Press Conference on High-Level Deforestation Event

23 September 2009

Press Conference on High-Level Deforestation Event

23 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on High-Level Deforestation Event


There was broad consensus that the challenges of climate change could not be met without dealing with deforestation, Special Envoy of Papua New Guinea for Environment and Climate Change, Kevin Conrad, told correspondents at Headquarters after a high-level event on the topic concluded this afternoon.

“It was a message that came from the North and that came from the South,” Mr. Conrad said, describing the meeting on the programme known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests.  REDD would offer incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development, he explained.

Joining Mr. Conrad at the press conference were Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana; Michael Somare, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea; and Henri Jombo, Environmental Minister of the Republic of the Congo.  Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, introduced the panel.

The panel explained that the rationale behind the REDD proposal was that, in order to preserve forests, alternative livelihoods had to be created for the communities that relied on forests for income.  In order to do that and to achieve an annual reduction of 25 per cent in deforestation, an estimated $22 billion to $29 billion had to be mobilized for interim financing by 2015.

The question now, Mr. Conrad said, was whether the developed countries were serious enough about climate change to spend 1.5 cents per day per person for a relatively cheap way to achieve reductions in carbon emissions.

The three officials from forested countries stressed the importance of incorporating the REDD initiative into any agreement reached in Copenhagen.  Without reducing deforestation, said President Jagdeo, it was mathematically impossible to achieve meaningful reduction targets since deforestation caused 20 per cent of worldwide carbon emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.

The problem, Mr. Jagdeo continued, was that there currently was no financing on the table, and problems associated with the REDD mechanism received more attention than the solutions.  It was urgent to get over both problems, he maintained.  “We’re prepared to lock our forest away for a global good in exchange for resources to help our people prosper.  We could not expend political capital otherwise,” he said.  He agreed that resources must be spent in an accountable and transparent manner, which must be worked out as part of the agreement.

Prime Minister Somare stressed that most of the residents of his country relied on the forests for their food, and for income to pay for schools and other services.  Minister Jongo added that proper financing would allow sustainable management of forests and transition to low-carbon livelihoods.

Asked what those low-carbon alternatives were, the panel said that it was important to invest in transportation infrastructure, education, health care, hydropower and fibre-optic cables.  In addition, much deforestation was caused by unsustainable farming methods, such as “slash-and-burn”, and farmers could be transitioned to more efficient methods with the right investment.  The use of forest wood for energy could also be replaced in that way.

On how they would ensure that the communities that needed the funding actually received it, Prime Minister Somare said there were already regulations on logging companies that ensured local people benefited from the use of their resources.  Small corporations had been formed by villagers and the Forest Department made sure that the local landowners received money.  The proper distribution of funds would continue to be supervised by the Government.

Asked why Brazil was not participating in the press conference, Mr. Jagdeo said that that country was very committed to reducing deforestation, but it had a very complex land tenant system, and it had to be ensured that the mechanism that was created in Copenhagen would be responsive to the many landowning systems that existed in various countries.

On why there had been no declaration at the end of the climate change summit, the panel agreed it was because developed countries were not yet prepared to commit the resources required, which was the problem with the Copenhagen negotiations in general.

Mr. Conrad added that in many areas there was a large bloc of developing countries willing to commit to greenhouse gas reductions, but the developed countries could not yet commit to financing.  That situation must be corrected in any effective agreement, he maintained.  “Are we willing in Copenhagen to come to an environmental agreement that actually achieves what it says on paper?” he asked.

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