Norway PM urges quick, cheap fix to save forests

OSLO Fri Oct 1, 2010 12:53pm EDT

An aerial view of a clearing at a forest in Indonesia's Sumatra island, August 5, 2010. REUTERS/Beawiharta

An aerial view of a clearing at a forest in Indonesia's Sumatra island, August 5, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Beawiharta

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway favors more international action to slow deforestation in developing nations as the quickest and cheapest way to fight global warming, Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg said on Friday.

He also told Reuters that Norway, the world's number five oil exporter, was on target to over-achieve its national goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions until 2012 under the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol.

Norway has promised more cash than any other nation to preserving forests in developing nations, with planned spending of $1 billion from 2010-12. Forests soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow, and release it when they burn or rot.

"To reduce deforestation is the way we can achieve the quickest, the biggest and the cheapest reductions," he said. "That's why Norway is pushing so much forward and is so active."

He said that developed nations had promised a total of about $4 billion to safeguard forests at a meeting in Norway in May. Other nations including the United States, European Union member states, Japan, Canada and Australia have pledged cash.

"When it comes to forests, something is happening, we see progress, we see reduced deforestation," he said. "We would like to see even more."

Norway's main projects are in Brazil, Indonesia and Guyana. The United Nations estimates that deforestation accounts for up to about a fifth of greenhouse gases from human sources, led by burning fossil fuels.

"In Brazil deforestation has been drastically reduced...It is partly because of political decisions, international support. It is very much the Brazilians themselves," he said.

Norway and France have led efforts to draft guidelines for releasing aid to save forests, although some questions remain about monitoring and graft.

EMISSIONS OVER-ACHIEVER

Stoltenberg, whose center-left cabinet won re-election last year, said Norway was in line to cut its domestic emissions by 9 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12, a tougher goal than the 1 percent rise that Oslo negotiated in 1997 in the Kyoto Protocol.

"I think Norway is the only country in the world which is over-fulfilling our Kyoto obligations," he said.

U.N. talks on a climate deal resume next week in China with few hopes of a breakthrough after a U.N. summit in Copenhagen last year failed to agree a binding new treaty to succeed Kyoto.

Norway's emissions, dominated by the offshore oil and gas sector, were 2.2 percent above 1990 levels in 2009 at the equivalent of 50.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Stoltenberg said the financial crisis, which meant a slight recession in the oil-dependent country in 2009, had contributed to a decline in Norway's greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are very close to (the original one percent target) now because emissions are quite stable in Norway, partly because of the financial crisis. In 2008 and 2009 we have seen a drop in emissions," he said.

He said that Norway was also investing in green energy in developing nations in a U.N. project known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that promotes everything from wind turbines in India to solar power in Morocco.

"We buy CDMs equivalent to around 10 percent of our total emissions," he said. "This is an over-fulfilment by 10 percentage points. This is also a financial transfer to the developing world."

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(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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