Halting deforestation now: a shared global responsibility

Hilary Benn, CREDIT: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Climate change has made it unmistakably clear that the consequences of deforestation are a truly global problem. That’s why halting deforestation to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions must be a shared global responsibility. Exactly how the responsibilities must be shared was the subject of an afternoon plenary session at Forest Day 3, taking place in conjunction with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Sir Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics, who authored the influential Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, examined the question from an economic perspective, emphasizing the relatively low cost of reducing deforestation in comparison with the huge benefits that would result from determined global action.

Responsibility for designing appropriate policies must reside with the “countries where the trees stand,” Stern said, because they have the best understanding of the conditions required for success. Yet, responsibility for paying the costs of deforestation must be shared globally, and this effort must be part of a larger development strategy that reduces rural poverty. Stern went on to discuss options for financing efforts to halt deforestation, calling on governments to come up with serious financial packages that include new sources of public funds, including debt instruments.

Hilary Benn, the UK’s Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, reinforced this message about shared responsibilities, citing important examples of commitment and leadership, such as Wangari Maathai’s establishment of the Green Belt Movement, which earned her the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize; UK prime minister Gordon Brown’s recent “game-changing” proposal on “fast-start financing;” and the bold efforts of Eduardo Braga, president of Brazil’s Amazonas State, to drastically reduce deforestation.

Benn urged governments and climate negotiators to turn the consensus on forests and climate change into a final climate agreement, which he said is the most important thing that can be done now to preserve our natural world. Citing Charles Darwin’s observation that surviving species are not necessarily the strongest or most intelligent but those able to adapt, Benn stressed that the time is now to secure the future of our children and grandchildren.

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