Developed economies have agreed to compensate developing countries to protecting their rain forests. The agreement, formally known as the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries, is one useful outcome of the Bali climate change conference. Officials described the deal as a nascent but innovative effort to mitigate deforestation and global warming.
The cutting down of forests across the globe contributes a startling 20 percent of the world's annual greenhouse pollution through burning, gases released from deforested soil and smoldering peat, scientists say. By comparison, the U.S. share of greenhouse emissions is 24 percent of the world total.
"It's a landmark in bringing a large group of developing countries into active participation in reducing emissions," said Philip Clapp, deputy managing director of the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of the Pew charitable trusts in the United States. "It has the potential for first time to generate the kind of investment in forest protection that has been unavailable until now."
The precise ways that countries with large rain forests, like Indonesia and Brazil, will be compensated have not been fully worked out.
UN officials said that part of the financing would come from developed countries in the form of aid and that other funds will come from carbon credits - part of the system of incentives for reducing greenhouse gases mandated by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Officials said that Indonesia rallied developing countries to support the deal which, until now, has been held up by disputes over how to assess the usefulness of rain forests in moderating global warming.
"This agreement is very important to us and to the world," said Nurmasripatin, a member of the Indonesian delegation at the conference, which is taking place on the resort island of Bali. "There is consensus that we must limit carbon emissions from deforestation. But developing countries are not able to do it on their own."
The World Bank estimates that Indonesia - the world's third-leading emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the United States, mainly because of the destruction of its forests - stands, along with other major forested countries, to earn billions of dollars if the plan is successful.
is part of the wider discussions here on reaching a global agreement on addressing climate change.
The talks, which began Dec. 3 and were nearing their conclusion Friday, are aimed at reaching an accord to start two years of negotiations to work out a new treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.
Environmentalists here said the deal on protecting forests was a good start but some had reservations about its implementation.
Frances Seymour, director for the Center for International Forestry Research, a U.S.-based nonprofit group, voiced concern that the system was vulnerable to corruption and could be undermined by a growing demand for biofuels.
Global demand for palm oil, a popular biofuel, has increased dramatically in recent years and has led to the widespread clearing of tropical forests to make way for palm plantations.
Seymour also said she worried that the benefits of the UN plan would not reach indigenous people who derive their homes and livelihoods from the forests and could even displace them as companies buy up the land in order to receive the compensation.
"We have to make sure those who are not as well connected have their interests recognized as well," Seymour said.
The World Bank, together with the Nature Conservancy, another U.S.-based environmental group, announced this week the establishment of several pilot projects to further the aims of the UN plan.
A $100 million Readiness Fund would provide developing countries with technical and financial assistance to measure carbon stored in its forests and devise strategies to reduce deforestation. It would also finance research on measuring reductions in emissions though sustaining forests.
A $200 million Carbon Fund will test the financial mechanisms in the UN plan, such as the trade of carbon credits, that could lead to less deforestation.