UN agrees with India to set up separate forestry fund

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS

Bali (Indonesia) : A leading UN body Tuesday endorsed India’s suggestion that developing countries should be paid to reduce deforestation, and this should be kept separate from other funds meant to address climate change.

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On the second day of the Dec 3-14 UN climate change conference that has brought over 10,000 delegates from 187 countries here, the subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice (SBSTA) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed that a funding mechanism to combat deforestation should be set up.

This fund is to be separate from the clean development mechanism (CDM) fund that already exists to provide technological help to developing countries to address climate change.

Deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global warming that leads to climate change.

Pointing out that the world’s forests hold more carbon than in the entire atmosphere, SBSTA chairperson Kishan Kumar Singh rued that 13 million hectares of forests (over 320 million acres) had been destroyed every year between 1990 and 2005.

Seventy million acres of rainforests would be burnt down during the 12 days of the Bali summit.

In a paper submitted to UNFCCC this year, India had proposed the concept of “compensated conservation” to pay countries that reduce deforestation, stabilise forest cover and even conserve and increase it.

Since trees hold carbon dioxide, conserving and increasing the forest cover is a direct way to combat climate change that is caused mainly by the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Although most of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is by industrialised countries, they have been harping on the deforestation issue in an attempt to deflect attention. India has responded by saying developing countries will fight deforestation, but need monetary help to do so.

UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer agreed with India’s position. It was decided at the Bali summit on Tuesday, he said, that the “carrot” rather than the “stick” approach would be used to combat deforestation.

India said in its paper: “Nations with continued deforestation and now committing to reduce deforestation rates, and those having already taken up strong conservation measures and thereby stabilising and increasing forest cover against a pre-determined baseline, present a fit case to be rewarded under REDD (reducing emission from deforestation and degradation), as these efforts reduce the emission of carbon into the atmosphere and capture atmospheric carbon in the process.”

Developed countries have agreed that developing countries have to be paid to reduce deforestation and to increase forest cover, but had earlier suggested that this money come out of the CDM. Despite this position of industrialised countries being rejected today, de Boer said they might raise it again in subsequent negotiations.

Proposing that REDD financing be kept out of the CDM fund, India had said: “Developed country parties must deploy additional financial resources for the purpose. UNFCCC may create different financial instruments or apportion funds under the same instrument for different range of actions to be implemented by the countries according to their national circumstances such as reducing deforestation fund, stabilisation fund and forest carbon conservation fund.”

The paper by India said the creation of an “enabling fund to support capacity building and conducting pilot activities related to REDD activities for developing and least developed countries can also be considered”.

Singh said it was decided at the SBSTA meeting Tuesday that combating deforestation would start with “capacity building and pilot projects, and we have to mobilize funds for this”.

The issue of deforestation has now moved from the SBSTA to the more powerful subsidiary body on implementation (SBI) of the UNFCCC, so that projects can be expected within the next year.