Cryptocarbon: The promises and pitfalls of forest protection on a blockchain

Howson, Peter, Oakes, Sarah, Baynham-Herd, Zachary and Swords, Jon (2019) Cryptocarbon: The promises and pitfalls of forest protection on a blockchain. Geoforum, 100. pp. 1-9. ISSN 0016-7185

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In this commentary, we explore how blockchain is being leveraged to address the fundamental problems with market-based forest protection globally. In doing so, we consider the ways ‘cryptocarbon’ initiatives are creating new challenges that have so far escaped critical scrutiny. A blockchain is a distributed and immutable electronic database – a ledger of every transaction that has ever taken place on a network, stored as cryptographically secured blocks, strung together in a chain. The technology is being increasingly hyped as applicable for a whole range of industries, social service provisions, and environmental management concerns. This includes the facilitation of natural asset market mechanisms, like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The original aim of REDD+ was to incentivise conservation, making tropical forests more valuable standing than cut down. Multiple factors, including lack of consumer interest, created an over-supply of carbon commodities. Ninety-five percent of the world’s avoided deforestation credits, representing millions of hectares of conserved forest, were stuck without a buyer. Several flagging REDD+ projects are now hoping that blockchain technology can carry them to new heights of market capitalisation. However, like with any powerful new technology, the benefits remain ambiguous.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cryptocarbon; Cryptocurrencies; Blockchain; REDD+; Carbon offsetting; Forest Conservation
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2019 12:57
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2021 03:30

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