Bonn, Germany � Conservation International (CI) praises German Chancellor Angela Merkel�s pledge today of �500 million (US$788 million) to protect global forests over the next four years, and a contribution of �500 million every year after that.
�The world is finally grasping the critical role of forests in the health of the planet and our very survival, and the alarming rate of their destruction,� said Peter Seligmann, CI�s chairman and CEO. �Chancellor Merkel has taken a significant leadership position today in recognizing the value of standing forests to conserve biodiversity and combat climate change, and the need to conserve them. We urgently hope other countries respond to Germany�s challenge to follow suit and make similar commitments,� he said.
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Forests harbor vital resources such as fresh water, food, diverse animal and plant species, substances for medicines, and soil protection � resources that local communities, often the most vulnerable and poorest of society, depend on for survival, and that benefit everyone, everywhere.
They also serve as critical carbon sinks withdrawing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in trees and soil; roughly half of the world's terrestrial carbon is stored in forests. When they are cleared or burned, this carbon is released. Conserving healthy forests provides resilience against climate change and is an immediate and relatively cost-effective way to lower carbon emissions.
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Tropical forests are particularly valuable, harboring over 70 percent of the world�s biodiversity. They also store 50 percent more carbon per unit area than non-tropical forests. The burning and clearing of tropical forests emits at least 20 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, more than world�s entire transportation sector, but attracts less than 1 percent of investments in the global carbon market created by the Kyoto Protocol.
�We need to ensure that forest carbon market investments are proportionate to the magnitude of the problem. Chancellor Merkel�s bold pledge today propels us in the right direction by placing attention and resources on conserving forests,� said Jorgen Thomsen, CI�s Senior Vice President Conservation Funding.
Merkel made her financial pledge to forest conservation during remarks today at the ninth conference of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany. The conference brings together 191 governments to discuss issues regarding the protection of the world�s flora and fauna and targets to slow the loss of biodiversity by 2010.
For over 20 years, CI has worked with governments, partners, businesses and local communities to conserve forests in biodiversity hotspots � areas that harbor the planet�s richest number and variety of species and are under the most threat � to benefit human wellbeing. It has been instrumental in securing protected areas around the world and establishing the Alliance for Zero Extinction criteria to identify priority biodiversity sites as a successful tool to meet 2010 conservation targets, and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance standards to leverage carbon market investments in quality, vetted, results-driven projects.
LEARN MORE: Read about CI's forest projects
Last week CI announced a deforestation prevention campaign with movie legend Harrison Ford and Guyana�s President Jagdeo. The central message of the campaign, which includes videos featuring Ford, is that destroying tropical forests hurts everyone, everywhere and the world must work together to protect the irreplaceable forests that are still standing and the critical resources and services they provide. President Jagdeo is working with CI and other partners to create incentives to conserve Guyana�s considerable standing rainforest. He has offered to place his nation's vast forests under protection for payment from developed countries for the significant ecosystem services they provide for all people.
VIDEO: Watch Harrison Ford in the Conservation International PSA