SYDNEY, July 24 (Reuters) - A planned $250 million World Bank fund to encourage developing countries to stop deforestation in return for access to carbon credits has attracted strong international support, a senior official said on Tuesday.
Forests are not included under the existing emissions reduction framework, the Kyoto Protocol, even though deforestation, especially in the tropics, contributes about 20 percent of man-made global carbon emissions -- some two billion tonnes of carbon per year.
"We want to make sure that if it is 20 percent of the problem it can be 20 percent of the solution in the future," said Kristalina Georgieva, director of strategy and operations in the World Bank's sustainable development unit.
Georgieva hopes the programme will encourage more investment from public and private sector bodies to tackle deforestation.
"The objective here is to make standing forest with high biodiversity and carbon storage value generate revenues," she told reporters at a Sydney meeting on forests and climate.
"It means we can make a tree standing be as valuable as this tree being chopped down, to provide income to communities that would allow them to develop and have their needs met without chopping down the forest."
Georgieva said interest in the proposed Forest Carbon Partnership Facility from both developed and developing nations meant it was on track to launch in December.
The project would try to ensure developing nations were able to monitor forest depletion, and had the clout to stamp down on illegal logging. Countries that cut emissions from deforestation would be able to sell carbon credits to other countries.
Fourteen forest-rich countries from Central and South America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific have expressed interest in the scheme. The bank will choose about five countries, who will have to prove they are tackling illegal logging, to participate in a pilot stage.
Some critics have said tackling deforestation needs billions of dollars in funding. Georgieva acknowledged the World Bank, which plans to raise $250 million to $300 million for the first stages of its programme, was "starting small".
The Australian government this week committed $10 million to the World Bank's Global Forest Alliance and other governments, including Germany and the United Kingdom, are also expected to contribute.
A successful pilot programme would also add weight to calls for the inclusion of deforestation in any new agreement on combatting global warming, which will be discussed at a U.N.-led meeting in Bali in December. The Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.
Georgieva also backed calls from some developing nations for rich countries to pay to save forests, but said potential donors needed to see that the proposed World Bank scheme would work and address concerns that forests might be protected in one area of a country while being decimated in another.
"If we do nothing, if we don't experiment, then the scepticism whether we actually can provide compensation for avoiding deforestation would be there."