On the eve of this weekend’s meeting between US President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, World Wildlife Fund issued a call for the two leaders to include climate change – specifically the role of deforestation – in their agenda.
In a letter sent today to Obama and Lula, WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts and WWF-Brazil CEO Denise Hamu urged the two presidents to capitalize on the unique opportunity of the bilateral meeting to lay the groundwork for the inclusion of forest-related provisions in the global climate treaty that is expected to be finalized this December in Copenhagen.
“One of the most important areas in which our two countries can play a leadership role in the countdown to Copenhagen is the reduction of carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD),” they wrote, adding that REDD provisions “must be a critical component of an agreement in Copenhagen.”
Deforestation is the source of nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the combined emissions of every plane, train and automobile on the planet. Largely due to deforestation in the Amazon, Brazil is the world’s fifth largest emitter of heat-trapping gases. If forest loss is not addressed, the CEOs said, it will be nearly impossible to keep global average temperatures from increasing by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit), the level at which scientists believe the risk greatly increases that the world will experience catastrophic and possibly unstoppable climate impacts. Global temperatures have already risen by nearly .75 degree C (1 degree F) since the preindustrial period.
Successfully reducing emissions from deforestation will require the engagement and leadership of the US and Brazil, the CEOs said. The Obama administration is likely to assume a prominent role in international climate treaty negotiations while Brazil, home to over half of the Amazon Rainforest, will play in pivotal role in the design and implementation of REDD initiatives.
Roberts and Hamu praised Obama and Lula for providing leadership on climate change, noting Obama’s support for cap and trade legislation in the US, and Lula’s support for aggressive policies to combat forest loss – Brazil has committed to reducing deforestation by 70 percent by 2017.
The WWF CEOs urged Obama and Lula to focus their discussions on identifying and securing sources of financing for REDD activities and building on-the-ground capacity to monitor forest loss and deforestation-related emissions. They also urged the US to support the Amazon Fund and the Amazon Regional Protected Area Program – two key initiatives aimed at reducing deforestation in the Amazon.
“By working together to build a strong framework in which developed and developing countries can cooperate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from forest destruction, we can both ensure a robust global response to the challenge of climate change and protect the irreplaceable biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which all species – including people – ultimately depend,” Roberts and Hamu said.