Growing money over trees is now possible. Pakistan just made it to the list of countries who will earn money from the World Bank's Readiness Fund for preserving their forests. After a tough competition at Geneva, Switzerland, Pakistan successfully defended its case of Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) and secured $3.8 million from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank to combat climate change.
Pakistan is among eight countries, out of 27 in race, who has been added to get the REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) funds. REDD+ is the UN led mechanism which helps countries earn dollars by not cutting trees and saving carbon dioxide in forests. Environmental experts estimate that, if performed well with the grant, Pakistan can earn $4 - 12 billion per year for saving each ton of carbon.
This is good news! The project will help people understand the importance of forest protection. It will also change mindsets to make living forests a source of earning rather than cutting them down. However, before we talk more about its benefits, we have some real questions to answer:
Are we well positioned to get maximum benefits of REDD facility? Can government implement this project with its true spirit of improving forest cover and support forest dependent communities? Can the government challenge forest mafia, who are influential and even sit in our assemblies?
Pakistan forest covers 5 percent, about 4.4 million hectares of areas. Some estimates count forest cover only 2 percent. With the highest forest depletion rates in the world, an estimated 27,000 hectares of forests in Pakistan are depleted every year. Climate scientists also claim that dry months prior to mid-2010 are due to climate change. That paired with reduced vegetation covering over hills were the main causes of massive erosion and flash floods.
The government seems ambitious to preserve forests in the presence of forest mafia. According to Pervaiz Rashid, the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, the government has allocated $105 million in the budget to undertake REDD+ related projects. But this government also demoted the climate change ministry into a division and cut down the funds for environment protection by 62 percent in this fiscal year.
Our government has to show seriousness dedication to protect the country's environment and fight climate change. Our neighboring countries India and China have made tremendous achievements in the field of renewable energies. Following the same spirit, Pakistan will not only meet its energy demand but also reduce pressure on fast depleting forests. The recently won REDD+ project can significantly help restoring forest cover and if run honestly, can open a new window of earning money from living trees.