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At the climate change summit in Copenhagen, December 16th, 2009, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the United States, joined by Australia, France, Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom, agreed to dedicate a total of 3.5 billion dollars as initial public finance towards slowing, halting and eventually, reversing deforestation in developing countries. This funding will help facilitate capacity building efforts to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, or REDD-plus, for the years 2010-2012.

"Protecting the world's forests is not a luxury - it is a necessity," said Secretary Vilsack. "This substantial commitment," he said, "is reflective of our recognition that international public finance must play a role in developing countries' efforts to slow, halt and reverse deforestation."

The U.S. contribution to this effort will be one billion dollars over the next three years. These funds will be available for countries that develop ambitious REDD-plus plans for their forest sector, according to their respective capabilities.

Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is one of the greatest challenges facing our world, and reducing emissions from land use practices plays an important role in meeting this challenge. The world loses more than thirteen million hectares of tropical forest annually, and this deforestation is responsible for producing approximately seventeen percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the loss of tropical rainforests is devastating to the protection and storage of water, the health of biodiversity, and the livelihood of rural populations.

The United States is already working with international partners to protect forests across the globe. The State Department, the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service will work with developing countries around the world to implement and expand REDD-plus programs. This will include helping countries build robust forest monitoring systems, improve greenhouse gas inventories [the estimation of carbon dioxide emissions and removals], and develop action plans to tackle the drivers of deforestation.

While international efforts are important, developing countries must also recognize their responsibility to protect their forests. As Secretary Vilsack noted, "It is imperative that we sustain our forests everywhere so that they, in turn, can sustain us."

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