Rhein on Energy and Climate

Since the UN Climate Summit meeting in New York the prospects for halving the rate of tropical deforestation by 2020 and stopping it altogether by 2030 look pretty bright,with 40 major international companies and the US, EU, Canada and Norway lending their support to a global forest initiative.

Forests constitute a major carbon reservoir and have a decisive influence on the earth’s environment ( for water, temperature and variety of species). It is therefore in humanity’s vital interest to maintain them.

They continue to cover some 30% of the earth’s surface.

Deforestation has slowed down during the last few years. It has come to a standstill in temperate countries, but not yet in tropical countries despite some impressive results in Brazil, which, owning the biggest tropical forests, has slashed its rate of deforestation by 75% since 2004, thanks also to substantial funding from Norway.

As a consequence, the share of deforestation in global CO2 emissions has fallen to only 11%.

It is possible to stop it altogether in the next 15 years, provided the small number of tropical countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa with extensive forests engage in modern forest management, and wealthy countries and individuals back them financially in these efforts.

Donors should focus their assistance on one or two countries, as Norway has successfully done. This puts the responsibilities straight, builds confidence and allows an optimal monitoring.

Controlling deforestation is a cost-effective approach to climate change. It does not require huge investments as in the power sector. All it requires is to finance the personnel necessary to monitor illegal logging, organise the rehabilitation of damaged swathes of forests and stop large-scale clearing for agricultural use.

The timing is propitious. Across the world the awareness of forest preservation is growing. International business seems to waken up to its responsibility. In 2010, the net loss of global forest coverage was down to 1.3%. In the temperate zones the forest areas are rising again.

It is therefore possible to focus on 30 odd countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia still covered with tropical forests.

Several public and private initiatives have been launched. All that is required is to translate the upbeat New York Declaration of September 23th 2014 into concrete action.

To that end, the FAO should invite potential financiers, both public and private, and official from rain forest countries and hammer out a multi-annual agenda with mutual responsibilities, which should be ready by December 2015.

There is no time to be lost.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels 1/10/2014

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