Money on trees

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The host sets the tone: last year's climate change talks, held in Nairobi, revolved around adaptation. This year, with Indonesia hosting the UN climate change conference, the prevalent issue is deforestation.

The malaise here in Indonesia is clear. Rising commodity prices and a boom in biofuels have led to uncontrolled deforestation. To improve its image and to offset the conference, Indonesia has just been on a planting spree with 79 million new trees in the ground. The word is that the conference, as a result, is "carbon positive." The question is: what measures, if any, will flip the current incentive scheme and will make it financially more interesting to keep the forests standing.

In a new report CIFOR suggests payments to land users for environmental services. The report, however, does not mention how high those payments should be to represent a real alternative, nor where those payments would come from, nor where local people previously employed on these lands would find a new job.

A little while ago, when offered to be paid as custodians of the country's landscapes, French farmers vehemently declined the idea. A real job and their dignity, that's what they wanted.

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