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French President Calls for Stronger Forest Preservation Effort

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for rich nations to contribute more to fighting deforestation, particularly in the Congo and Amazon River basins in Africa and Latin America. The French government hosted an international forest conference in Paris.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing that 20 percent of the $30 billion in climate change funds pledged by rich countries during the next three years go to fighting deforestation.

Opening a day-long forest meeting that gathered ministers from about 40 countries, the French president said forests are a world heritage and that all nations must contribute to financing their survival. He outlined a goal to reduce deforestation by a quarter by 2015, and altogether by 2030.

Forests play a key role in fighting climate change and in conserving a rich diversity of species. Andrei Muggiati is Amazon campaigner for Greenpeace International, in Amsterdam. "The tropical forests store large amounts of carbon and are huge biodiversity spots, so they have a crucial role in [keeping] the planet's climate stable. And also for our future in terms of developing new medicines, new cosmetics, new uses of biodiversity," he said.

Muggiati says burning and clearing the Amazon for ranching and farming is responsible for 80 percent of the greenhouse gasses that Brazil, the world's fourth-largest carbon emitter, sends into the atmosphere. In the vast Congo forest basin in central Africa, he says irresponsible logging is a prime culprit of deforestation.

But Muggiati says the international community is beginning to recognize the value of saving our forests."In [recent] years 20 percent of all carbon emissions in the world, aound five percent, come from forest destruction. Second, that stopping forest destruction is one of the most effective and fastest ways to address climate change right now," he said.

The United States and France count among six wealthy nations who have pledged $3.5 billion to fight deforestation during the next three years. Mr. Sarkozy said he wanted more countries to join the initiative, and for the private sector to play a bigger role.