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Let Africa Into the Carbon Market

The G8 summit earlier this year focused on Africa and climate change because the two issues are linked: Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and therefore must be supported to adapt to it.

Adaptation to climate change is critical worldwide, but nowhere as much as in Africa, where exposure to natural disasters is higher than in most other regions. Aside from adaptation, Africa can also play a role in mitigating climate change through more sustainable forest and land management. Rural populations from Africa have the capacity to compete and export greenhouse-gas emission-reduction credits generated by forestry and agriculture activities that improve their livelihoods, ameliorate local environmental problems, and increase communities’ ability to cope with climate change.

However, in order to fulfill that promise, the industrialized world must give Africa a chance through the emerging international carbon market. The best approach would be for Europe, Japan, and Canada to buy certificates of biological carbon sequestration from Africa as part of their efforts to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries (so-called “Annex I countries”) have the right to purchase certificates of carbon sequestration from reforestation projects undertaken in developing countries and use them to offset up to 1% of their 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions from industry, transport and housing. Although this represents a small fraction of the effort needed from industrialized countries to fulfill the Kyoto Protocol’s goals by 2012, it would help significantly in improving forest and land use in Africa.