Schemes designed to protect tropical forests from clearance based on the carbon they store need to increase its protection payments so as to compete financially with potential profits from rubber plantations, according to a study released Friday by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Forests, which are kept intact, absorb and store carbon. This process can be translated into "carbon credits" which can be offered to individuals, organizations, or even countries, to offset their own carbon emissions, or in wider efforts to combat global climate change.
The study, led by the UEA, finds that without increased financial compensation for forest carbon credits, cutting forests down will remain more attractive than protecting them.
Carbon credits are currently priced at five US dollars to 13 US dollars per ton of CO2 on carbon markets.
But this does not match the real break-even cost of safeguarding tropical forests from conversion to rubber in Southeast Asia, which is between 30 US dollars to 51 US dollars per ton of CO2, according to the study.
Forests are being converted into rubber plantations in Southeast Asia, said lead researcher Eleanor Warren-Thomas from UEA, who now works at the University of York.
"Forests are less likely to be protected using carbon finance if the payments coming in are much lower than the profits the forest would generate if cut down," said Warren-Thomas.
"We show that where demand for land for rubber plantations is driving deforestation, carbon payments are unlikely to appear an attractive alternative."
The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.