Prince Charles was in Indonesia this week as part of a 10 day tour of Asia. Delivering the Presidential Lecture at the Indonesian Presidential Palace, the Prince explained to the Indonesian President, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his cabinet that rainforests are the "world's greatest public utility" and as such those benefiting should support those benefits through funding to rainforest countries.
The Prince's Rainforest Project proposes a type of annual "utility bill" owed by richer countries for the important environmental benefits provided by rainforests maintained in biodiversity-rich regions. In other words, the project attempts to "value" the benefits fo rainforests: "Our work has been concentrating on the difficult issues of how to value forests. We need to be able to calculate what it will cost to divert large scale agriculture or plantation activities away from the remaining intact but threatened rainforests."
Prince Charles explained in his speech the rationale of the project, "Indonesia and the other rainforest nations are stewards of the world's greatest public utility. The rest of us have to start paying for it, just as we do for water, gas and electricity. So the challenge is to find an equitable means of paying for this planetary life support system on which we all depend ... Payments should have the characteristics of a commercial transaction, in the same way we pay for our water, gas and electricity. In other words, they should not be aid. In return, the rainforest nations would provide eco-services such as carbon storage, freshwater and the protection of biodiversity." The Prince explained that deforestation was largely a consequence of the greater demand from developed countries for soya, logs and other products. The project therefore advocates payment for the protection of rainforests, proposed through a bonds to be administered by an international body.