About The Commission

The Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests, co-chaired by John Podesta and Senator Lincoln Chaffee, is a bipartisan group of leaders from business, government, advocacy, conservation, global development, science and national security developing recommendations on the best means to address tropical forest conservation as a part of broader U.S. climate change policies. Tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and protecting tropical forests is integral to combating climate change. The Commission will release recommendations designed to help ensure U.S. climate policies provide the most effective response to this issue and are aligned with global solutions.

The Commission is supported in part by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to Climate Advisers, the Glover Park Group, and Meridian Institute. Nigel Purvis, the President of Climate Advisers, serves as Executive Director of the Commission, the Glover Park Group provides strategic communication guidance and support, and Meridian Institute provides process design, facilitation, and logistics support.

The Issue: Confronting Tropical Deforestation
and Climate Change

Tropical deforestation accounts for almost 20 percent of global emissions – a share larger than all the automobiles, planes, trains and ships in the world combined. It is the largest source of emissions in many developing countries and represents the lion’s share of emissions in two of the world’s largest climate polluting countries – Brazil and Indonesia.

Momentum is building in the United States for action on climate change, with both President Barack Obama and congressional leaders committed to regulating greenhouse gases. At the same time, the United States is working with other nations to negotiate a global climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. These negotiations will come to a head in December 2009 at global climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. In that context, reducing emissions from deforestation could prove critically important: forest conservation may be among the most cost-effective climate solutions since it requires no major new technologies.

However, many elements of new climate initiatives remain unresolved, and there is disagreement among stakeholders about how to deal with tropical deforestation in U.S. climate policy. How U.S. climate legislation and foreign policy will address tropical deforestation is yet to be determined. What the United States does now will influence not only America’s standing in the world but also the future of global climate cooperation and the risks of dangerous climate change.

The numbers support taking action quickly. Several leading economic studies estimate the cost of U.S. climate policy could be cut in half with well-designed provisions to reduce deforestation, coupled with other complementary cost-saving measures. It could also help accelerate global climate solutions.

If done right, forest conservation could advance other U.S. foreign policy objectives as well, such as alleviating poverty, enhancing international security, improving local democracy and governance, reducing the vulnerability of poor nations to extreme storms and climate change and preserving biodiversity.

With one acre of tropical forest disappearing every second and the rate and severity of global climate change accelerating, there is the serious need for the U.S. to take a leading role in finding effective solutions.

The Commission

Lincoln Chafee, Co-Chair

Former United States Senator, Rhode Island

John Podesta, Co-Chair

President and CEO, Center for American Progress

Sam Allen

President and Chief Executive Officer, Deere & Company

D. James Baker

Director, Global Carbon Measurement Program, The William J. Clinton Foundation

Nancy Birdsall

President, Center for Global Development

Sherri Goodman

Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security

Chuck Hagel

Former United States Senator, Nebraska

Alexis Herman

Former Secretary of Labor

Frank Loy

Former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs

Michael G. Morris

Chairman, President and CEO, American Electric Power

Thomas Pickering

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Cristián Samper

Director, National Museum of Natural History

Lynn Scarlett

Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior

General Gordon Sullivan

Former Chief of Staff, United States Army

Mark Tercek

CEO, The Nature Conservancy

Nigel Purvis, Executive Director

President, Climate Advisers