Carbon sinks and emissions trading

Much of the current interest in carbon sequestration by vegetation relates to those parts of the Kyoto Protocol that deal with forests and land-use change (Articles 3.3, 3.4 and 12). The interpretation and implementation of these sections of the Protocol has proved to be challenging and has certainly occupied much of the delegates' time at successive conferences of the parties. Reilly et al. (Chapter 8, this volume) provide insight into some of the issues about the use of sinks in carbon trading. To include biological sinks to 'offset' carbon emissions is inherently controversial, as these sinks change with environmental conditions, are not permanent and can be difficult to measure. Moreover, different countries have different perspectives on biological sinks, because of their different circumstances. Reilly et al. work through this issue using an ingenious approach, comparing hypothetical countries with different circumstances. Finally, they propose a solution, the 'cap and trade' system in which most of the perceived difficulties are minimized. Such creative thinking is much needed for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

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