Friday, April 11, 2008

Planting trees to off-set emissions isn't going to do it

Land being reclaimed at the Formosa Plastics Plant to use for planting trees. The area being destroyed through the reclamation is valuable humpback dolphin habitat.

In today's Taipei Times Lee Ken-cheng*, director of Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan argues that there is not enough land to off-set emissions.

Lee notes how state-owned firms have been falling over themselves in their search for land to plant trees. He makes the point that forestation projects such as the 60,000-hectare forestation project proposed by President-elect, Ma Ying-jeou, would not really be effective in reducing carbon emissions. He tells how a 60,000-hectare forestation plan would be able to absorb 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. This would not be able to offset even a tenth of the FPG steel refinery's carbon output.

Environmentalists see the benefits of reforestation but planting trees doesn't address the cause of high emissions. Emission levels need to be brought down. Trees should be planted to reforest areas that were previously forest. Why reclaim land from a valuable marine environment and home to a highly endangered species to plant trees to combat emissions? Reforestation should be done out of a desire to restore forests and their valuable ecosystems not as a green-washing tool to hide emissions and create the incorrect impression that something is being done.

*Lee Ken-cheng was a teacher in Kaohsiung for 17 years. He is the Executive Director of Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan and a former appointee to the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee.

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