UK signs up to forestry protection deal

A group of developed and developing countries will today sign up to a high-profile "mission statement" outlining their commitment to reaching a deal that will help tackle deforestation as part of any post-Kyoto agreement.

The statement, which will be signed at the UN climate change conference in Poznan, will set out a number of principles that should govern any deal on deforestation, including commitments to work in co-operation with indigenous peoples and set up robust mechanisms for verifying emission reductions that result from forestry protection schemes.

The UK has said it will sign up to the statement, and while the full list of signatories is yet to be disclosed it is expected to include a large number of developed and developing nations.

Developing countries signing up to the statement will commit to developing national strategies for addressing deforestation, while developed countries will commit to help them build the necessary capacity to fund such schemes and offer "rewards" to those countries that make the most progress in cutting forestry emissions.

Speaking at the Poznan conference, UK energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said that with 18 per cent of global CO2 emissions resulting from deforestation, protecting and replenishing the planet's forests would be " essential" to tackling climate change.

He added that delegates now had to move to translate the co-operation embodied in the mission statement into a global agreement next year.

However, it remains unclear if the mission statement will translate to real progress on the conference floor, where divisions remain over how best to fund forestry protection initiatives.

Proposals to incorporate forestry projects into a global carbon market by allowing them to sell carbon markets continue to face opposition from some countries and green groups who claim emission reductions will be hard to verify. Groups representing indigenous forest communities have also expressed fears that any attempt to monetise standing forests could result in their being exploited and driven from their land.

In an attempt to underline its commitment to the mission statement, the UK also announced that it would contribute £100m to forestry protection in rainforest countries and inked a memorandum of understanding with Indonesia that will see the two countries co-operate on forestry protection and renewable energy projects.

Secretary of state for international development, Douglas Alexander, said that the new funding would not only help tackle deforestation but should also help drive economic development.

"The funding we have announced today will support activities in developing countries such as enabling farmers to make a living in ways that mean they don't have to cut down more forests," he said.

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