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Prince Charles announces funding scheme to protect rainforests

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Issue date: 
November 20, 2009
Publisher Name: 
Karen McVeigh
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A global emergency funding scheme to drastically reduce the destruction of tropical rainforests over the next five years was announced by the Prince of Wales today, with the US pledging $275m (£165m) towards rainforest protection.

The plan relies on developed countries paying rainforest nations such as Brazil and Indonesia to reduce rates of deforestation and thereby cut carbon emissions.

Currently, the lucrative trade in logging, cattle grazing and palm oil, means tropical forests are worth substantially more dead than alive to developing countries. The plan, agreed by 35 governments of the Informal Working Group (IWG) and published at a meeting at St James's Palace, aims to make trees worth more alive. The group hopes to achieve a 25% reduction in annual deforestation rates by 2015. The felling of forests causes almost a fifth of global carbon emissions.

However, environment groups last night said the "devil was in the detail" and expressed concern over whether the scheme could achieve its aims. There were calls for the UK government to pledge money to the scheme.Tony Juniper, special adviser to the Prince's Rainforests Project (PRP) and former director of Friends of the Earth, described the agreement as a breakthrough and said: "This is the first time there has been a consensus among governments on a mechanism to deal with the underlying causes of deforestation, which are mainly economic."

Funding for the plan, which was set up by world leaders after a meeting convened by Prince Charles in London in April, would cost between £13.5bn and £22bn over the next five years. The money will initially be sought from governments.

Addressing delegates, including Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, and Guyana's president, Bharrat Jagdeo, Prince Charles said: "I have been enormously encouraged to hear the findings from the IWG report. It does seem that we have arrived at a consensus on how emergency funding might be deployed in the near future."

Miliband said a deal at next month's crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen on funding for reducing deforestation – a key theme – was "now closer than it's ever been".

Issues of land rights, indigenous people, risk of corruption and verification have dogged the deforestation talks.

An example of how the scheme could work was given as the historic agreement between Norway and Guyana last week, in which Oslo pledged $250m to the forest nation by 2015 to continue to prevent deforestation.

Simon Counsell, executive director of the Rainforest Foundation, said:  "We have to be very careful that any emergency funding will result in a real reductions in deforestation or forest damage. The example of Guyana could show that it is possible to be paid and not reduce, or to even increase emissions from forests. The Norwegian-funded scheme assumes a fictitiously high baseline deforestation rate, so Guyana would not actually have to reduce deforestation at all in order to be paid."

In the memorandum of understanding between the two nations, the base annual rate of deforestation set by Norway for Guyana is 0.45 per cent. However Guyana's actualy rate of deforestation is currently below
that, at between 0.1 and 0.3 per cent, which means that the South American country could be paid if it increased deforestation up to 0.45 per cent.
At the ceremony, US Ambassador Louis Susman read out a letter from chair of the US Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Senator Patrick Leahy, to the prince in which he pledged to contribute $275m to a forest protection fund in 2010.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "The US Government has today promised a substantial amount of money for forest protection, and now there is real pressure on the British Government to do the same."

But UK officials said the Government had already put money on the table, with £50 million going to efforts to save the Congo Basin Rainforest in Africa, and £115 million contributed to World Bank schemes to cut

• This article was amended on Friday 20 November 2009. In the story above the final four paragraphs were added after initial publication.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut