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California Considers Expanding Cap-And-Trade To Prevent Global Deforestation

Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research

An aerial shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil.

Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research

Deforestation accounts for approximately 15 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions every year. The California Air Resources Board is considering allowing companies regulated under cap-and-trade to purchase carbon offsets to protect tropical forests. It's based on the United Nation's Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program, or REDD. Some environmental groups says the program is fraught with problems. 

“We believe that any type of trade program like this is very difficult to verify the offset credits, who’s managing the verification, what is the process for verifying whether the offsets are actually happening,” says Sandra Lupien with the environmental group Food and Water Watch.

She says it also allows businesses to control and profit off indigenous peoples' lands. California is working with the Brazilian State of Acre and the Mexican State of Chiapas

“The projects that we’re looking at are supported by the locals," says Dave Clegern, a spokesman with the California Air Resources Board. "They are what is known as sector-based projects, which means that they would be run in conjunction with the government of that country which would provide the opportunity for regular monitoring, verification of the quality of the offsets.”

Several environmental groups support the program. It will likely take more than a year before the Air Board adopts any proposal.