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Forests Finally Emerging as Climate Issue

The representatives of more than 100 countries attending December's U.N. climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, finally focused on the important role tropical forests play in global warming.

Developed countries have pledged almost $300 million to help forest-rich developing countries prepare for their new roles and responsibilities in the post Kyoto international climate-change agreement set to start after 2012.

Deforestation, especially in the tropics, has been a global problem for decades, with serious implications for the livelihoods of poor people living in the forests as well as global biodiversity.

Despite the fact that deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, tropical forests have thus far been excluded from international climate agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol.

In Bali, an agreement about Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD) was reached to include the reduction of tropical deforestation as part of the solution to climate change. Although the details are still being worked out, the new agreement will give significant roles and responsibilities to developing countries, especially those with large forest areas such as Indonesia and Brazil.

The recognition by developed countries of the need for immediate funding to developing countries to strengthen forest governance - and the fact that developing countries must also share responsibility to fight climate change - is an important development. It has led to the launch of the World Bank's new Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, which was partly shaped with input from WRI and will compensate developing countries for reducing CO2 emissions related to maintenance of their forests.

Indonesia, for example, has already carried out a forest governance assessment, with the assistance of WRI, the World Bank, and other organizations. Indonesia's initiative will serve as an example for the establishment of forest-carbon programs in other developing countries.

Movement like this must happen now, because only by immediately addressing current forest governance problems - such as the need for better law enforcement, distribution of benefits, and access to forest lands - will countries be prepared for a carbon-constrained future.

This article appeared originally at Mongabay.com

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