Forests and carbon capture keys to climate: Norway's PM
By Alister Doyle Environment Correspondent
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Protecting forests and burying greenhouse gases are key ways of slowing world climate change, Norway's prime minister said on Friday a day after the Nordic nation set a stiff 2030 goal of becoming "carbon neutral."
Jens Stoltenberg, in South Africa on a stopover before a weekend trip to Antarctica, said about half the world's emissions of greenhouse gases came from deforestation and from burning fossil fuels in power plants and industries.
"Forestry and carbon capture are key to solving the climate problem," he said in a speech in Cape Town of Oslo's strategy for slowing climate change that the U.N. Climate Panel says will bring more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising seas.
Norway's parliament agreed on Thursday to make the world's number five oil exporter "carbon neutral" by 2030, 20 years earlier than previously planned. Under the scheme, any emissions of carbon dioxide in 2030 will be offset by cuts elsewhere.
Costa Rica and New Zealand are among few countries that have similarly stiff goals to cut their net emissions to zero.
Stoltenberg said deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of total greenhouse gases -- trees soak up carbon dioxide when they grow and release it when they rot or are burnt.
Greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels such as coal or oil in power plants and factories account for almost 30 percent. These could be dealt with by new technologies to capture the gases and pipe them into underground stores, he said.
"There's a long way to go but the potential is there," he told Reuters of burying carbon.
A U.N. climate conference in Bali last month agreed to launch pilot projects to grant poor countries credits for slowing deforestation under a new long-term climate pact beyond 2012. Norway said it would contribute $500 million a year.
But, unlike Norway, few industrialized nations are arguing that their own forests should be included. Nordic forests are expanding, partly because global warming itself is extending the northern growing season.
Stoltenberg said inclusion of forests would benefit Norway's own accounting for emissions. Norway's annual emissions, from sources ranging from oil platforms to cars, exceed 50 million tonnes and well above goals set by the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol.
"If forestry were included then the accounting changes. Suddenly Norway's emissions are not 50 million tonnes but much lower," he told Reuters.
South Africa's Environment Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk also said that the United States, the world's top emitter, should do far more to curb its emissions after agreeing in Bali to negotiate a new world climate treaty by the end of 2009.
"The United States' commitment to join negotiations is an important step forward. But it remains a first step -- an infant step," he said in a speech. "What we expect from them is a quantum leap."
He said that the United States, at a meeting of major emitters in Honolulu in late January, should agree to deep cuts.
"There is no way that the rest of the world will accept that four percent of the world's population is responsible for 25 percent of the world's emissions," he said, referring to the United States.
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(Editing by Charles Dick)