Private groups pledge $632m to save forests

Forests absorb a third of the annual planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced.
Forests absorb a third of the annual planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced.PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO • Leading philanthropists pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on the eve of a global climate change summit in San Francisco.

Nine foundations announced the US$459 million (S$632 million) commitment, to be delivered over the next four years, a day ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit yesterday, which is expected to draw about 4,500 delegates.

"While the world heats up, many of our governments have been slow - slow to act. And so we in philanthropy must step up," Mr Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, told journalists at an event announcing the pledge.

The commitment roughly doubles the funds the groups currently dedicate to forest protection, said Dr David Kaimowitz, a director at the Ford Foundation and one of the donors.

Dr Charlotte Streck, director of Amsterdam think-tank Climate Focus, said the size of the commitment makes the groups major players in supporting anti-deforestation programmes.

Norway has led donor efforts by pledging up to US$500 million a year to help tropical nations protect their forests, Dr Streck said. But the foundations' money could prove more "flexible and nimble" than money from governments, she said. "The money that has been pledged by the governments... sits mostly in trust funds with the World Bank and the UN and it doesn't get out so quickly," she said.

 
 
 

Funds will mostly help indigenous forest dwellers, including by helping them secure titles to land they live on so it cannot be sold without their agreement, said Mr Walker.

The world loses the equivalent of 50 soccer fields' worth of forest every minute, organisers said. Yet forests absorb a third of the annual planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced.

The three-day Global Climate Action Summit was organised by the Californian authorities and the United Nations to support the leadership of mayors, governors and other sub-national authorities in curbing climate change.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2018, with the headline 'Private groups pledge $632m to save forests'. Print Edition | Subscribe