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Journal of Environmental Law and Practice. Volume 10, No. 2 (2001), p. 105.


The structure of the mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol with respect to "carbon sinks," may be integrated so as to place incentives on national governments that counter recent progress made towards the preservation of old-growth forests. A focus on the element carbon fails to recognize values other than sequestration that standing forests can provide. For example, an approach that strictly seeks to increase the rate of fixation of atmospheric carbon will favour replacing old-growth forests with monocultural plantations of trees. The international community, in implementing these mechanisms, may frustrate other environmental initiatives such as the conservation of endangered species habitat and the protection of biodiversity. Further, focusing on the rate of sequestration is misguided. The recent empirical evidence suggests that the best way to use forests for climate change mitigation is to allow them to grow old, and to protect them from ever being logged. It has been observed that the inability of the international community to reach agreement on implementation of the Kyoto Protocol at a series of international meetings held recently in The Hague turned on technical issues surrounding "carbon sinks." This article deciphers the issues to reveal what interests are at stake in this debate, and how forests came to be the crutch that supports the 'old economy' and prevents our planet's progress towards a sustainable economy and a stable climate.

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