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Deal on forests at Bonn climate talks

A partial agreement has been reached at the Bonn climate talks on a project protecting forests, seen as crucial in absorbing global greenhouse gases. Negotiators are honing a draft treaty due in Paris in December.

Delegates at Bonn's preparatory UN talks surprised observers by agreeing on thorny aspects of the scheme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, known by its acronym REDD+.

One non-governmental group at the talks, the Washington-based Forest Trends, said negotiators in Bonn decided to agree instead of letting the issue drag on into the larger Paris talks.

Forest Trends spokesman Gustavo Silva-Chavez said by putting value on intact ecosystems REDD+ would generate "significant amounts of finance" for developing countries to keep their forests rather than chopping them down.

Key absorbers of greenhouse gases

Forests are key absorbers of climate-warming gases, especially carbon dioxide emitted when fossil fuels are consumed in power stations and cars. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as part of the process of photosynthesis.

REDD+ had reached a "breakthrough," Silva-Chivas said, adding that it had "surprised everyone by being the one issue in the UN negotiations that continues to show what can happen when countries listen to each other."

Yet the work was not finished, he said, because in Paris agreement was needed to make it operational, for example, through incentives to encourage the private sector to fund REDD+ programs in forested countries.

Sources could also include the World Bank-led forest carbon fund and the fledgling Green Climate Fund.

Rosalind Reeve of the Ateneo School of Government based in the Philippine capital, Manila, said Brazil with its receding Amazon jungles had backed the swift resolution of REDD+.

Its negotiators and those of developed countries did not want the issue to drag on until Paris, she said. By finalizing it in Bonn, it would be easier for them to embed it into the overall draft agreement.

Civic groups to keep watch

Reeve said it would be up to civil society groups to make sure that governments involved in forest safeguards programs were fulfilling their obligations and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

The California-based Stand for Trees campaign says world rainforest amounting in area to the size of Alabama or Greece is lost every year.

It has invited individuals to chip in and purchase certificates that will fund forest conservation projects in tropical countries.

The climate conference at the UN offices in Bonn closes on Thursday.

ipj/xx (AP, Reuters)

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