UK Ministers call for action to stop destruction of forests
Commonwealth Environment Ministers in Monaco on 20 February called for establishing demonstration projects and partnerships that deliver innovative financing in order to urgently stop the destruction of forests in member countries.
This call was made during the annual meeting of the ministers under the auspices of the Commonwealth Consultative Group on the Environment.
The meeting was chaired by the Hon Benny Allan, the minister of Environment and Conservation, Papua New Guinea, supported by Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's Special Envoy and Ambassador on Environment and Climate Change to the United Nations.
Ministers said it was important to take action now and not to wait for the international community to conclude their negotiations on climate change before beginning trials on new approaches.
The ministers were told that while forests globally were being cut down, the situation was dire in the Commonwealth, with deforestation rates much higher than the global average, and accelerating. The issue of carbon forest finance was at the heart of discussions.
They noted that while deforestation accounts for about one fifth of global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, only afforestation and reforestation activities are included under the Kyoto Protocol – not those aimed at avoiding further deforestation, a situation they said penalise developing countries. Afforestation is planting trees in areas that have not previously held forests.
A number of African Ministers spoke strongly about the urgent need for financing mechanisms to be developed that can address key development issues related to deforestation. These included a need for alternative sources of energy, particularly replacements for charcoal and firewood, and to provide alternative livelihoods for local people who depend on the forests to meet their basic survival needs.
They said that while countries know a great deal about how to stop deforestation, they lack the resources to take action and provide alternatives.
"The international community needs to consider the kind of incentives that are needed to reduce logging and address concerns such as illegal logging, and policies to support the transfer and use of renewable energy technologies," one African representative said.
But all was not doom and groom. Some delegates noted that the adaptation role of forests is gaining increasing recognition. In Bangladesh for example, regeneration of the Sundarbands mangrove forests after the recent cyclone was said to be a priority, while a representative from India not to wait, but to move ahead quickly and operationalise approaches in the forest sector as soon as possible, to demonstrate what might be achieved.
Ministers also heard about an initiative by the Prince of Wales to mobilise funds from the private sector with a view to helping countries address to examine the drivers of deforestation and take action.
Andrew Mitchell, from the Prince's Trust said: "forests fall because they are worth more dead than alive in international markets". We have to find ways to ensure that the world community starts to pay for the essential ecosystem services that forests provide."
Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy, the director of Economic Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat welcomed the commitment of the ministers and said that the Commonwealth stands ready to work alongside and assist member countries to achieve their objectives.
"This issue is very important, because leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, Uganda in November last year issued the Lake Victoria Commonwealth Action Programme on Climate Change that specifically refers to the need to protect forests," Dr Coomaraswamy said.