Evan Wasuka, Solomon Islands One News
The Solomon Islands delegation say the rights of resource owners and communities need to safeguarded in the text of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD, agreement in Developing Countries.
Dr Wairiu says the carbon trade has the potential to create wealth for countries like the Solomon Islands but he warned if mismanaged, it could also lead to further exploitation if it is not looked after properly.
Officials at the UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen are currently drafting the text for REDD.
The main sticking point has been the financial mechanisms of the system but officials are optimistic that the agreement will be adopt at this meeting and will allow developing nations to enter the carbon trade.
For countries like Solomon Islands that have a limited economic base and rely heavily on logging for their main revenue source, the carbon trade provides a potential boon.
“Carbon is the next gold, it will be listed on the stock exchange and traded internationally,” says Dr Wairiu.
He says the returns will be much better than the logging industry but he warned that if it is not managed properly it could also lead to further poverty.
“From the Solomon Islands experience it is the logging companies that have benefitted from our forests…that is why we need safeguards.”
Dr Wairiu says protecting the rights of resource owners and local communities is vital for the final REDD outcome which officials expect will be part of any agreement at Copenhagen.
“We need to ensure that there are safeguards in place that will not be manipulated by individuals and companies.”
Since the 1970s Solomon Islands forests have been logged out by mostly Asian companies with minimal returns to landowners.
Dr Wairiu says Solomon Islands has learnt its lesson the hard way and is taking its experience into the drafting of REDD. For its part the Solomon Islands government will also have to put in place measures for its participation in the REDD programme.
The priority for the Solomon Islands government is to come up with a national framework, which would also contain safeguards that are part of any international agreement.
Dr Wairiu says this include outline how the benefits are shared, who will handle them and how resource owners will benefit.
The preparation phase for Solomon Islands he says could take up to four years while Melanesian neigbours Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea already have projects in place and are in better position to implement REDD.
The REDD programme which run by a multitude of UN agencies aims to deal with the 20 per cent of emssions that are caused by deforestation.
The remaining 80 per cent of emissions are caused by industry and are the main subject of the two weeks climate change talks in Copenhagen.