New effort to save the rain forests

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Top Norwegian officials signed a deal on Wednesday to help fund preservation of rain forests in Indonesia. The deal comes on the eve of a high-level conference on deforestation in Oslo, hosted by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Environmental Minister Erik Solheim.

The Norwegian delegation (left) met the Indonesian delegation in Oslo on Wednesday, to sign an agreement to halt deforestation and cut emissions. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor (SMK)

Stoltenberg welcomed Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono to Oslo, and his delegation immediately sat down with Norwegian government officials to sign their bilateral deforestation agreement. It calls for Norway to contribute NOK 7 billion (about USD 1.13 billion) to compensate for looming bans against the cutting and burning of Indonesia’s forests.

Both Stoltenberg and Solheim claim that preservation of the rain forests is the most cost-effective way to cut emissions that damage the climate. Current cutting and burning contributes to at least 17 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, Stoltenberg said. “We will attain quite large and inexpensive emissions cuts by hindering deforestation,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Indonesia has the highest level of emissions linked to deforestation and conversion of marshes to arable land. The agreement is modeled on a similar deforestation pact in Brazil that’s beginning to show results. It will obligate Indonesia to halt issuance of licenses that result in deforestation.

In addition to its agreement in Brazil, Norway also is helping finance hindrances to deforestation in Tanzania and Guyana. On Thursday, Solheim and Stoltenberg will work to also complete an international agreement on rain forest preservation at their conference at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel.

It’s being attended by government leaders from as many as 50 countries, and is attracting among others Prince Charles of Great Britain and financier George Soros.

“We have, as a goal, to agree on text that will secure international cooperation on rain forest preservation, and concrete methods to achieve it,” Stoltenberg told news bureau NTB. The text is meant to be ready for approval at the next UN climate conference in Mexico in December.

Not everyone is cheering. Groups representing native populations in rain forest areas have felt left out of the decision-making process, and were holding their own conference in Oslo this week as well. They’re worried about the alternatives to deforestation, and bans against activity that has sustained some native populations for generations.

Nils Hermann Ravnum of the Rain Forest Fund told newspaper Dagsavisen that “the worst thing that can happen” is that the native groups are pushed out of the forests that have provided their homes and livelihood.

Others caution that good control mechanisms must be in place, to assure that all the money provided for deforestation isn’t squandered, and instead used to provide economic alternatives to the deforestation.

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Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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