Opinion: Carbon sinks in the Kyoto Protocol`s clean development mechanism: An obstacle to the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity?

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The inclusion of carbon sinks in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), although not explicitly planned by the Kyoto Protocol, was decided by the sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Bonn in 2001.1 Acknowledgement of the right for industrialised countries and their firms to offset their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in exchange for afforestation and reforestation of Southern countries’ lands has been considered as an interference to the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol, and a new form of colonialism (the CO2 colonialism).2 It seems, however, to show an interest to states and firms, demonstrated by several projects proposed until now.3 Moreover, the realisation of carbon sequestration activities may have
environmentally – and socio-economically – beneficial, but also adverse, impacts. 

The economic inducement to carbon sequestration created by the Kyoto Protocol could indeed promote, for example, deforestation or replacement of native nonforest ecosystems with industrial tree plantations.4 A contradiction between the UNFCCC and the Convention on Biological Diversity (hereafter ‘CBD’), adopted under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme at the World Summit in Rio in 1992, could therefore substitute itself for a possible convergence.5  But it would have been difficult to conceive that, on the one hand, Northern countries’ voluntary investments realisation could represent a supplementary threat for biodiversity in Southern countries and, on the other hand, the latter being affected not only by climate change but also by measures taken to face up to it.

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