DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania—What would the wealthy nations of the West (and their rising rivals in the East) do if they actually wanted to prevent catastrophic warming? Here in Africa, the obvious answer is that they would find the ways and means to discourage deforestation—the ruinous practice of clear-cutting for timber, charcoal and arable land that accounts for at least 20 percent of the atmospheric carbon burden. Save the trees, and you might just save the planet.
In theory, this ought to be a simple enough task to accomplish, with sufficient motivation and money. But in practice, the incentives created by Western policy are so perverse, according to Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, that they reward clear-cutting not once but twice over. So he told Bill Clinton, who is visiting Africa this week to oversee the Clinton Foundation’s work on health care and renewable energy.
As Kikwete explained the problem, it has become possible to open forests to loggers for profit and then receive carbon-credit subsidies as a reward for replanting the raped forest. Stupid is too kind a word for this.
The Tanzanian leader expressed frustration, too, with the imperial style that persists in Western efforts to preserve forestland. The agencies that certify projects for carbon credit are overwhelmingly foreign, with personnel parachuted in to perform inspections. While it is essential to verify every carbon credit, the parachute inspection is not, as they say, a sustainable model.