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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Deal struck on forests in climate talks

POZNAN, Poland (AP) — Negotiators broke an impasse Wednesday on including forest conservation in a new climate change agreement, guaranteeing a voice for native peoples who live in forests and rewarding India and China for replanting depleted lands.

Environmentalists said the compromise text, agreed in a committee at the U.N. climate talks, was an important step that cleared the way to discuss politically sensitive questions on how countries will be compensated for protecting their woodlands.

Though activists said they were disappointed that four countries, including the United States, deleted any specific reference to the "rights" of indigenous people, the agreement recognizes, "the full and effective participation" of local communities.

Activists hope the reference will give indigenous people a say in the way forests are managed.

The draft text also made no mention of biodiversity, which could allow countries to uproot natural forests to plant palm oil or fruit plantations, said Nils Hermann Ranum, of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

"More than 50 percent of the planet's species are found in tropical rain forests," he said, and may not fall under the protection of the climate agreement.

A deal on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, known as REDD, has been tied up in a technical committee since the conference opened Dec. 1, frustrating environmentalists who said some countries were backtracking on understandings reached four months ago at the last climate change conference in Ghana.

"It is a good text to go forward, though we didn't get everything we wanted," said Gustavo Silva-Chavez, a deforestation specialist for the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.

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The painting is by Benjamin Williams Leader

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