Indonesia Proposes OPEC Oil Fund to Save Forests

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia ~ Indonesia proposed this week that OPEC oil-exporting nations contribute 50 US cents from every barrel of oil sold in to a special environmental fund to protect forests.

Addressing fellow leaders from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries at the Riyadh summit, Vice President Yusuf Kalla pushed a development and environmental agenda expressing “mixed feelings” about near $100 oil.

Indonesia, which will host a crucial climate change meeting next month, noted that many OPEC countries had environmentally valuable woodland, suggesting a donation could be made to the proposed “Oil for Forests” fund.

“If these countries can set aside a certain amount of the price per barrel of oil … and devote the fund to manage forests in a sustainable way, we will certainly have a better environment,” said Kalla.

An official in the Indonesia delegation said that the idea was that OPEC countries would make the 50-cent contribution from the sale of their oil to the fund.

Oil prices have skyrocketed to record levels in recent weeks with benchmark prices now about $95 and they threaten to break the landmark $100 threshold.

Indonesia faces huge problems of illegal logging and the destruction of forests to make room for palm oil plantations.

Thanks largely to the burning of forests and destruction of carbon-rich peatlands, the country is the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

Kalla also suggested a fund called “Oil for Education” that would invest in education to raise skills and technological progress in developing countries.

“We should seriously consider programs designed to ease the burden of oil price increases in the developing countries in general,” he said.

Kalla was at the summit in the place of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

A December UN summit in Bali will see more than 100 ministers from around the world thrash out a framework for negotiations on a global regime to combat climate change when the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.

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