Buried in the final communiqué issued at the recent Group of 8 Summit in Germany was an important and overdue pledge to help poorer nations reduce the global warming emissions caused by the slashing and burning of their tropical forests. One of the glaring weaknesses in the 1997

Kyoto Accord was its failure to address deforestation, which amounts to 50 million acres a year. Because it releases huge quantities of carbon stored in trees, deforestation contributes at least 20% of all carbon emissions. That’s more CO2 than all of the world’s cars and trucks produce.

Australia recently announced a commitment of $200 million to forest preservation efforts worldwide. The Europeans have agreed to put $150 million into a World Bank facility aimed at strengthening the ability of poorer countries to manage forests and prevent illegal logging. Regrettably, the US seems headed in the opposite direction. President Bush’s foreign aid budget proposes a one-third cut in funding for the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. Comparable cuts are targeted for a programme that helps Madagascar’s struggling population protect its tropical forests. This is embarrassing, to say the least. As the world’s richest nation — and also the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — the US should be leading this parade, not bringing up the rear.