COPENHAGEN — A proposal aimed at saving the world's tropical forests suffered a setback Sunday, when negotiators at the U.N. climate talks ditched plans for faster action on the problem be cause of concerns that rich countries aren't willing to finance it.
Most of the headlines at climate talks have revolved around greenhouse gases that come from coal, oil and other fossil fuels. But the destruction of forests — burning or cutting trees to clear land for plantations or cattle ranches — is thought to account for about 20 percent of global emissions. That's as much carbon dioxide as all the world's cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships combined.
So a deal on deforestation is considered a key component of a larger pact on climate change being negotiated in Copenhagen.
On Sunday, language calling for reducing deforestation 50 percent by 2020 was struck from the text being considered. And the document only mentions financing without saying how much would go to the more than 40 developing nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Policymakers see forest conservation as a cheap and easy way to start tackling global warming. It could end up reducing by 50 percent the cost of halving carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, according to the Eliasch Review, a report sponsored by the British government.
"I'm optimistic that we will get an agreement that is good for the forest, good for the climate and good for the people," he told an audience at a daylong event dedicated to forest issues.