The UN Must Not Fold on Stopping Deforestation to Tackle Climate Change


Harrison Ford and President Jagdeo of Guyana speak at an extraordinary origami event in New York City to call on the UN to support conserving tropical forests as an approach for combating climate change

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New York, NY – One of the world’s most environmentally progressive Presidents and one of the world’s greatest movie stars called on the UN today to protect the world’s tropical forests as the quickest and most cost effective way to tackle climate change.

Harrison Ford joined Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo in front of a stunning installation of life-size origami trees and wildlife to call on world leaders attending the UN General Assembly to provide developing nations with funding to allow them keep the planet’s tropical forests standing.

The president’s address was the centerpiece of a major media event organized by Conservation International and Team Earth in Greeley Square, New York City the day before the opening of the UN General Assembly.

The life-size origami trees and wildlife, symbolizing Guyana’s massive and immensely important forest, was created on site over two days, and then partially destroyed – as a statement about loss of the planet’s forests – by world-renowned origami artist Dr. Robert J. Lang. More than 80 percent of Guyana (13m hectares (44.5m acres) – an area approximately the size of England) is still covered with intact tropical rainforest.

President Jagdeo said: “In the year since I last came to New York to call for forest conservation, the world has lost an area of forest the size of my entire country. This has not only released more CO2 into the atmosphere than every motorized vehicle on the planet – around 20 percent* of global emissions – but has also reduced the earth’s ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

“This has not happened out of malice or ignorance, but because most of the world’s forested nations have no alternative but to generate income by cutting their forests. Guyana has offered a solution with our plan for low carbon development, and the leaders who will meet at the UN this week have an unprecedented opportunity to put the planet on a new path, where protecting forests is more economically prudent than cutting them down.”

Immediate and adequate funding for countries developing forest protection strategies as part of their low carbon development plan is critical. Protecting forests represents one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to fight climate change now, whereas many other strategies may take years to develop. If we wait, these forests will be lost along with the multiple benefits they provide to humanity in terms of climate mitigation, fresh water, erosion control, food and resources.

The president’s address followed the launch of Team Earth, a cross-sector collaboration bringing together businesses, politicians, scientists, non-profit organizations, educators, individuals and children. The Team Earth event featured CEOs including Howard Schultz from Starbucks and Fisk Johnson from SC Johnson and Co making commitments to forest conservation.

Harrison Ford, who has been a board member of Conservation International for 15 years, said: “By having the foresight to recognize that serving the needs of the planet could also help the people of Guyana, President Jagdeo is helping to change the way that we think about economic development and climate change.”

“We are calling on leaders attending the UN General Assembly to follow Guyana’s lead and help to ensure that they support a finance package that keeps the world’s forest standing at the Copenhagen climate talks in December.”


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Conservation International (CI): Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information about CI, visit

 *CI regularly reassesses our assumptions and conclusions to ensure they are consistent with the most current and reliable data sources available so that we are delivering accurate and up-to-date information.  Accordingly, in December 2009, we updated our estimates related to global greenhouse gas emissions to reflect the best and most current science. We now estimate that 16% of greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation and logging.
See our deforestation, logging and GHG emissions factsheet (PDF - 2.7KB) for details and data sources.