updated 12/7/2008 6:05:40 AM ET 2008-12-07T11:05:40

Hopes to reach agreement at a U.N. climate conference in Poland on protecting the world's forests are fading, prompting environmentalists to appeal Saturday for an extra push for a deal this week.

The conference of nearly 190 countries was working on a plan to compensate countries to stop logging and converting forests to farmland, actions that were clearing 32 million acres of forests a year up to 2005.

Negotiators had hoped a deal on forests would be one of the few concrete achievements of the two-week conference, which is preparing a global warming treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. The new pact is due to be complete next December.

But the environmentalists say the talks are deadlocked in a committee.

Nine environmental groups submitted a statement to delegates urging them to wrap up the technical issues of an accord before the talks end next Friday, saying most of the hard work was done three months ago at the last negotiating session in Ghana.

Scientists say deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of emissions of carbon dioxide causing global warming. Felling trees not only removes vegetation that absorbs carbon, but the burning of forests releases tons of carbon into the air.

'Taking a step back'
"We are taking a step back," said Gustavo Silva-Chavez, a deforestation specialist for the Environmental Defense Fund.

He said countries need to begin discussing political questions, like how to raise money for developing countries that protect their forests, "rather than engaging in another endless technical discussion."

Technical issues include how to measure the carbon saved when deforestation is slowed, and how to reward countries for controlling forest degradation, which is less than clear-cutting entire areas.

Negotiators agreed in 2005 to include deforestation and degradation in the next global warming treaty. Until now, the fight to limit climate change has focused on slashing emissions in the West from heavy industry, power generation and vehicles.

"We have had this conversation for three years. In that time 75 (million) to 90 million acres have been lost," said John O. Niles, director of Tropical Forest Group, one of the signers of the statement.

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