Countries agree to spend big to save world’s forests

Countries agree to spend big to save world’s forests
# 27 May 2010 20:19 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Oslo conference attended by 52 nations produces first concrete sign of global action on climate change since Copenhagen, APA reports quoting website
Rich and poor countries today agreed on guidelines for releasing aid to save forests, in the first concrete sign of global action on climate change since Copenhagen.
Norway, which chaired this week’s climate conference, said aid pledges to save forests had risen by $500m (£345m) since the UN climate conference in Copenhagen last December.
But this is less than was expected just weeks ago – showing the limits of more state funding amid economic crises and unrest in the financial markets.
Some experts say the modest increase in state aid for forests, whose conservation is seen as the cheapest way of lowering carbon emissions, underlines the need for private sector engagement.
The Oslo Climate and Forest Conference, attended by representatives of 52 countries, agreed on a non-binding framework to funnel aid promised by the rich world and set up monitoring standards to ensure money flows are based on solid results. Such frameworks are known as Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programmes.
"The outcome of this meeting could be the first comprehensive component for a future international agreement on climate change [since Copenhagen]," World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said in a televised address from Washington DC.
In Copenhagen, global leaders failed to deliver a legally binding deal on manmade emissions. Rich nations did agree, however, to provide $30bn from 2010-12 to help poor states combat global warming, rising to $100bn a year by 2020.
The US, the UK, Australia, France, Japan and Norway had specifically agreed on $3.5bn from 2010-12 to save forests, a pool of money which has now grown to $4bn (£2.75bn), according to Norway.
"There is no way to mobilise that much money without mobilising the private sector," Norway’s prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said, referring to a plan to spend $30bn on forests and other fast-track green financing until 2012.
Deforestation and forest degradation wipes away an area the size of England each year and is responsible for 17% of global carbon emissions – more than that made by the world’s cars, trains and planes combined, according to UN data.
"Reducing deforestation and forest degradation can provide the largest, fastest and cheapest cuts in carbon emissions," Stoltenberg said. Such efforts could achieve "a third of the cuts in carbon emissions needed by 2020", he added.
Norway, which is rich in oil, yesterday formally announced $1bn in aid to Indonesia to help protect forests in the south east Asian nation, which has been quickly clearing trees for palm oil plantations. It has a similar deal with Brazil.
Growing populations, agriculture and the timber industry have all reduced tropical forests from the Amazon to Indonesia, where it has become more profitable to cut down natural forests.
"Today, the market values forests more destroyed than standing," said Papua New Guinea prime minister Michael Somare.
"We must find a way to value forests more alive than dead."
To push people to protect forests, as well as to attract private sector financing, it will be essential to set up a global price for carbon emissions, either via a market or a carbon tax.
"This is a good day – it rebuilds trust in the international community’s ability to confront climate change," said Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
"What is needed is a bit more assurance that the carbon price will be there and that the private sector will have input how the system of green financing is set up."
Prince Charles was among the speakers at the conference, after being invited by Stoltenberg.
The prince told the delegates that three years ago experts warned him how serious the deforestation problem had become.
He said: "However, the great positive difference between the summer of 2007 and today is that we now have a serious group of governments – with none showing greater leadership than Norway – who are prepared to work together to find a durable solution which will effectively tackle the drivers of tropical deforestation."