One of the key agreements from the Cancun climate summit is a deal to pay poor countries to stop chopping down their rainforests.
The agreement, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), was completed at the weekend.
It is still unclear where the funds will come from, but some countries like Norway and Australia are already putting money into Indonesia to stop the destruction of rainforests.
Greenpeace spokesman Steve Campbell says if deforestation was halted by 2020 it could save around two billion tonnes of CO2 and help limit warming to less than two degrees.
“Currently, deforestation globally accounts for about 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions, which is greater than the entire transport sector around the world,” he said.
“So if you add up all of the cars and buses and air planes and trains and ships, all of their emissions still don’t add up to the amount of CO2 that’s being produced from deforestation.
“So it’s an enormous problem and it’s one that really has to be fixed through the international climate negotiations.”
European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard says stopping illegal logging and the legal clearing of forests for cattle farms and palm oil plantations was seen at the Cancun climate talks as a quick fix to tackle global warming.
“As always at these talks it took a while. It took many hours, many efforts. But we succeeded in the end getting a substantial deal done,” she said.
“We took some further steps also here that we decided in Cancun on adaptation, on forestry and technology and finance and a number of issues.”
The deal on REDD establishes a framework for rich countries to pay poor countries to stop logging.
One of the main sticking points was the possible inclusion of carbon markets to pay for forest protection but this has been left out.
“The key elements of the REDD package is, well first of all they’ve agreed one which is very good. The mechanism itself could be a major step forward for forests,” Mr Campbell said.
“But the devil is really going to be in the detail.
“So the agreement has that the actions must be in accordance with safeguards for Indigenous people and biodiversity. It includes that the forests won’t be included in the carbon markets, which is a good thing.”
The deal also offers Indigenous groups some limited protection that they will have access to the forests for cultural or traditional purposes.
Ben Powless from the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change welcomes the deal but says the language on safeguarding Indigenous peoples’ rights is weak.
“That still maintains the possibility to privatise a large part of our natural resources, our lands and territories. And really the ones who would suffer from that would be Indigenous communities as well as biodiversity,” he said.
“And so you know what we’re pushing for here is that the carbon market system be rejected as an implementation of this system and that Indigenous peoples’ rights be strongly protected as well as a strong system of monitoring and compliance with safeguards that would protect those rights.”
This year has seen $4.5 billion pledged towards forest conservation projects in poor countries. Norway alone gave $1 billion to Indonesia to stop deforestation.
But Mr Campbell says there is a danger that pockets of forests will be protected while the logging companies move elsewhere.
The other concern for environment groups is that rich nations will use the forest deal to offset their own emissions.
“There’s no clarity on that because there’s a great deal of ambiguity still in the content of the agreement. And this is some of the things that will be thrashed out over the next year,” Mr Campbell said.
“Australia, for instance, has the intention to offset as much of its industrial emissions it possibly can on forests in developing countries.
“And Greenpeace thinks Australia needs to limit that, the amount of offsets it can take.
“Other industrialised countries would be seeking to do the same thing. And this still hasn’t been fully agreed yet about how much offsetting any nation state can do.”
The details of the REDD agreement will be worked on during 2011 and finalised at next year’s climate conference.