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New UN scheme seeks to combat climate change from deforestation

New UN scheme seeks to combat climate change from deforestation

Government trainees and forest workers make a tree inventory, Philippines
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced a pioneering initiative aimed at combating climate change through creating incentives to reverse the trend of deforestation, at an unveiling with Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg.

The UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Programme is designed to tip the fiscal balance in favour of sustainable management of forests, simultaneously bringing economic benefits to participating countries and contributing to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Reducing deforestation in developing countries is a key element of addressing the global climate change challenge,” Mr. Ban said at the ceremony in New York.

“Sustainable forest and land use management are efficient adaptation, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation strategies, he noted, adding that the initiative is “a concrete illustration of the UN system’s commitment to provide coordinated support to Member States in responding to their climate change challenges.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that the cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20 per cent of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

“Fighting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is a priority for Norway now and also in the years to come. If we are successful with stage one, Norway will certainly continue support for the UN-REDD Programme,” said Mr. Stoltenberg, whose government is financing the initiative’s start up with $35 million.

Initially nine countries – Bolivia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Tanzania, Viet Nam and Zambia – will receive assistance through the Programme to reduce the role deforestation plays in amassing greenhouse gases.

The REDD initiative will support these countries as part of an international move to include REDD in new and more comprehensive climate change multilateral agreements to start post-2012, when the current Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction targets will end.

If REDD is included in a post-2012 UN climate change agreement it may lead to developed countries being able to pay developing nations for the emissions they have saved. Developing countries could receive significant payments which in turn could be used on much needed development projects.

A country such as Indonesia could potentially receive up to $1 billion a year if its deforestation rate was reduced to one million hectares annually, according to some estimates.

The UN agencies coordinating the REDD project are the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Development Programme">(UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Mr. Ban has pledged to do all he can to facilitate a global deal by the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, which seeks to create a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol.

Today in New York, the Secretary-General met with President Kaczynski of Poland, Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark and Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Hassan Wirajuda – the current and future presidencies of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Ban noted that the next round of talks slated to take place in Poznan, Poland, in December is “a crucial bridge to Copenhagen.”

He added that there was a consensus that real progress must be made in Poznan in several key areas, including developed countries sending a clear signal that they are ready to discharge their responsibilities with regards to emissions reductions and financing to support developing countries’ own actions on climate change.