Friday, December 12, 2008

People paid to live among trees

By Nigel Morris and Andrew Grice in Brussels

The £100m drive to save the world's forests aims to pay people in developing countries to live among the trees rather than cut them down.

Forest communities will be urged to use the trees to produce rubber or medicine – or to switch to farming or fishing. Amid alarm over the pace of deforestation, new palm oil plantations will be established on ground where trees have already been cleared.

Governments in developing countries will be given help to step up their patrols against illegal logging and offered subsidies towards forest conservation projects. They will also be encouraged to create "buffer zones" around endangered woodlands which loggers are forbidden to cross.

The £100m initiative will be announced by the Government today at the United Nations conference on climate change in Poznan. The cash will be paid in the form of grants or loans to those developing-world governments which submit the most innovative schemes for protecting forests.

Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, told The Independent that the move was a "practical demonstration of our commitment to take practical action to tackle climate change".

He added: "If we are going to have an effective response to dangerous climate change, then it's vital that tackling deforestation is part of the answer."

He warned that global warming was affecting parts of the world least equipped to deal with it. "In the UK we tend to talk about climate change as a future threat," he said. "But what I have learnt is that in the developing world it's a contemporary crisis. The countries that have contributed least to global emissions are most commonly the countries affected worst."

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: "They are doing an environmental service to the world by reducing deforestation and therefore it is right we find a means of financing it," he said.

As EU leaders gathered for a two-day summit in Brussels yesterday, Italy and Poland threatened to veto a deal to combat climate change. Under an outline deal reached last year, the EU pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, rising to 30 per cent if a global replacement for the Kyoto accord is signed next year. But the EU has failed to agree how to share the burden of the cuts, with Germany, Italy and eastern European nations worried about the impact on their industrial sectors.

The EU's deadline for a deal is the end of this month and diplomats said that a decision would go "up to the wire" when the summit resumes today.

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