PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS PARTNERS TO LAUNCH FOREST DEGRADATION REDUCTION SCHEME

24 September 2008

PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS PARTNERS TO LAUNCH FOREST DEGRADATION REDUCTION SCHEME

24 September 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS PARTNERS

TO LAUNCH FOREST DEGRADATION REDUCTION SCHEME

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new collaborative programme today to help reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

“Climate change cannot be won without the world’s forests.  This, however, will be a complex and challenging feat,” said the Secretary-General at a Headquarters press conference.  “Nonetheless, it is one of the best large-scale investments we can make against climate change that could result in an equally large-scale dividend.”

The UN-REDD Programme –- which stands for United Nations Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation –- would offer developing countries extensive support on deforestation and forest degradation issues.  That support would include capacity-building, designing national strategies, testing financing approaches, and institutional arrangements to monitor and verify reductions in deforestation.

Joining the Secretary-General at the press conference was the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg; the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner; the Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Olav Kjørven; the Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Annika Söder; and Eric Solheim, Minister for the Environment of Norway.

The UN-REDD Programme would be implemented jointly by those three United Nations agencies –- UNDP, UNEP and FAO -- and would begin its initial phase of action with $35 million in funding, donated by the Norwegian Government.  It would start with support to nine countries:   Bolivia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and Zambia.

“It has the potential to make a substantial and immediate contribution to a low-cost global emission reduction portfolio,” said the Secretary-General, who explained that one of the biggest “co-benefits” of the Programme was its potentially positive effect on the ongoing negotiations of a post-2012 climate regime.

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we are facing today and deforestation is a very important part of that challenge,” said Prime Minister Stoltenberg, explaining that deforestation accounted for around 20 per cent of total global emissions of carbon dioxide.  Unlike some other methods used to reduce emissions and mitigate global warming, reducing emissions from deforestation was relatively low-cost and low-tech and, as such, the UN REDD Programme was significant in that it could result in “the biggest, cheapest and fastest reductions” possible.

Responding to questions from correspondents on the value of the UN REDD Programme and other programmes that included financial compensation mechanisms to prevent deforestation, Mr. Stoltenberg explained that establishing such financing mechanisms was essential to achieving success in international climate change negotiations, specifically those expected to be held in Copenhagen in 2009. 

“The developing world will never accept any kind of agreement which includes them, if the rich world doesn’t participate in financing,” he said.  “Because the rich world –- we -- has polluted for 200 years, and now suddenly we are telling the developing world that ‘You have to hold back because we have filled the garbage can with all the CO2.’  It’s not possible to convey that message.”

Mr. Steiner added that the UN-REDD Programme’s ability to create useful financial and economic mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation was one of its most valuable aspects.  “What REDD does is it makes maintaining forests more worthwhile,” he said, adding that such incentives might even encourage States to expand forested areas in their regions.

Regarding the current lack of global standards on forests, deforestation or reforestation, Ms. Söder said, “It would be very useful if we could have standards or agreements on how to work with our forests in a sustainable manner,” although she acknowledged the political difficulty in reaching such agreements.

Mr. Kjørven, however, emphasized just how important the UN-REDD Programme was in terms of building such agreement.  “We have been able to come together as a ‘One UN’, to come up with a formula which is potentially paradigm-changing in terms of how we cooperate internationally to solve global problems,” he said, stressing the “proactive and creative” roles that donor countries, particularly Norway, as well as recipient nations, had played in establishing the Programme.

In conclusion, Mr. Stoltenberg stressed the importance of finding an agreement on a post-2012 climate regime in Copenhagen, and called on all parties to “continue to work and do whatever we can” to ensure a successful outcome.

For additional information, please see Press Release ENV/DEV/1005.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.