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  • Translator: Nadja Nathan Reviewer: Denise RQ

  • Hello. I'm going to start with a question.

  • And this is the question:

  • what has been the most important policy

  • in reducing carbon emissions over the last 10 years?

  • There have been plenty.

  • Now we're down to four, the top four.

  • In top slot is renewable energy, particularly wind and solar.

  • This is spreading throughout the world, it's getting more efficient every day.

  • It's not as efficient as number three, which is our hydro-power,

  • which has always been important but continues to be key.

  • And those two pale into insignificance when you compare it to number two

  • which is industrial gas emissions.

  • We are seeing fewer,

  • particularly of the exotic, most potent warming gases

  • being thrown into the atmosphere.

  • But actually the number one slot

  • is bigger than all those three combined,

  • - and this might be surprising to you -

  • It's protecting rainforest.

  • It will surprise you

  • because we don't often hear good news about it.

  • But it's what I want talk about today,

  • in particular, how we make sure over the next 10 years,

  • it remains just as important in our fight against climate change.

  • You will have seen, I expect, a rainforest talk before.

  • So, I'm going to get the extraordinary amphibian picture

  • out of the way early on.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm not going to do biology, but I'll start with a bit of geography.

  • This is South America, we are zooming in.

  • We're going to a small village

  • on the western edge of the Amazon called Cutivireni.

  • And Cuti sits on the western edge

  • of the arc of deforestation of the Amazon.

  • So, this is basically where to the west you see degraded ex-forest,

  • and to the east you see the pristine habitat

  • the little fellow earlier would enjoy.

  • And the reason I want to tell you about Cutivireni

  • is because it is emblematic

  • of so many indigenous communities in the tropics.

  • Ten years ago, Cuti was 300 km from any chainsaws.

  • Then it was 30 km,

  • then 5 years ago, a gang of loggers walked into the village

  • and offered them 10,000 dollars for their 40 cedar trees.

  • Now, this was a tempting offer.

  • The community was suffering from malaria,

  • it had a very high levels of malnutrition.

  • and even though 250 dollars a tree,

  • for something that's probably worth 50 times that at least,

  • didn't seem like a good deal,

  • even though they could see from communities to the west

  • that loggers weren't the people you wanted to deal with

  • because it wouldn't end with the best trees;

  • they would try to lend money, put you into a position of debt bondage.

  • Even though they knew all these things, it was still very tempting

  • because, if you have a sick child, and they need to get to hospital,

  • that's 8 hours by boat away.

  • How do you pay for the fuel?

  • If you have as I say, 4 out 5 children suffering from malnutrition,

  • it's very difficult to think

  • how you are going to find the cash for that emergency bag of rice.

  • So, while it's easy to paint the loggers as a terrifying destructive force,

  • the real driver to deforestation here is poverty.

  • We can get rid of the logging gang very easily,

  • but their barrier to entry is so low,

  • there will be 20 more queuing up behind them.

  • The real issue instead is finding an alternative for a community

  • that's been dependent on the rainforest for absolutely everything for generations.

  • For a community that, in return,

  • it's been the best possible custodian of that rainforest.

  • Right up until the point when poverty and the pressures of change

  • means the last asset they have to sell is that forest.

  • This sort of piecemeal destruction, let's call it degradation,

  • is now the biggest threat facing the rainforest.

  • And that's partly because of the good news that I mentioned earlier.

  • So, one form of deforestation is actually in decline.

  • The clear cutting, industrial deforestation

  • that you'll all be familiar with

  • from so many terrific Greenpeace campaigns.

  • That is actually now starting to slow.

  • We are not out of the woods yet, but it's on the way out.

  • Because it's a commodity play, and this is important.

  • The reason that it was so easy to clear cut so much forest

  • is because we didn't care where our soya, or our palm, or our beef came from.

  • We didn't care, so long as it was cheap, and therefore, demand was there.

  • When demand starts to falter because we have terrific campaigns,

  • or because the Brazilian real goes through the roof,

  • or because, and this is the real key one,

  • because the U.S. starts making its own ethanol,

  • then you'll actually start to see rates of deforestation start to fall.

  • As I say, it's not over yet,

  • but we now know how, from the top down, to control this awful trade.

  • That does leave us with a problem though,

  • namely, what are going to do about the 260,000 acres we still lose every day?

  • The irony, of course, is that these are not acres lost every day,

  • these are individual trees.

  • But, and this is the shocking thing,

  • if we add it all up, degradation is actually destroying more rainforest

  • than any clear cutting, or any industrial deforestation today.

  • What it's actually doing is twice as much forest,

  • some studies even think it's four times as much,

  • so really it's a priority.

  • You would probably think that if we can sort out soya,

  • if we can sort out palm, or at least get towards that,

  • we can do something about this trade.

  • Surely, there must be 101 regulations to stop the illegal timber trade.

  • Surely, if you think about it,

  • roundwood timber is conspicuous enough that there must be a way to prevent this.

  • The funny thing is though, this is such a high value trade,

  • illegal loggers will always find a way of circumventing those regulations.

  • Let me tell you the most popular way of doing it at the moment.

  • Let's say you have a legal logging concession.

  • You're allowed to take wood out from there,

  • but you've used all the mahoganies and the cedars.

  • So what you do is you go to somewhere like Cutivireni,

  • you offer 250 dollars for a cedar tree,

  • chop it down, ship it back to your concession

  • - 100 miles away normally -

  • and then you forge the paperwork and send it on its way;

  • It's basically money laundering, but for logs.

  • What is really interesting though is that sometimes,

  • they don't just take the tree, they take the trunk,

  • they dig the thing up, and shift that 100 miles,

  • they dig a hole, pop it in there, pat it down,

  • and claim that this tree has always been there,

  • so, of course it must be legitimate.

  • Now, that sounds like a lot of work, I think you'll agree.

  • I mean this is 100% humidity, this is 100 miles.

  • And it is laborious stuff,

  • but it's no more laborious than planting, for example,

  • 400 coca bushes in small patches around the rainforest.

  • So, when the marines fly over they don't actually see what's going on.

  • Then picking the leaves off these coca bushes,

  • putting them in a ditch - there's lines for the tarpaulin

  • adding sulfuric acid,

  • maybe some caustic soda and some battery acid,

  • mixing it all up and forming the paste into blocks and shipping that 100 miles

  • to where you then recrystallize it

  • into something like cocaine hydrochloride.

  • This sound like going off in a tangent, but I promise you it's not.

  • There are so many similarities

  • between the cocaine trade and the illegal logging trade.

  • Not least, it's the same people, and often the same places,

  • who are running it.

  • It's also immensely profitable.

  • And if you look at the value that you can get

  • from taking cocaine from rainforest to retail,

  • it's pretty much the same mark-up

  • as you are going to get from doing the same with mahogany.

  • It's also though, and this is the key thing,

  • a trade that we've been very bad at stamping out,

  • and in fact, the hopeless success the governments have had

  • stamping out cocaine from the retail end,

  • is exactly why the only way you can do anything about illegal logging,

  • and the huge amount of forest degradation it causes,

  • is by doing it from the ground up, and let me explain why.

  • It's not like soya, It's not like palm,

  • it doesn't respond to the commodity controls from the top down.

  • This is a trade that, like it or not, is negotiated tree by tree,

  • in a muddy path somewhere in the rainforest.

  • It's informal, it's dispersed, it's - I suppose you can argue - local;

  • and this is the key thing.

  • And the local elements of this trade is where the solution lies.

  • What lies behind the Cool Earth's model, because at the end of the day,

  • often as not, a tree will be sold off to realise short term cash

  • for medicine, for fuel, for food.

  • And Cool Earth has come up with a way of offering an alternative to that.

  • Anyway, back to Cutivireni.

  • When the loggers came in 5 years ago,

  • the man that they were making that offer to is Cesar Bustamante.

  • You couldn't come across a more impressive individual.