Stoltenberg secures funds for forests

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Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was being called “the king of the forest” on Thursday, after he succeeded in getting countries around the world to agree on new “quick-start” measures to halt deforestation and cut emissions that damage the climate.

The Holmenkollen Park Hotel, ironically built initially of timber itself, was the venue for Stoltenberg's "Oslo Climate and Forest Conference" on Thursday. Security was tight, with heads of state and royalty present. PHOTO: Sven Goll

Stoltenberg’s new “title” is a pun on the Norwegian term of endearment (skogenskonge) for local moose who roam through Norway’s own forests. On Thursday, on the fringe of the forest surrounding Oslo, Stoltenberg extracted financial commitments valued at around NOK 25 billion (USD 4 billion), to preserve forests and compensate those now supported by them, between now and 2012.

He and environmental minister Erik Solheim have been hosting an international conference at Holmenkollen Park Hotel that has attracted several heads of state, government ministers, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and England’s Prince Charles, who heads his own rain forest protection effort. 

Stoltenberg (left) with Prince Charles of England and Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit, on a terrace overlooking Oslo's own forest, called "Nordmarka." The photo was taken at Lysebu, where a dinner was held Wednesday night before the conference began. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor (SMK)

Participants at the conference agreed on a new partnership that also includes some fresh funding, including EUR 35 million from Germany, reports NRK. A new organization will determine how the money will be used, and the pact is expected to win support at the next UN climate conference in Mexico in December.

It follows up on an earlier conference hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, where many of the participants agreed to set up the partnership in Oslo.

Stoltenberg has argued that halting deforestation, especially the cutting and burning of rain forests in developing countries, is the cheapest and most effective way to reduce global emissions in the absence of other measures. He has failed, for example, to cut industrial emissions at home in Norway and a much-hyped carbon recapture facility at Statoil’s Mongstad plant has been delayed by alleged technological challenges.

Stoltenberg (center) at dinner with Prince Charles (left) and the president of Indonesia. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor (SMK)

“We already know how not to cut down trees,” Stoltenberg said. “There we don’t need to wait for new technology, we just have to stop doing it.”

He praised countries like Germany, the US and England for coming up with support for forest preservation. He conceded that “many were disappointed” after last December’s climate conference in Copenhagen, “we didn’t come as far as we wanted to … so that’s why it’s so important that things happen here, that will bring (emission) reductions.”

Now he hopes that residents of rain forest areas, many of them indigenous peoples, will see the advantages of letting trees stand. “We’ve come a long way with a system in Brazil, where we’re paying NOK 30 per ton of CO2 that’s saved by not chopping down a tree,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It’s more profitable to let them stand.”

Norway signed a bilateral pact against deforestation with Indonesia on Wednesday and Thursday’s agreement was far more global. After the morning sessions, top foreign government officials were invited for lunch at the Royal Palace with King Harald. 

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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