Monday, September 17, 2007

If A Tree Is Planted In the Forest, Is the Vatican Redeemed?

The New York Times has a story with the details of how, exactly, the Vatican is becoming the world's first carbon neutral state. Check out the excerpt below:
TISZAKESZI, Hungary — This summer the cardinals at the Vatican accepted an unusual donation from a Hungarian start-up called Klimafa: The company said it would plant trees to restore an ancient forest on a denuded stretch of land by the Tisza River to offset the Vatican’s carbon emissions.
The trees should absorb as much carbon dioxide as the Vatican will produce in 2007.
An angler on his way to the Tisza River, near where environmentally degraded land will be restored as a forest.

The trees, on a 37-acre tract of land that will be renamed the Vatican climate forest, will in theory absorb as much carbon dioxide as the Vatican will produce in 2007: driving cars, heating offices, lighting St. Peter’s Basilica at night.
In so doing, the Vatican announced, it would become the world’s first carbon-neutral state.
“As the Holy Father,
Pope Benedict XVI, recently stated, the international community needs to respect and encourage a ‘green culture,’ ” said Cardinal Paul Poupard, leader of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who took part in a ceremony marking the event at the Vatican. “The Book of Genesis tells us of a beginning in which God placed man as guardian over the earth to make it fruitful.”
In many respects, the program seems like a win-win-win proposition. The Vatican, which has recently made an effort to go green on its own by installing solar panels, sought to set an example by offsetting its carbon emissions.
Hungary, whose government scientists are consulting on the project, will take over large swaths of environmentally degraded, abandoned land restored as a native forest. That will have a beneficial effect on the climate here, and provide jobs in an economically depressed area.
Klimafa, an 18-month-old company, gets the Vatican’s seal of approval and free publicity for its first project. In addition to the Vatican, several European governments, as well as Dell, the computer maker, have bought carbon offsets that will be backed by planting trees on the land.
“It seems so obvious, but no one was doing it,” said David Gazdag of Klimafa, who brokered the project with backing from his San Francisco parent company, Planktos International, which specializes in ecosystem restoration. But creating and selling carbon “offsets” or “credits” is still a novel idea for business and science, and much debate remains. The calculation for planting trees is especially complicated.
Planting forests is only “a partial solution, and a temporary one,” said Laszlo Galhidy, a forestry officer for the environmental group WWF Hungary, although he praised the project as useful. Young forests — dominated by growing trees — soak up a lot of carbon dioxide, but once the forests mature, they absorb far less, he said. Also, he said, there is no scientific system for predicting the exact carbon-absorbing capacity of a project like the Vatican forest, whose trajectory depends on rainfall, temperature and how fast the trees grow.
The Kyoto Protocol and the
European Union’s cap and trade program set emissions targets for countries or large companies. Those that exceed their allowances by emitting too much carbon need to purchase carbon credits from countries or companies that do not need their allotment, or from companies like Klimafa that create credits through green projects like planting trees.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 22 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at for energy Saving Products at

1 comment:

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