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The struggle of an Indian plantation manager to get his forest onto the global carbon market has highlighted the obstacles to growing forests to offset carbon emissions.

The scheme could yield enormous economic benefits and aid biodiversity conservation, but it is hampered by bureaucratic hurdles.

As part of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) industrialised countries can meet some of their greenhouse gas reduction targets by purchasing carbon credits from developing country projects that reduce emissions.

Harshkumar Kulkarni, an employee of the Indian Tobacco Corporation, grows varieties of eucalyptus, leucaena and casuarina trees for carbon offsetting. After years of hard work, his project — in India's southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh — is about to receive approval from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

"I lost 11 kilos and ruined my health trying to get this CDM project registered," he says.

Out of 1,270 UNFCCC-approved schemes worldwide, there is just one CDM forestry scheme — in China's Pearl River Basin.

Planting trees is an easy and inexpensive way to mitigate emissions. But the rigorous approval process, which includes calculating how much carbon a forest will store and proving that the scheme will make a real difference to emissions, has rendered forestry schemes more complicated than others under the CDM.

And because forestry schemes only offset emissions temporarily, buyers are few.

Forestry managers are hoping such issues will be addressed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year.

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