George Soros bolsters global forest aid effort
OSLO, (Reuters) – Billionaire investor George Soros said yesterday he would guarantee $50 million to help slow deforestation and contain climate change, bolstering Norwegian plans for a partnership of rich and poor states to save forests.
Soros announced the move a day before about 50 nations meet in Oslo to seal a deal on protecting forests from the Amazon to Indonesia by helping to unlock cash promised at the Copenhagen summit for combating climate change.
“I’m ready to do it if it helps to accelerate the implementation of the process,” Soros told Reuters in an interview after meeting Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
“It could be in the form of a guarantee for performance.
“If you can stop the eradication of the forest before it happens, it’s much easier than to reclaim the degraded land. That is why I think quick action is so important,” Soros said.
Plants soak up carbon dioxide as they grow, helping to curb a surge in carbon levels since the Industrial Revolution.
Norway says that developed nations have promised some $500 million to fight deforestation by 2012 on top of $3.5 billion agreed to last December in Copenhagen, and new pledges at the conference may bring the total aid closer to $5 billion.
“Reducing deforestation is the biggest, fastest, cheapest way to cut carbon emissions,” Stoltenberg told reporters. Norway, rich in oil, formally announced $1 billion in aid to Indonesia to help protect forests in the southeast Asian state, which has been clearing forests at a fast rate for palm oil plantations. Oslo is spending money it had previously pledged as part of its drive to combat climate change.
The partnership between donors and forested developing nations will be one of the first signs of action to combat climate change after the U.N. Copenhagen summit failed to deliver a legally binding deal on man-made emissions.
Rich nations did agree to provide $30 billion from 2010-12 to help poor countries combat global warming, rising to at least $100 billion a year from 2020. The United States, Australia, France, Japan, Britain and Norway agreed on $3.5 billion from 2010-12 to save forests.
But getting the climate aid flowing has become tougher as many governments of rich countries face sharp cuts in public finances to save their economies from mounting debt problems.
“Four billion dollars is a very good start but clearly bigger amounts will be needed in the years ahead,” Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim told Reuters. “You cannot expect poor nations to bear the cost of reducing deforestation without the support of big polluters like Europe, the United States, Japan and others.”
Deforestation — mainly by countries making way for farms, roads or towns — accounts for about 15-20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
Business groups say that the proposed partnership should do more to involve the private sector and encourage markets to trade carbon dioxide stored in forests, while environmentalists want stronger strings attached to any cash.