U.S. pledges $1B towards rainforest conservation

December 17, 2009

The U.S. will contribute $1 billion towards an effort to reduce emissions from deforestation, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Speaking at the Avoided Deforestation Partners event in Copenhagen, Vilsack said the U.S. would contribute $1 billion over three years to a $3.5 billion package pledged by Australia, France, Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom to jump-start a program — known as REDD+ — to slow and eventually reverse deforestation in the tropics.

"Protecting the world's forests is not a luxury - it is a necessity," said Vilsack. "This substantial commitment is reflective of our recognition that international public finance must play a role in developing countries' efforts to slow, halt and reverse deforestation."

The funds will be used to build capacities in countries developing REDD+ plans.

Vilsack added that the Obama Administration strongly supports REDD+ and sees it as a means for bridging a negotiating gap between industrialized and developing countries.

Several NGOs welcomed the announcement.

"Secretary Vilsack's announcement shows the United States is seriously engaging in the fight to protect the climate by saving forests," said Jeff Horowitz, founding partner of Avoided Deforestation Partners.

"The commitment of the United States announced by Secretary Vilsack today to spend $1 billion over 3 years for building capacity from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is exactly what is needed to begin to address the global challenge of deforestation," Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. "We encourage other nations to join with commensurate commitments to support taking the actions that are urgently needed to begin solving this global problem."

"The President's commitment to jumpstart REDD+ is a powerful and timely signal of the US' commitment to protecting tropical forests and reducing climate change," added said Kevin Knobloch, President of the Union for Concerned Scientists. "It should help drive progress toward a successful deal here in Copenhagen."

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