Bloomberg News

Forest Protection Work Slowed by Rift Between Brazil, Norway

December 05, 2012

Efforts to produce a global set of rules for protecting forests are being held up by a dispute between Brazil and Norway over who should be responsible for verifying the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees.

Brazil’s envoy to the UN global warming talks in Doha said actions to prevent deforestation are national measures that should be governed locally and not by international bodies. Norway is seeking stricter oversight for the program from an international organization.

The disagreement threatens to disrupt efforts to create rules on how to prevent deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD. The forest talks underway at the United Nations conference are scheduled to finish today. At stake is whether independent experts should measure and verify the emissions prevented by safeguarding forests in exchange for finance.

“No developing country will have international verification of its actions, especially if they are national policies,” Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil’s under-secretary for environment, said in Doha. “We’ll have a system to check the accuracy of our data, done domestically.”

Greenhouse-gas discharges caused by deforestation represent about 20 percent of the world’s total emissions, according to the disclosures by the UN’s REDD program. Nations have been discussing since 2008 how to incorporate REDD into global action on climate change. Under the program, developing nations protect and manage their forest cover in exchange for funding to support their efforts from developed states.

Donor countries including Norway are keen to have a greater degree of international verification to ensure the emission reductions generated are real and permanent.

Credible Figures

“We are willing to pay as long as we can be sure that we are paying for actual emission reductions,” said Henrik Harboe, Norway’s chief negotiator. “Donor countries need credible figures as a basis for asking their parliaments for money for this.”

Norway today signed a $30 million financing agreement to support a second phase of REDD activities in Vietnam, according to a statement from the UN-REDD program.

“We don’t think international verification is necessary at this stage,” Andre Correa do Lago, Brazil’s ambassador for the global environment, said at an interview today. “Maybe we will have a special line of finance for forests and maybe we can explore that later.”

The disagreement over verification is overshadowing work on identifying additional benefits from REDD activities and ensuring they are reflected in negotiating text, according to Stephen Leonard, the president of the Climate Justice Program who has followed the UN talks since 2009.

Norway “wants a higher degree of verification than Brazil is prepared to give,” Leonard said in an interview today. “This causes huge delay while we’re losing forests at an alarming rate.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alessandro Vitelli in Doha at avitelli1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net


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