Prince Charles urges rainforest funding

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Prince Charles called on Thursday for a global fund to preserve tropical rainforests from destruction.

Prince Charles delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels, February 14, 2008. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

“In the simplest of terms, we have to find a way to make the forests worth more alive than dead,” Prince Charles told the European Parliament in an address.

“The doomsday clock of climate change is ticking ever faster towards midnight”, he said.

He called for a public-private partnership of banks, insurance companies and pension funds alongside international financial institutions to provide financial incentives to combat deforestation taking place on a massive scale.

Prince Charles said the burning of rainforests, which he called “the planet’s air-conditioning system”, was responsible for a big proportion of greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming as well as the loss of water and plant life.

Every year, 20 million hectares of forest, equivalent to the area of England, Wales and Scotland, was destroyed, he said.

He said he was encouraged some business chiefs and public opinion were now willing to consider more radical action and lifestyle changes than governments dared to propose.

In a resolutely pro-European speech, he praised last month’s European Commission proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy and biofuels, and said governments were still not moving fast enough to meet the challenge.

The fight against climate change was “clearly comparable to war. The question is whether we have the courage to wage it”, he declared.

Prince Charles, accompanied by business leaders and members of his other charities, met Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU’s environment, energy, trade and agriculture commissioners to discuss climate change on Wednesday.

He suggested in his speech that proceeds from the planned auctioning of emissions permits under the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme could be used to provide long-term incentives for sustainable forestry in developing countries.

The Commission proposed last month that carbon dioxide emissions allowances should be auctioned from 2013 instead of being handed out for free to power generators and industries, with all such permits to be auctioned by 2020.

However, the revenue would accrue to EU member states and Brussels has only an advisory say in how it is spent.

Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth praised the prince’s proposal that countries should be paid to protect forests and his call for immediate political action.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Tony Juniper urged the British government to “raise its game” by strengthening its proposed climate change legislation to achieve deeper cuts in carbon dioxide gas emissions.

Editing by Matthew Jones