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Environment

Climate talks close to working out forestry deal

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Delegates at climate talks in Bali are close to agreeing guidelines for a pay-and-preserve scheme for forests under a future deal to fight global warming, Indonesia’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

Papuan protesters dressed in traditional clothes attend a demonstration in front of the U.S. consulate in Denpasar, Bali island, December 10, 2007. REUTERS/Yusuf Ahmed Tawil

Under the scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD), preservation of forests could become a tradable commodity with the potential to earn poor nations billions of dollars from trading carbon credits.

Scientists say deforestation in the tropics is responsible for about 20 percent of all man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and preserving what’s left of them is crucial because they soak up enormous amounts of the gas.

CO2 is blamed for the bulk of global warming that the U.N. Climate Panel says will trigger rising seas, rapid melting of glaciers and more droughts, floods and intense storms.

“In the meeting this morning, it was very clear that there was enthusiasm from developed countries on the importance of forests in the context of climate change,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told reporters.

“Developed countries and countries with large forest areas agreed to formulate a world map as part of the cooperation, involving not just governments, but also institutions like universities and research bodies.”

Curbing deforestation has been a top issue for the thousands of delegates at Bali because the Kyoto Protocol, the existing U.N. climate pact, does not include schemes that reward developing nations for preserving tropical rainforests.

LAND USE

At its simplest, the REDD scheme would allow carbon credits to be issued to qualifying developing nations. Rich nations buy these credits to offset their emissions at home.

The unresolved issue centers on the question whether to put future talks on deforestation in a wider context, which includes other types of land use, a proposal backed by the United States and opposed by most developing nations, an Indonesian forestry official said.

The official told Reuters the proposal could take away the focus from forests, complicate the scheme and further stall its implementation.

So far, the Bali meeting has agreed to encourage individual countries to run a series of projects to help them prepare for REDD while agreeing to study the issue further.

The World Bank has already launched plans for a $300 million fund to fend off global warming by preserving forests, which includes a $100 million “readiness” fund to give grants to around 20 countries to prepare them for large-scale forest protection schemes.

Grants will fund projects including surveys of current forest assets, monitoring systems and tightening governance.

A second $200 million “carbon finance mechanism” will allow some of these countries to run pilot programs earning credits for curbing deforestation.

Indonesia, a keen supporter of REDD, is among the world’s top three greenhouse gas emitters because of deforestation, peatland degradation and forest fires, according to a report earlier this year sponsored by the World Bank and Britain’s development arm.

Indonesia has a total forest area of more than 225 million acres, or about 10 percent of the world’s remaining tropical forests, according to rainforestweb.org, a portal on rainforests (www.rainforestweb.org).

Additional reporting by Adhityani Arga; Writing by Sugita Katyal; Editing by David Fogarty

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