“Creative accounting” in LULUCF?

There’s an interesting story in today’s Irish Times about how figures for forests sinks may be less than accurate:

EU MEMBER states and other developed countries have been accused of engaging in “creative accounting” to hide an estimated 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions every year – in their trees.

Forests serve as “carbon sinks”, so countries are entitled to subtract the CO2 stored in trees from their total greenhouse gas emissions. But if the trees are cut down for use in making timber products, as the Swiss concede, they should then be treated as “debits”.

The push for a more liberal regime is being made by developed countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol, including Ireland. They have made it clear the use of almost unlimited forest offsets is the price to be paid for agreeing deeper cuts in their emissions.

Although the story doesn’t make it completely clear, I presume this row has broken out at the talks underway in Bonn right now.

This might be interesting to explore in a number of ways. How reliable are the figures used in multi-lateral environmental agreements, and how can these be verified? How can agreement be reached on these issues in a way that protects the environment, when governments are more focused on their short-term, selfish interests? And how can a good agreement be reached when it seems that the delegates get lost in the science and the statistics?

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