Cancun, Mexico (AFP) Dec 11, 2010
A new climate change deal reached in Mexico has set up a global framework to pay to protect rainforests vital to the ecosystem, but held off on the controversial introduction of a market role.
The deal aims to help developing nations fight deforestation by offering incentives to some 1.2 billion inhabitants of worldwide forests, and governments, to preserve their trees.
While many factors still remained undefined, including how it will be funded, green groups widely lauded the accord, made as part of a modest package agreed on by more than 190 nations at an annual UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico.
"This decision converts what -- up until now -- have been piecemeal efforts to address deforestation into a global endeavor," Conservation International said in a statement Saturday.
Deforestation programs are already in place, with Norway in a billion-dollar plan with Indonesia. The Cancun agreement sets standards on protection of forests, including calling on developing countries to set national plans.
Deforestation is blamed for the loss of 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of woods in the world each year -- equivalent to the size of England -- and around 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere when they degrade.
Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia are set to particularly benefit from the new deal, known by its acronym REDD, since they have the world's largest tropical forests.
Many green groups have expressed concern that forest communities are protected.
The framework "is the best opportunity to conserve tropical forests in the world and improve the quality of life of people who live in them," said Virgilio Viana, director of the Foundation Sustainable Amazonas.
Brazil's state of Amazonas faces widespread logging as farmers and illegal mines take over vast swathes of forest land.
Three years ago it set up the Juma reserve, an area of 500 million hectares surrounded by rivers and communities that collectively survive on products from the forest, in a model that is increasingly being tried out across the world.
The project receives state aid to preserve the woods, in return for a pledge from local inhabitants not to cut down trees in certain areas, to produce food in an ecological way and send their children to school.
Mexico, which hosted the latest UN conference, is promoting similar models.
One sticking point at the two-week conference was the possible inclusion of carbon markets to fund the new framework.
Some nations, headed by Bolivia, want the funds for REDD to come from governments alone, while others such see money from corporations buying carbon offsets as the main potential funding for the scheme.
Some green groups lauded the final agreement for leaving carbon markets out.
"Forests can't be introduced on the market. If they gain value ... indigenous peoples are losing," said Andrea Carmen, director of the Council of the International Indigenous Treaty.
But others said all forms of financing for REDD, as well as for other enormously costly projects to try to slow and adapt to global warming, are inevitable in a tough economic climate.
"We would have liked to see the markets included as one of the options, but I think that this is an acceptable way," said Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy for The Nature Conservancy.
"I think it will become clear as parties move forward that we need all forms of financing for REDD," he said.
The Cancun talks also set up a new fund to manage billions of dollars of overall aid to poor nations as part of the package that urged deep cuts in industrial emissions.
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