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No plan B for climate change unless we save the forests - Prince of Wales

Published 01/12/2015

Charles will be joined at an event on forests at the talks by politicians and business leaders (AP)
Charles will be joined at an event on forests at the talks by politicians and business leaders (AP)

Many of the world's companies pay no attention to how their supply chains are damaging forests, the Prince of Wales has warned as he urged action to stop deforestation.

Speaking at the UN climate talks in Paris, Charles also called for large-scale restoration of forests, warning the world would need much more forest "as all the horrors" of global warming started to bite.

On the issue of saving the forests, he told a packed audience, which included the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, that "there can be no room for failure".

Protecting forests from being cut down is a key part of tackling climate change, he said.

"It is very simple: we must save our forests, for there is no Plan B to tackle climate change or many of the other critical challenges that face humanity without them," he urged.

While some companies had taken steps to transform their supply chains so they did not damage forests, he urged a redoubling of efforts to ensure a shift in global markets.

"Encouraging though the progress made to date has been, it remains the case that many of the world's largest companies - and their financial backers - pay scant, by which I really mean no, attention to the deforestation footprint of their supply chains."

This was especially true in markets with limited pressure from consumers to do the right thing, he said.

All companies should be committed to stopping destruction of forests, with zero net deforestation becoming the norm rather than the exception, he urged.

The prince was speaking at an event at the UN climate talks, where 195 countries are attempting to hammer out a deal to help prevent global temperatures rising more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Preventing the destruction and degradation of forests is a key part of tackling climate change, as the UN estimates the loss of around 12 million hectares a year is responsible for around 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Charles also called for action to to bring about large scale forest landscape restoration, pointing to the need for such a move in the face of the loss of 500 million hectares (1.2 billion acres) of tropical rainforest since 1950.

It should be an equal priority to halting deforestation, not an afterthought, he said.

And he warned: "As all the horrors of even a two degree warmer world bite - and bite they will - we are going to need a lot more forest, not a slight reduction in the existing rate of attrition."

As well playing a key role in carbon storage and climate change, the world's forests are directly relied on by around one billion people for their livelihoods, while the everyone relies on services they provide such as regulating rainfall and supplying commodities.

Charles called for support for indigenous communities and those who live in or alongside forests.

"All our efforts should in the first instance be guided by the people whose lives are so much more intimately intertwined with the forests than our own; and that the approaches we take should both recognise and protect their rights, and draw on their wisdom, their perspectives and, of course, their hopes for the future," he urged.

At the start of the two-week conference, leaders from 20 countries including the UK and major forest nations such as Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, put out a joint statement recognising the "essential" role forests play in protecting the planet and avoiding dangerous climate change.

"We are committed to intensifying efforts to protect forests, to significantly restore degraded forest, peat and agricultural lands, and to promote low-carbon rural development," they said.

A number of new initiatives have been announced, including a partnership by Colombia with Germany, Norway and the UK to back the Latin American country's efforts towards green growth and to reduce deforestation in the Amazon.

The UK has also announced an aim with Germany and Norway to provide 5 billion US dollars (£3.3 billion) by 2020 to countries if they pursue ambitious schemes to cut deforestation and degradation, improve sustainable management, conservation and carbon stocks in forests.

The move forms part of a climate programme, known as REDD+, to provide financial incentives for developing countries to protect their forests by putting a value to their carbon stores and other natural benefits.

In his speech, the Prince of Wales said he was "heartened" to see the focus at the climate talks on supporting forest conservation, but said international frameworks could give even more consideration to the role of forests and land use in both cutting climate change emissions and coping with its effects.

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