The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for including provisions on forestry preservation in the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The provisions call for action to avoid the burning or cutting down of the world’s forests. Deforestation results in one-fifth of total greenhouse gas emissions—more than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes and ships combined. It also destroys the ecosystems that wildlife and people rely on for their survival.

WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli called the new safeguards for tropical forests “groundbreaking.”

“With 20 percent of annual global emissions resulting from tropical deforestation in developing countries,” Calvelli said, “these provisions are a critical component to comprehensive climate change legislation.”

WCS has a long history in the area of forest conservation and policy. Currently, WCS conservationists are working with partners in Cambodia, Chile, Bolivia, and Madagascar to help protect carbon resource interests while combating climate change. Despite these countries’ biological richness, many of the indigenous peoples are impoverished. Decades of logging and clearing forests—much of which has been done to support small-scale and unsustainable subsistence farming—have taken a tremendous toll on both the people and their environment.

The introduction of forest carbon crediting has helped some of these places create new, carbon-based revenue streams that provide an economic alternative to cutting forests. These systems not only mitigate climate change but also protect the current and long-term interests of local communities and unique wildlife like tigers, gorillas, and jaguars that depend directly upon forests to meet their basic needs. The forestry provisions allow developing countries to sell carbon credits generated by forest protection and avoided deforestation to U.S. companies looking to offset their carbon emissions.