Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Indigenous Rights and Private Funding Key to Slowing Deforestation, Says Norway Minister

Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment Vidar Helgesen signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri) Click to Enlarge.
Efforts to save the world's forests hinge on securing private sector funds and ensuring indigenous communities in tropical forests are more involved in protecting their environment, Norway's environment minister said.

Speaking ahead of a high-level conference on forest conservation hosted by Norway, Vidar Helgesen said stronger political leadership is needed to amplify the voices and role of indigenous people in forest conservation.

Norway is the biggest donor to the United Nations program aimed at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in developing nations.

When forests are degraded or destroyed, the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, with deforestation accounting for 10 to 15 percent of carbon emissions worldwide.

"A key priority of REDD+ is self-governance and strengthening the involvement of indigenous communities in the forests," Helgesen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

But campaigners say all too often indigenous groups are sidelined from decisions affecting the forests on which they rely for their livelihoods, and are not properly consulted about dam, mining and agriculture projects on or near their lands.

"In some countries it is still at the level of lip service," Helgesen said.

Ensuring indigenous communities have formal land tenure or ownership is an effective way of slowing down deforestation, environmental campaigners say.

Results Based
Norway, rich from offshore oil, is financing projects to help protect forests from Ethiopia to Peru, as well as two projects worth $1 billion each for Indonesia and Brazil and one worth $750 million for Guyana.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to speak at the two-day conference starting on Tuesday, and Helgesen said Norway and the United States would announce a bilateral agreement on forest conservation

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