Video Message to COP-19 on the Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes From the U.S.

By:  John Kerry
Date: Nov. 20, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Good afternoon everyone. I really wish I could be there with you in person for the 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw. I've been to many of these conferences and I know how much can be achieved and I'm jealous of all of you being in Warsaw. I was there the other day. What a remarkable city. One of the highlights of my trip was a walk downtown and the brilliance of Warsaw's rebirth as you make you way up to the walls of the Old City is absolutely unmistakable. And you can see it in the meticulous attention to detail and the adherence to history in the reconstruction. It's a brilliant story and it's a story that continues to inspire all of us today.

I want to thank the Polish COP Presidency and the Polish people for their very gracious hospitality. And I also want to thank Secretary Davey and our colleagues in the United Kingdom for organizing this event. We're enormously grateful to join with Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom in our efforts to coordinate support on initiatives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD+. I'll never forget my first hike through the majestic or around the majestic fjords, really, of Norway when I was a young man and ever since I've felt a deep, personal connection with our forests. We all know that we depend on our forests for the oxygen that we breathe and less well known is that more than a billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods. Forests sustain us, literally, in every way. And in many ways, they're responsible for our way of life.

America has a deep and abiding conservationist tradition but we - all of us - have a collective responsibility to protect our forests, all the forests of our planet. And our challenge is clear. Each year we lose some 13 million square hectares of forests globally. That's an area about the size of Costa Rica or Greece every year. Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation now account for nearly one-third of the global total and most of these emissions come from the loss of tropical forests and carbon-rich peat lands. In fact, more than 80% of emissions in some developing countries come from forests and other lands.

So this isn't just an environmental issue. It's an economic issue. It's an energy issue. It's an issue that touches on our deepest values and our basic sense of responsibility as stewards of this fragile planet that we are privileged to inhabit. That's why I am proud to announce today that the United States is a founding partner in the new Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes. Working with Congress and together with the United Kingdom and Norway, we plan to provide more than $250 million to launch the initiative and this will be one of the single largest investments that the U.S. Department of State has made in forests.

But there's more to be done. Our new contribution is part of the U.S. commitment to the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a key public-private partnership with the goal of reducing the tropical deforestation caused by the harvesting of critical global commodities such as soy, beef, palm oil, pulp, and paper. The new initiative will be part of the World Bank's BioCarbon Fund and it's one of the most exciting initiatives that we've seen in the land sector. It focuses on the major drivers of deforestation, creating incentives for developing countries that are ready to make a real change in how they use their land, especially in vulnerable areas where agriculture encroaches on forests.

We all know the future has an inexorable way of humbling those who try to predict it too precisely. But we all know that the threat of deforestation and its implications for changing climate are real, grave, and they are growing. The Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes is a critical new tool to help us meet our responsibilities to future generations. It will help countries move forward on REDD+ and continue to make progress on sustainable land use practices. The United States stands with willing partners in the fight against global climate change and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure a more secure future, not only for forested countries but for the entire planet that we share. Thank you so much for your partnership in these efforts.

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