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We're financing UN on conservation of forests'

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Issue date: 
Jun 23, 2010
Publisher Name: 
Times of India
Narayani Ganesh
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Norway pledged $1 billion to Indonesia from its public money to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Norway's environment minister ERIK SOLHEIM spoke to NARAYANI GANESH on the sidelines of the Oslo Climate and Forests Conference (OCFC) on May 27 where rich countries agreed to spend big to save forests in developing countries:

TOI: Norway has entered into bilateral agreements with rainforest nations like Indonesia and Congo to save forests. Why are you calling it a multilateral conference?

ES: It was a multilateral conference to establish a global framework for conservation of forests but in that framework there was indeed room and scope for bilateral agreements. We are financing both the UN institutions, the UN REDD as well as the World Bank and in addition to that we've had some bilateral agreements. How other countries are going to spend their part of the funding - the USD 4.5 billion as promised -- for developing countries I do not know but I personally think that there should be a mix of bilateral as well as multilateral agreements. Norway is engendering a partnership of the 50-plus countries whose representatives have come together here to work together including nations that have no rainforests themselves or intend to contribute financially but want to give political support.

TOI: Could you go through some of the financial implications of the REDD-Plus partnership? Norway for instance has pledged to give Indonesia $1million - spread over how many years?

ES: That has not been decided as yet but there will a three-phase approach: In the initial phase Indonesia will put in place systems for proper conservation of its rainforests. A unit under the President and other institutions will coordinate this. Second phase there will be a pilot project at the province scale (Indonesian provinces are large so that's not a small effort) and finally formalizing the best system for entire Indonesia and then they get paid afterwards. We will contribute in financing all the three phases; in the initial phase the contribution will be smaller and other phases the funding will be bigger

TOI: What would be the accountability after each phase?

ES: We would expect transparency during all the phases so that everyone, not just Indonesia and Norway, can look at how it was done - that's also the basis of the agreement with Brazil and Brazil is producing results, it's completely transparent and can be monitored by anyone.

TOI: At Copenhagen five developed countries pledged $3.5 billion and now you hope to increase this amount to $4.5 to 5 billion. Who else would contribute to the forest fund?

Besides the five countries mentioned, others would be Germany, UK and a number of smaller countries. Finland, European Commission have come forward. Norway had already promised one billion USD to this fund that went to Indonesia but we have also promised one billion to the fund for three year period up to 2012 globally not just Indonesia.

TOI: But the funding so far has been committed only for those developing countries with rainforests; it does not include the Plus part of REDD plus. What about India and China?

That would come later. The starting point is to help conserve rainforests that are already in existence. It will be expanded to cover reforestation and India and China are in the forefront of doing that. We need to establish systems for that also. China and India are doing a lot for forests with their own resources. I spoke yesterday to the Chinese minister of forestry and he explained in detail the new schemes China is doing in that regard. Based on China's resources without any foreign assistance. At some point they may need assistance from outside.

TOI: India says REDD and Plus should happen on a parallel track, to simultaneously protect both rainforests as well as other kinds of forests like those in countries like India and China. Would Norway take the initiative to push for that kind of an agenda within the UN framework when you meet in Cancun or wherever next, so that it can be included in the new agreement that would replace the Kyoto Protocol?

ES: We have no disagreement whatsoever with that. Afforestation should be included in this. But countries like India should come forward with their plans of how this should be done.

TOI: There is the proposal to make available $100 billion every year to developing countries to face climate change challenges. Where will the money come from?

ES: That promise to create a fund of $100 billlion is from 2020. It has not been decided from where the money would come. UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon has put together a panel of people who will look into how that can be achieved. Prime Minister - is part of that panel. Gordon Brown of UK is also on the panel but now that he has lost the elections it is not clear yet who would take his place. I think there will have to be a mixture of three sources of funding; special development aid (that is what we are trying to do for rainforests). Secondly innovative finance mechanisms should be put in place - for instance an international levy on aviation, international levy on bunker fuel and third is to source funds from the private sector, encourage private investment and some public money. We could add all these sources to achieve $100 billion.

TOI: What Norway pledged to Indonesia, did that involve the private sector?

ES: No, the $one billion was all from public money. How that money is going to be spent in Indonesia is up to Indonesia itself. Whether Indonesia wishes to involve the private sector in the programme is something Indonesia will decide. Rainforest area financing is a big possibility for private financing. Other area is energy investment - solar, wind, etc. We have a solar project with the Indian government; in Rampur, UP, we try to make this a much bigger programme. Private companies are also looking at hydroelectric power, in Nepal as well. But that will also depend on transmission lines to India.

TOI: You were in Nepal recently?

ES: Yes, in Kathmandu, But that was to give support to the peace process in Nepal, a personal initiative, but Norway has no role as negotiator. We hope to invest in hydro electric power in Nepal but a large part of that will involve the Indian government as we will need transmission lines to India. Some of the proposed projects, a percentage of the power will be consumed in Nepal and the rest will go to India.

TOI: Is there any such proposal for China as well, where there is huge scope for hydro electric power?

ES: Through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Norway has some projects in power plants in China. But I am not aware of any direct investment in China. Both in India and China our projects could earn us carbon credits through CDM.

TOI: Would Norway earn carbon credits from its investment in REDD Plus?

ES: Maybe ten years into the future we don't know but right now nothing. However the CDM as promoted under the Kyoto Protocol is useful; even if the KP is going to end soon and a new agreement might take its place, we should not throw the baby out with the bath water despite all the criticism. Both REDD Plus and CDM should be part of the new agreement. CDM though project based is not all bad, something is better than nothing.

TOI: You are a big oil exporter. Is that a reason why you are engaging in forest preservation, to assuage guilt?

ES: There is no linkage between them - we don't need offsets from forest preservation; we've promised to reduce domestic emissions to 30-40 per cent. We are using income generated from oil business but otherwise there is no connection. Norway does not have nuclear energy and has no plans in that respect. We do not advise other countries on this.

TOI: What are your views on convergence of climate change issues and biodiversity preservation?

ES: I share India's perspective on convergence one hundred percent - forestry and climate change are closely related. At Norway we made a new Nature Diversity Act a year ago to protect nature in cities or near where people are living. Most of the species in Norway are close to the big cities where people live or build housing, soccer stadiums and offices. The idea is to protect species and to discourage alien species. It gives the ability to pinpoint specific species in specific areas and we can give protection specifically

George Soros is a member of the panel on climate financing. He is spending a lot of money for some of these purposes and in Indonesia for environment protection. He has promised to give Indonesia some funds. So also Prince Charles was here as one of the founding fathers of this initiative. He has promoted it and we are using his goodwill to promote the cause. He has worked together with Norway for common cause.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut