More than a decade ago in the northeast corner of Bolivia, a group of polluters and environmentalists joined forces in the first large-scale experiment to curb climate change with a strategy that promised to suit their competing interests: compensating for greenhouse gas emissions by preserving forests.
The coalition of U.S. utility companies, two nonprofit groups and the Bolivian government had the common goal of making a dent in the worldwide deforestation that accounts for about 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions each year. The outcome of that experiment is fueling debate over a key element in international climate strategy.
While the Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project has succeeded in keeping a biologically rich preserve of more than 6,000 square miles free from logging, it has fallen far short of its goal of reducing emissions. The mix of pragmatism and idealism -- providing powerful financial incentives to encourage influential companies ...