Start The Fightback To Save Our Planet

Protecting The Rainforests Offers The World One Last Crucial Breathing Space

Churchill's Churchill's strategy to win the Second World War was to prioritise those actions that had to be taken that day. Today we fight an equally important war - the war against global warming. Cool Earth, the charity that today opens its doors for business, offers individuals a chance to begin the fight-back for our planet.

The idea is disarmingly simple. Cool Earth, working with bodies like Fauna and Flora, who are already active on the ground, aims to allow individuals the chance to help build up a protective arm around the world's rainforests. But why rainforests? Rainforests are the great carbon stores of the world. Last year forests the size of Britain were cut down and the CO2 released from burning these trees equalled the total CO2 emissions of the US. Some of this logging was legal. But much of it was illegally undertaken by people who have no other way of earning a living. So how can the rainforest be protected in a way that also provides local employment?

The idea is that stakeholders in this country will become stewards of the part of the forest which their contribution has secured. The ownership of the forest will be held in trust with local people who also farm the forest for its natural produce. Rubber tappers will also have similar access.

Cool Earth's efforts will not end here. The aim is to use some of the stakeholders' money to allow local governments and NGOs to build up schools and health services. Supporting Cool Earth will therefore be a new way of directing overseas aid. Individual stakeholders will decide how much to contribute and all of that stakeholding will be directed immediately to where it matters; saving the forest, increasing job opportunities, and raising health and education standards.

Stakeholders' support is not limited to trees. Rainforests are full of life. For each acre a stakeholder will also know that they are protecting a magnificent variety of mammals and insects as well as a rich biodiversity springing from the forests' flora and fauna. Orangutans, sloths and tree frogs are just a few of the species threatened with extinction as rainforests are plundered.

Today's launch has been backed by an impressive phalanx of individuals from right across the political domain. Sir David Attenborough - who is vice-president of Fauna and Flora - emphasises just how crucial saving the rainforests are. They are not only one of the great means of storing carbon, but they help mediate the planet's weather as well as producing 20 per cent of the world's fresh water.

During the Second World War war William Beveridge published a groundbreaking report on how Britain could move beyond the "hungry thirties". A similar note of urgency is sounded in Sir Nicholas Stern's recent report on climate change. Sir Nicholas, a supporter of Cool Earth, stresses that protecting the rainforests offers the world one last breathing space while it learns to kick its dirty polluting habits.

I couldn't agree more with Sir Nicholas's emphasis here. But even as an MP I felt powerless in being able to do something to help prevent catastrophe. That's why, when I read news reports that the businessman Johan Eliasch had secured huge chunks of rainforest, I emailed him. I explained that few of us could make a contribution as big as his, but there were probably millions of us who would like to make a small but immediate contribution to safeguard the rainforest. From that point onward we sought a way of giving birth to Cool Earth.

As single individuals we have very little power, but together we may be able to wield enormous influence. We would therefore like our members to be as active as possible here in Britain. We will be producing a pack so that members have some idea how to lobby their suppliers - the big supermarkets, the provider of services and the like - both to become more aware about the size of the firm's carbon footprint and to protect the rainforests.

It is quite clear that, late in the day, governments are becoming aware how short the time is to save our planet. A further aim of Cool Earth is to build up a membership which helps the debate leapfrog the current agenda being drawn up so painfully by governments. They will therefore see Cool Earth not just as an ally but also a crucial spur to greater action.

The Prime Minister, as he set out for the crucial G8 Summit, sounded his most sombre self. If action is not taken in the very near future, rising temperatures may be irreversible. To prevent such an Armageddon, Cool Earth today offers the opportunity to prioritise action against what might otherwise become irreversible global warming.

Donations via or to Cool Earth at Cool Earth, 71 South Audley Street, London W1K 1JA. Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, is co-founder of Cool Earth

(c) 2007 The Independent

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