Obama Nominee: Redistribute Wealth To Keep Poor From Cutting Trees

By Matt Cover | June 1, 2011 | 3:52 PM EDT

John Bryson, nominated to be secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department by President Barack Obama on May 31, 2011. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) John Bryson, President Obama’s nominee to head the Commerce Department, told a UN energy conference in 2009 that a global wealth redistribution program was needed to keep poor people in developing countries from using their own forest resources.

“What we’ve got to do is find ways to map out the affected lands, to develop plans for addressing them, find economic models in which the people who are driven to do these things to try to raise the livelihoods of their families, find alternative means,” Bryson said in laying out his vision for stopping people in poor countries from cutting down forests.

“Training of peoples, to maybe help in supporting this, development of law enforcement regimes, development of strong governance practices, all of those things have to be done,” Bryson continued.

Bryson said that establishing things such as a global forestry law enforcement regime would require substantial “investments” on the part of wealthier countries so that the international community could better control how poor countries use their forest resources.

“All those things require, among other things, very substantial financial investments,” he said. “And those financial investments as a practical matter will need to come from the wealthier nations and peoples of the world. And that seems to me right, and proper, and the thing that needs to be done.”

By financial investment Bryson means some sort of payment from richer countries to poorer ones to encourage the poorer countries not to use their forestry resources or clear forested land for farming. The idea is not new in environmentalist circles and a form of the plan was included in the 2009 Copenhagen agreement, although that agreement was not binding.

Under such proposals, wealthier countries pay developing ones not to use their forests or clear them for agriculture. Often such programs include plans that would overhaul the developing states’ environmental and conservation laws to make it harder for them to use harvest trees or clear land in the future.

Bryson was addressing the UN International Energy Conference, a forum that served as a precursor to that year’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the time, Bryson was an advisor on energy and climate issue for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Developing countries’ use of their forestry resources and the clearing of land for farming are often cited by environmentalists as a major problem in combating man-made global warming, because trees consume carbon dioxide and act as natural filters that take the most prevalent of greenhouse gasses out of the air.