US and Other Annex I Countries Must Follow Norway’s Lead in Funding Tropical Forest Conservation

Frustrated by UN inaction on reducing emissions from deforestation, some countries refuse to stand by and watch our tropical forests disappear. Leading the way is Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg who announced his commitment to tropical forests, creating a $560 million fund dedicated to forest conservation.

Norway, a small country with no tropical forests, realizes that reducing emissions from deforestation is critical to any efforts to halt climate change and protect tropical forests. Its own efforts to curb emissions must extend beyond its borders and address the source of approximately 20% of global emissions. Norway has a GDP of $46,000 per person; its sizable commitment to tropical forest conservation amounts to $12 per person.

In contrast, the US Senate is sitting on a bill expected to face a vote in the next few days that would slash funds for tropical forest conservation from $100 million to $20 million – a sum that would be further split with efforts to preserve coral reefs. The bill is co-sponsored by a host of presidential candidates, including Richard Lugar R-IN, Joseph Biden D-DE, Samuel Brownback R-KS, Christopher Dodd D-CT and Chuck Hagel R-NE. This action does not match Monday’s announcement from US Senator John Kerry speaking in Bali on behalf of the US Senate. The Senator stated that the US Senate has “conviction” and will take strides to ensure that the US will become a global leader in combating climate change.

Silence in the Senate surrounding the Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2007 does not exemplify the type of leadership and conviction to which the Senator ascribes. The US has a GDP of $43,000 per person. Under the bill, the US would commit a mere 3 cents per person to tropical forest conservation. As the world’s leading CO2 emitter, this price is hardly comparable to the country’s contribution to climate change.

Large emitting countries must make meaningful commitments to reducing emissions now. It is time for the US and other Annex I countries to take action and follow Norway’s leadership. Strong, national, financial commitments to reducing tropical deforestation are a critical step toward combating climate change.