Uniting Haves, Have-Nots On Deforestation Not Easy

03/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Grist reports that Senators John Kerry and Dick Lugar made it clear that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would be making the environment a big part of their policy, focusing their message yesterday specifically on deforestation.

African deforestation rates in particular are worrisome.

But Grist pointed out one hurdle that the world hasn't cleared before: the chasm between rich and poor countries:

Former U.S. climate negotiator Stuart Eizenstat also spoke at the event, emphasizing that programs to incentivize avoided deforestation will be critical in engaging developing nations in climate talks. Developing nations and their citizens depend more directly on forests for their livelihoods, and deforestation is often the result of a lack of other economic options.

"There was an impasse [during Kyoto Protocol negotiations] between developed and developing nations that must be avoided in Copenhagen," said Eizenstat. "This is a way to engage developing countries that want to come to the table, who want to make their contribution to avoiding climate change."

And it's even more complicated than that, of course. It's not just about winning the hearts and minds of developing countries and then convincing them, somehow, that it's to their advantage not to cut down trees despite the money -- it's also about beating corruption.

One small victory for forests came recently when the Democratic Republic of Congo canceled 60 percent of its logging contracts in order to fight corruption and deforestation. Just to restate that for emphasis: the government was concerned that 60 percent of its own logging contracts were in some way bogus.

It's an uphill battle for Kerry and Lugar. In the meantime, they might want to consider switching to treeless paper. I'm sure Kerry could get a few headlines by writing on recycling elephant dung notepads.

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