Developed countries to pay for forests, says Geneva survey

19 November 2009 | International news release

A survey carried out in Geneva, Switzerland, shows that most people believe that the key to conserving tropical forests and seriously reducing greenhouse gas emissions lies with better funding from developed countries.

The survey, carried out by IUCN, UNEP and the Geneva School of Business Administration, asked ‘What’s a Forest Worth?’ gauging public opinion on the benefits of forests and their value.

Asked who should pay to conserve our forests, 64 percent said that the cost should be split between both developed and developing countries, with the majority believing that developed countries should pay 80 percent of costs. Just six percent said that developing countries should bear the whole financial burden.

Those surveyed were also happy to contribute to conserving tropical forests themselves. When asked how much they’d be willing to pay each year to conserve tropical forests, the average amount was put at 92.9 Swiss Francs, which is US$88 or €61. Just 10 percent of people said that they wouldn’t want to contribute anything themselves.

“Tropical forests have become a prominent feature of current international environmental discussions,” says David Huberman, Programme Associate for Economics and the Environment at IUCN. “Forests are much more than places to sink carbon. They provide society with valuable goods and services, like clean water, and habitat for wild species. Sadly, they’re often undervalued in modern economies.”

Of more than 600 people who took part in the survey, 39.2 percent said that the environment is “very important” compared with other issues such as unemployment, social security, healthcare, poverty, education and immigration. A further 49.4 percent said the environment is “rather important”.

The loss of forests came fourth in the list of most pressing environmental issues, behind climate, air pollution and water pollution. The study also showed that interest in conserving biodiversity was a key factor in the public’s willingness to pay to support forest conservation.

The survey was made possible by the support of the Swiss Network for International Studies.

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