The southern Cardamom Mountains have been targeted for a carbon-credit scheme that would put a monetary value on the rainforests’ potential impact on climate change in an effort to spur and fund their preservation.
The government, in partnership with the NGO Wildlife Alliance, agreed on Tuesday to develop the program, which would fall under the auspices of a U.N.-backed effort to encourage companies and governments to pay to maintain forests, according to officials and staff of Wildlife Alliance.
Sao Sopheap, an Environment Ministry spokesman, said preparations—developing a plan for conservation efforts in the mountains and fixing a price for the potential carbon sink—would take about three years to complete.
But the plan “should have a buyer within one to two years,” Mr. Sopheap said.
Thomas Gray, Wildlife Alliance’s director of science, said the NGO was working with the for-profit U.S.-based company Wildlife Works to net a deal for the carbon-credits.
“They’ve already identified a number of possible commercial buyers,” he said. “These are big international corporations who, in a post-Trump world, want to show corporate social responsibility—their commitment to make a difference.”
The carbon-credit agreement, if it works, stands to protect 500,000 hectares of Cambodia’s rainforest—preserving elephant, civet cat and banteng habitats, and sustaining local livelihoods.
And with a conservative estimate of 500 tons of carbon contained in every hectare of rainforest, millions of tons of carbon could be either absorbed from Earth’s atmosphere or kept from being emitted into it, Mr. Gray said.
However, he cautioned that negotiating adequate support for the necessary conservation efforts would be no small task.
There have already been two efforts to sell carbon credits for conservation efforts in Cambodia. The first, in Oddar Mean- chey in 2009, was a failure.
The second, brokered by the Wildlife Conservation Society, saw The Walt Disney Company buy 365,000 carbon credits—equivalent to 365,000 tons of emitted carbon dioxide gas—at a little over $7 per credit.
That amount is “insufficient to provide a level of game-changing conservation,” Mr. Gray said.
Contacted on Tuesday, Ross Sinclair, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the first sale was “an important first step” toward financing forest protection in Cambodia.
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