Today, NRDC joined a diverse group of environmental, conservation, and development organizations; businesses; and leading academics in a "Call for Leadership" to address deforestation (available here and a list of partners here). Frances Beinecke, our President, helped launch this "Call" with a speech to leading US policymakers from Congress and elsewhere at an event hosted by the group Avoided Deforestation Partners (that I wrote about here). She was joined by a high-level group of leading policymakers, including Senator's Kerry and Lugar and Nobel-Prize winner Wangari Maathai.
The US and the world need to simultaneously cut all sources of global warming pollution - from both the energy sector and tropical deforestation. With deforestation accounting for about 20% of the world's global warming pollution, addressing deforestation is a critical component of the world's efforts to combat global warming. So that is why we came together to launch this "Call for Leadership"...to focus US attention on helping to get a solution to this challenge.
Time is not on our side. Without a significant change, much of the world's forests will be lost in the span of decades, not centuries. And we need to mobilize resources and political will immediately to ensure that a sound strategy for deforestation's global warming pollution is integrated into the new international agreement to be reached in Copenhagen -- in just around 10 months -- and in the key tropical forest countries.
The US must take a leadership role in helping combat these emissions, just as we must take an overall leadership role in combating global warming. The good news is that the US has a long record of bi-partisan support for efforts to address the loss of the world's native forests, including the adoption of an amendment to the US law which helps developing countries address illegal logging.
Leadership needs to come both by ensuring that significant financial resources and other support is effectively integrated into the US climate legislative and that the US plays a strong role in ensuring that the new international global warming agreement also includes these tools.
That is why this diverse group came together and is calling for US leadership now -- as the US climate legislation is expected to move and the outlines of the Copenhagen agreement are starting to take shape.
We need a wide-range of tools to support efforts by developing countries to reduce these emissions. There are no silver bullets. But it is clear to us that we need both market and non-market approaches to solve this challenge. And we'll need to be effective and smart in how we mobilize these dedicated resources if we are to address this important challenge.
Of course, we in the US can't do it alone. We'll need developing countries to help us in this endeavor. Without a strong commitment from these countries, coupled with strong support from the US, we won't succeed over time.
It will require that the US and tropical developing countries undertake a joint financial, political, and program commitment to actions on the ground to deliver tangible reductions in deforestation's global warming pollution. We'll need to create a framework that produces long-term preservation of these forests and that supports tropical developing countries to undertake more of the effort on their own over time.
There are recent positive signs coming from major tropical forest countries and regions that they are ready to be partners in this effort. For example, Brazil announced a goal to significantly cut deforestation rates over the next 10 years.
These signals alone are of course not enough. We need to do more. That is why this group is asking for US leadership at this crucial juncture.
We hope that you'll join us in this effort to address the loss of the world's tropical forests before it is too late.
Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog).