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World Bank forest rescue program kickstarted by German funds

A World Bank forest rescue program has been given a multi-million “kickstart” by Germany. Norway has done a deal with Gabon that it sustains its tropical forests to absorb carbon dioxide and help avert climate warming. German Development Minister Gerd Müller signed a €200 million ($210 million) pledge from Germany in New York to launch ProGreen, a World Bank program to stem deforestation amid climate change. Sources: Reuters, DW

Signing for the World Bank, its president David Malpass said ProGreen built on existing initiatives and focused on improving forest policies nation-by-nation by bringing together “rarely coordinated” sectors.

The World Bank said Earth’s remaining forests were under “increasing pressure” while providing habitat for 78% of the world’s poor, with one-third of total land areas already degraded “at an estimated annual cost of US$300 billion.”

Müller said 11% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) could be traced to deforestation.

“We must stop this immediately,” said Müller, adding “the green lungs of our planet are burning.”

Every four seconds a football-sized area of the Amazon had been logged and turned mostly into soy and palm-oil plantations, he said.

Aside from the €200 million, Germany also pledged a further €30 million for the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and €20 million to support indigenous peoples.

France, too, just ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York, pledged US$100 million for tropical forest protection, including the Amazon.

Norway on Sunday signed a contract under the CAFI to pay the central African nation of Gabon €10 for every ton of carbon absorbed and therefore not emitted — up to a maximum of 150 million over 10 years. The agreement will reward past performance — verified results since 2016 compared with the previous phase of 2005 to 2014 — as well as future results to be paid annually until 2025.

Gabon’s forest minister Lee White said: “they [Norway] will pay us because we have not deforested, and because we’ve managed logging responsibly, and reduced emissions linked to logging.”

Bolivian firefighters, meanwhile, said they were exhausted and demoralized from battling blazes still scorching drought-stricken lowlands outlying Concepcion. Wildfires span 4.1 million hectares (16,000 square miles).

“If we keep destroying the Amazon forest, we will soon reach the tipping point where the forest loses its capacity to recycle humidity and precipitation, said Lykke Andersen, a Bolivian sustainability expert.

Indonesia, which has also spent months battling fires, said Monday it was studying a plan to mete out harsh penalties to firms that ignited forest and peatlands.

Rasio Ridho Sani, law enforcement director at Indonesia’s environment ministry, said new rules would allow seizure of profits from individuals and firms, often palm oil and timber companies, behind infernos. An estimated 320,000 hectares (790,000 acres) of forest was gutted from January to August this year, making it Indonesia’s worst such damage since 2015.