Norway, UK, U.S. allocate $280 million to stop deforestation

An aerial view of a plot of deforested Amazon rainforest turned into farmland near the city of Uruara, Para state April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

By Stian Reklev WARSAW (Reuters) - The governments of Norway, Britain and the United States on Wednesday said they will allocate $280 million of their multi-billion dollar climate change finances to a new initiative aimed at halting deforestation. The announcement was made at U.N. talks in Warsaw, where more than 9,000 delegates are meeting to hammer out the foundations of a new global treaty to combat climate change. The money, part of the nations' previously announced climate finances, will be administered by the World Bank's BioCarbon Fund and aims to fund sustainable farming and better land use. Agriculture drives around 80 percent of the planet's deforestation, causing nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions as forest roughly the size of Costa Rica is chopped down worldwide each year. "This isn't just an environmental issue. It's an economic issue. It's an energy issue," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a video message at the launch. Norway will contribute up to $135 million to the initiative, Britain $120 million and the United States $25 million. The fund also hopes to attract further private and public funding. The U.N. summit is struggling to make progress on an effort to protect forests and cut carbon emissions, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Nations had aimed to set up a mechanism for funding forest projects to help unlock greater investments from governments and the private sector, but with only three days to go negotiators remain bogged down in a quarrel over institutional arrangements. "Parties are focusing all their energy arguing about the politics of who governs REDD+ finance, when the real issue is a lack of demand," said Matt Leggett, head of policy at forest think-tank Global Canopy Programme. He said the program must create demand for nearly 1.5 billion tones of carbon dioxide equivalent to cut deforestation by half, but current projects are only set to cut emissions by 160 million tones. (Editing By Ben Garside and David Evans)