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Britain, Norway commit $210 million towards Congo rainforest conservation

Britain, Norway commit $210 million towards Congo rainforest conservation

Britain, Norway commit $210 million towards Congo rainforest conservation
June 24, 2008

The governments of Britain and Norway last week announced a $211 million (£108 million) initiative to conserve rainforests in the Congo Basin. The plan calls for the use of an advanced satellite camera to monitor deforestation in the region and funding for community-based conservation projects.

Gordon Brown and Jens Stoltenberg announced the fund last Monday in London in cooperation with the Commission for the Forests of Central Africa and the African Development Bank. Britain will contribute £58 million while Norway will put up £50 million — a fraction of the $500 million per year it plans to commit towards slowing global deforestation

The funds will go towards sustainable poverty alleviation projects in rural communities in the Central African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

The ministers said the initiative will help fight global warming. Tropical deforestation accounts for around one fifth of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

Rainforest in Gabon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

“Together we are pledging to work together to secure the future of one of the world’s last remaining ancient forests. Preserving our forests is vital if we are going to reduce global emissions and tackle climate change,” said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “I look forward to working with leaders and groups, in the Congo region and from around the world, to preserve these forests and sustain people’s livelihoods.”

“Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. The global community will have to find ways to reduce total emissions dramatically over a short time span. Reducing deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries is a main priority for Norway’s climate policy, alongside investing in new technologies such as carbon capture and storage,” added Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg “We believe that The Congo Basin Forest Fund is a good example of a mechanism by which developed countries can help shoulder the financial burden of developing countries making significant emissions reductions.”

The announcement comes as momentum grows for the idea of using tropical forests to slow greenhouse gas emissions. While REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation was explicitly excluded from the Kyoto Protocol, policymakers meeting at climate talks in Bali, Indonesia last December signaled that forestry would play a role in future emissions mitigation schemes.

The emergence of REDD comes at a critical time for the Congo Basin, a region emerging from more than a decade of war and seeing renewed interest in its natural resources — including minerals, oil and gas, and timber — and agricultural potential. The basin contains roughly a quarter of the world’s remaining rainforest cover and is home to more than 50 million people, 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds and 400 species of mammals.

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