Norway takes a birds-eye view to save rainforests

Norway is to commission high-resolution satellite images of the Amazon and other rainforests as part of its multi-billion dollar effort to detect tropical deforestation, tree by tree if necessary, and slow climate change, it said on Tuesday.

Under a mix of U.N. and bilateral schemes, Norway has set aside up to 3 billion crowns ($343 million) a year for a decade to help save rainforests and improve the livelihoods of those who live there.

It will spend 450 million Norwegian crowns ($53 million) to pay for satellite images for the next four years to help with the tricky task of monitoring progress as the largest contributor to the programmes.

“The catastrophic loss we’re seeing now simply can’t continue,” Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen told Reuters.

“The purpose is to give us all a better insight into what’s happening in the forests and improve our ability to save them.”

The programmes supports a range of national and local schemes designed to reward those preserving tropical forests, which soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide to help limit the rise in temperatures that would lead to more extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Countries that commit to close cooperation on deforestation will get access to data on a daily basis, making it possible to uncover deforestation even of very small areas, down to the removal of a single tree, Elvestuen added.

Images will also be made available for free to governments, scientists, the media and non-governmental organisations at regular intervals.

Rich from oil and gas, Norway has since 2008 injected $1.2 billion in Brazil’s Amazon Fund to help protect forests under threat from logging and conversion to farmland, and has made its first payment to Indonesia.

But the programme is not without controversy.

While Brazil’s rate of deforestation fell by more than 75% between 2008 and 2015, it has since risen, leading Norway to reduce payouts.

Early-warning satellite data recently showed Brazil’s deforestation sped up in May to the fastest rate in a decade, as experts pointed to illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under President Jair Bolsonaro.

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