CO2 emitting fires in SE Asia ignored at UN climate talks
Governments from all over the world have gathered to discuss action needed to avert the serious consequences of climate change and the future of the Kyoto Protocol at the UN Climate Change Conference currently underway in Nairobi. Although this Conference purports to provide a framework to reduce to amount of global CO2 emissions, it has largely ignored the destruction and burning of Southeast Asia’s rainforest peatlands, which for years have been one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
These swampy rainforests represent 60% of all tropical peat, and contain 50 billion tonnes of carbon. This peat is drained when cleared by illegal logging, or for timber and palm oil plantations, leaving them highly susceptible to long burning fires, and releasing the stored carbon into the atmosphere. Fires are often deliberately lit by plantation owners and those currently burning are believed to be the worst on record. A Humane Society International (HSI) funded conservation program in Kalimantan has been directly affected by these fires, and we have provided financial resources to help the fire fighting efforts.
“Hundreds of these fires are burning right now across Borneo, Sumatra and Java”, said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director. “Not only do these fires result in the emission of 600 million tonnes of CO2 every year, but they are also having a devastating effect on rainforest inhabitants, leading to the displacement of local communities and critically endangered orangutans”.
The boom in biofuels, while touted as a solution to global warming, is exacerbating the crisis. The low cost of palm oil has fast tracked its acceptance as the main component of biodiesel, while every tonne of its production is responsible for the emission of 20 tonnes of CO2.
“It is ironic that large amounts of carbon credits are going to the palm oil industry and timber plantations, while these very industries are responsible for some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions”, said Mr Kennedy. “The international community can no longer afford to ignore this issue, and must immediately suspend the distribution of carbon credits associated with these fires, both in Southeast Asia, and elsewhere around the world”.
HSI has urged Minister Campbell to take up this issue at the UN Climate Change Conference - the ideal forum for establishing alternative solutions to this global dilemma.