“Carbon Footprint” Risks Misuse and Economic Damage, NGO Research Finds

Research Shows Carbon Footprint Concept Is Too Technically Uncertain To Determine Management Of Tropical Forest – Misapplication Could Harm Economic Development

WASHINGTON, DC – Pro-development NGO, World Growth, released research today demonstrating that “carbon footprint” criteria advocated by environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to regulate carbon emissions from land use change in tropical forests is too uncertain to use.  Data is weak and provides contrary results.  Key concepts remain speculative.  Use of current criteria could unnecessarily restrict agricultural production and would not have a beneficial environmental impact.

The report, “Grappling with Inordinate Uncertainty,” demonstrates that a broad-brush assessment of emissions from agricultural and forestry industries and economies is unfeasible with using current concepts and data.  Effective measurement of emissions from changes in land use requires empirical assessment on-site, and testing and refinement of key concepts.

World Growth Chairman Ambassador Alan Oxley released the following statement:

“The idea that clearing tropical forest creates a destructive carbon footprint has been given wide currency, but lacks technical underpinning.  The concept of the carbon footprint is not robust, for example – no footprint is static.  Not only is the basis for measuring carbon footprint not established, the data on emissions of terrestrial carbon is based on guesswork and data with very large margins of error.
“The carbon footprint idea is being pushed worldwide by green groups to support restrictions on products to which they object, and is being supported by some Western business interests to demonstrate general support for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The concept is also being promoted in the fierce debate over in Europe over whether or not to regulate the impact of indirect land use change on greenhouse gas emissions.  The European Parliament and green groups like the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) argue carbon footprints should be established to regulate the sustainability and trade of products from tropical countries, like palm oil and timber products.
“Yet this new research shows there is no reliable data which shows there are large emissions from land use change in tropical countries.  It also shows important contrary data suggesting tropical forests sequester form soil organic carbon than temperate and boreal forest combined, and the emissions from tropical forests have been significantly overstated.
“There is good reason to suspect that the carbon footprint concept has been advanced by environmental NGOs for the political purpose of supporting their campaigns to limit use of forest land and developing world industries like palm oil, regardless of the economic cost.
“Regrettably, European companies like Unilever are supporting a push by WWF to make a carbon footprint an additional criterion in the sustainability standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) when there was no data available to reliably create or measure a footprint.  Rather than prematurely imposing a measure that cannot be scientifically assessed, policymakers would do well to reject the calls by radical environmentalists for pre-determined, kneejerk action and support continued research into the ‘carbon footprint’ concept.”

Click here to read the report, Grappling with Inordinate Uncertainty; Measuring the Carbon Footprint of Tropical Land-Use Change.

The report includes a foreword by Dr. David F Smith AM, Senior Fellow, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne.

To speak with World Growth’s experts or find out more about its work, please email media@worldgrowth.org or call +1-866-467-7200.

World Growth is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established to expand the research, information, advocacy, and other resources to improve the economic conditions and living standards in developing and transitional countries. At World Growth, we embrace the age of globalization and the power of free trade to eradicate poverty and create jobs and opportunities. World Growth supports the production of palm oil and the use of forestry as a means to promote economic growth, reduce poverty and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. World Growth believes a robust cultivation of palm oil and forestry provides an effective means of environmental stewardship that can serve as the catalyst for increasing social and economic development.  For more information on World Growth, visit www.worldgrowth.org.

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