Norway: rainforest protection efforts must work through corruption challenge


Corruption in poor countries shouldn't deter developed countries from supporting initial efforts to save the world's tropical forests, Norway's environment minister told Reuters.

Corruption in poor countries shouldn’t deter developed countries from supporting initial efforts to save the world’s tropical forests, Norway’s environment minister told Reuters.

Erik Solheim said rich countries must be willing to take risks in supporting initiatives to slow deforestation and urged them to follow through on their promise to spend billions to protect forests.

“If we wait until Congo is like Switzerland — there is also corruption in Switzerland but much less — there will hardly be a tree left,” Solheim was quoted as saying by Reuters. “If we are not able to accept risks we should close down this program today.”

During 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, Norway, the United States, Australia, Britain, France, and Japan pledged some $3.5 billion from 2010-12 toward building capacity and institutions needed for poor countries to develop programs to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). But much of the money has yet to materialize. Norway remains by far the biggest contributor toward efforts to protect tropical forests, committing $1 billion to Brazil, $250 million to Guyana, nearly $100 million to Congo Basin countries, $1 billion to Indonesia, and nearly $100 million to Tanzania. Some of the funds are based on success is reducing or avoiding deforestation. Norway’s funds comes from its $585 billion sovereign wealth fund generated from offshore oil and gas revenue.

“Norway does not want to do this alone. If it ends up that we are the only — or by far the biggest — financial contributor, it will be a failure,” Solheim added. “Many other donors must be partners.”

Corruption and REDD

Critics worry that the large sums of cash generated by REDD could be stolen or misused by central governments instead of being used in forest conservation projects that generate benefits for local people. Indonesia’s management of its Reforestation Fund, which lost more than $5.2 billion during a five-year period and continues to misallocate funds, as an example.

Solheim agreed corruption remains a serious concern.

“If wide-scale corruption is detected in some of these projects it will bring down the entire system,” he stated.

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