of tropical forests and the resulting emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global climate change, threatening the permanent loss of biodiversity and the survival of local communities, and reducing the capacity of these forests to provide free ecosystem services to all of humankind.
Much attention is being paid to the U.S. national debt of $16.6 trillion, the U.S. federal budget deficit of $1.05 trillion and threats of approximately $85 billion in automatic cuts due to sequestration, or the €10.4 trillion general government gross debt of the European Union (27 countries) as of 2011, including the national governments of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece or Spain, which have greater external debt than gross domestic products.
Yet, less attention seems to be paid to the world’s ecosystem services with an annual average estimated value of $33 trillion. This is essentially twice the value of the entire U.S. national debt and equivalent to nearly 90 times the general government gross debt of Greece.
Generally speaking, cattle-ranching is a main reason for deforestation and degradation in Central and South America, while timber and palm oil are main reasons for deforestation and degradation in Southeast Asia, and fuelwood collection and subsistence agriculture are main reasons for deforestation and degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, global commercial agriculture–particularly soybeans–is another major reason for global deforestation and degradation.
Eating less red meat is one specific personal action to help contribute to less tropical deforestation. Supporting Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and wood products, buying Fair Trade certified products, which help local communities increase their incomes, or supporting Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) projects and reputable organizations developing such projects are options to help reverse the trend of tropical deforestation.
Five ways for businesses to get involved in REDD+
There are several ways for a business to get involved in REDD+:
- Develop your own REDD+ project.
- Donate to a nonprofit organization (such as Carbonfund.org Foundation, Inc., Conservation International, or The Nature Conservancy) that is supporting REDD+ projects.
- Invest in a for-profit company (like Wildlife Works Carbon*) that is developing REDD+ projects.
- Invest directly into a particular REDD+ project, or
- Invest into a pooled fund (including the Terra Bella Fund) committed to REDD+ project investments.
*Editor's Note: In partnership with Wildlife Works and Code REDD, CSRwire is sponsoring REDD+ Talks, a one-day free seminar that will be held at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, California on Earth Day, April 22, 2013 and feature leading high-profile experts on global warming, REDD+ and US & International climate change policy. Want to learn more/grab an invite? Email the Editors.
A diverse range of businesses currently support REDD+ projects, helping to reverse the trend of tropical deforestation; luxury consumer goods companies such as PPR (which owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Puma and Volcom), the global hotel chain Marriott International, and investment banks including the French bank BNP Paribas and Australia-based Macquarie Bank.
One of the world’s largest REDD+ projects to date is the Juma Reserve REDD+ Project. With vision and executive-level support from Arne Sorenson, the President and then-Chief Operating Officer of Marriott and co-chair of Marriott’s Green Council, Marriott International committed $2 million to the Juma Project. The Juma Project, located in the State of Amazonas, Brazil, seeks to prevent the deforestation of nearly 330,000 hectares (approximately 815,000 acres) of tropical rainforests and seeks to mitigate the release of nearly 190 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
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About the Author
Brian McFarland is the Director of Carbon Projects and Origination at Carbonfund.org Foundation, Inc. This article draws on Brian's ebook REDD+ and Business Sustainability.
Brian's book is part of Dō Sustainability's new DōShort series of concise, sustainable business ebooks for professionals. These practical ebooks support professionals in the vanguard of sustainable business -- who are often forging new paths in their organizations -- by giving them the confidence, information and tactics they need at every stage of their career.
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