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Science & Technology

Back to the forests

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Jan 15, 1998 | From the print edition
Innovative schemes of sponsored reforestation may help combat global warming

concerns that burning of fossil fuels could increase levels of co 2 in the atmosphere leading to climate change has caused wrangling among the world's politicians, scientists and environmentalists for years. But it has seldom been regarded as a business opportunity.

Now, three enterprises in the uk are promoting "carbon sequestration" schemes as a way for ordinary consumers to assert themselves as responsible global citizens.

The Carbon Storage Trust, Future Forests, and the International Federation for Carbon Sequestration have come up with a principle that is beguilingly simple. As plants grow, they absorb co 2 from the air and release oxygen, retaining or sequestering carbon -- the main building block of their structure and that comprises about half their mass. A mature oak, for example, can contain about three tonnes of carbon. The three enterprises intend to plant more trees as a direct and effective way to offset carbon emissions from human activity.

The scheme will work by raising money from the public, using it for reforestation. They are to be run on business principles, though they primarily aim to support long-term, sustainable forestry rather than concentrate on maximising profitability.

Carbon Storage Trust's research indicates that 25 per cent of British natural gas consumers are willing to pay, and 57 per cent would probably pay an additional 6.25 ( us $10.3) for a climate friendly warranty on their quarterly bill. Future Forests agrees. With customers paying 3 (about us $5) per tree, they expect sufficient funds to plant 5,00,000 trees in the uk this winter and 2 million every year thereafter.

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