US, Norway say forests vital to global climate change goals

climate change

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Norway’s Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen signed a deal protecting forests in hopes of slowing climate change. OntarioNature.org photo.

Forests help slow climate change by soaking up CO2 from the air

OSLO, June 15 (Reuters) – Last year’s international deal on limiting climate change must involve more use of forests as natural stores of carbon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Norway’s government said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Kerry, visiting Oslo as part of a trip to Europe, and Norway’s Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen signed a deal promising closer cooperation on protecting forests including rallying more support from the private sector.

Almost 200 nations agreed in December to shift from fossil fuels in coming decades towards renewable energy to limit an increase in floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

“These goals cannot be achieved without forests,” the statement said.

“The science is clear: conserving, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s natural forests is critical to achieving a safe, secure, and sustainable world,” the two politicians wrote.

Norway, rich from oil and gas exports, has been the most generous nation in helping emerging nations to slow loss of forests in recent years including projects worth $1 billion each in Brazil and Indonesia.

Wednesday’s statement, signed at a conference in Oslo on protecting forests, stopped short of committing new funds.

It recognised the role of “farmers, foresters, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities in good forest governance and sustainable development”.

A group of indigenous leaders from Africa, Latin America and Asia at the conference also released a statement, in which they said they should get greater rights to ancestral lands as an important safeguard for forests from logging and farmers.

“Without us, the mission is doomed to failure,” according to the statement by tribal leaders including Edwin Vasquez, representing indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin.

Forests soak up carbon dioxide from the air and store it as they grow. Burning forests, often to clear land for farming, releases the heat-trapping gas and accounts for up to a fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Alister Doyle)

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