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Concerns that the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions might actually increase the logging of pristine forests appear to be justified, according to a group of European scientists.

In 2001 it was agreed that reforestation activities that create carbon sinks would be eligible under the Clean Development Mechanism — which allows industrialised nations to gain 'carbon credits' for investing in emissions reduction projects in developing countries — providing that the land in question was clear of forest before 1990.

The authors argue that the suggestion by some countries that the reforestation time limit should be modified — so that land cleared more recently could be used — would set a dangerous precedent. This could lead to a "perverse" promotion of deforestation, they say.

"It would be paradoxical if the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms had the effect of paying for the destruction of pristine forests, which are one of the few genuine actors in climate change mitigation," they argue.

Link to full Science opinion article

Reference: Science 299, 1669 (2003)