Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:00

Prince Charles praises Guyana-Norway project

Britain’s Prince Charles has hailed the historic Guyana-Norway agreement as a good approach in the battle against catastrophic climate change as the world leaders meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, faces an uphill task trying to strike a meaningful global treaty.The Prince, who has been among international figures backing this country’s climate change model, addressed the high-level opening of the summit Tuesday night, noting that the forests of the world are being “cleared at a terrifying rate.”

“The simple truth is that without a solution to tropical deforestation, there is no solution to climate change. That is why I established a Rainforests Project to try to promote a consensus on how tropical deforestation might be significantly reduced,” he said.

He recalled that in early April he hosted a meeting of heads of state and government at which it was agreed to establish an informal working group to look at this issue.

“As it turns out, it seems the quickest and most cost-effective way to buy time in the battle against catastrophic climate change is to find a way to make the trees worth more alive than dead.

“The project has been exploring the drivers of deforestation and how innovative financing mechanisms could provide rainforest nations with financial rewards for positive performance”, he said.

“One example of such a performance-based approach is the recent agreement between Guyana and Norway”, he said.

Guyana and Norway last month signed a memorandum of understanding under which Norway will provide US$250M in support to this country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) centred largely on preserving its forests to help the global climate change cause.

Prince Charles, through his Rainforests Project, has backed Guyana’s climate change thrust and has praised President Bharrat Jagdeo’s initiatives, saying his leadership on this issue is perhaps “one of the most optimistic developments”.

“There is no doubt that Guyana represents a unique opportunity to develop a model which could be rolled out across the rainforest nations”, Prince Charles said last year.

“Clearly, if we want to continue to benefit from the services provided by the rainforests, we will have to start paying for them. But we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to demonstrate what can be done and to respond to the President’s remarkable offer”, he said.

Prince Charles Tuesday night said his rainforests project is also working with the World Bank on an emergency package to stimulate private sector finance for rainforest nations.

He noted that in the last 50 years “we have degraded 30% of global topsoil and destroyed 30% of the world's rainforests.”

Prince Charles stated that the inescapable conclusion is that a partial solution to climate change is no solution at all.

“It must be inclusive and it must be a comprehensive approach - one that strengthens the resilience of our ecosystems. Crucially, it must be embraced by the public, private and NGO sectors, as well as by local communities and indigenous people, while also encouraging individual responsibility.”

He recalled that one example that has been high on his agenda for the last two years is that of tropical rainforests.

“These ecosystems have been described as the planet's lifebelt, and with good reason. Not only do they harbour about half of our terrestrial biodiversity and generate much of the rainfall that is vital for farming, they also absorb and hold vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise be in the atmosphere”, he said.

“It is critical to find ways to prevent forests being converted to agriculture.

“I have been heartened by my conversations with some of the world's largest agri-businesses, which have told me that, through more effective use of vast areas of degraded land, we could feed and fuel a growing population and keep the forests”, he said.

But, he stressed, it must be genuinely sustainable agriculture that helps to empower local communities and small farmers.

“We thereby create a truly virtuous, not a vicious, circle and one, because of its understanding of the relationship between agriculture and forestry, that can only improve the lives of many of the poorest people on the planet while simultaneously benefitting nature.

“It also builds what seems to me to be the absolutely critical chain which links ecosystem resilience, adaptive capacity, poverty reduction and sustained economic development.

“This is the chain that we have broken...And it is the chain that we must now re-make”, Prince Charles said.

The need fully to engage the private sector reflects not only the growing determination of business to act in a sustainable way but, crucially, its determination to listen to customers, he said.

“And what customers are saying ever more loudly is that they want their investment choices to make a positive difference to climate change”, he added.

Prince Charles said, “I know that so very many of you here today have been negotiating the unbelievably complex details of a potential agreement for a very, very long time, and you must be profoundly weary.

“But this is a historic moment. I can only appeal to you to listen to the cries of those who are already suffering from the impact of climate change.

“Just as mankind had the power to push the world to the brink so, too, do we have the power to bring it back into balance.

“You have been called to positions of responsibility at this critical time. The eyes of the world are upon you and it is no understatement to say that, with your signatures, you can write our future...

“One final thought...As our planet's life-support system begins to fail and our very survival as a species is brought into question, remember that our children and grandchildren will ask not what our generation said, but what it did. Let us give an answer, then, of which we can be proud.” (GINA)

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