The focus of the PRP since founding in October 2007 has been to develop consensus on how to slow tropical deforestation. This has taken 18 months due to the complexity of the problem and with rainforests in 40 countries it has taken a long time to consult with them all.
The PRP initiative builds on the Prince’s 30 year long history of involvement in environmental issues. The online campaign features a video with a variety of celebrities appearing alongside the Prince, adding their support to the need to preserve the world’s remaining rainforests. They include Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, the Dalai Lama, Joss Stone, Daniel Craig, Pele and the Princes William and Harry.
At the launch Tony Juniper, former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth and now the PRP’s Special Advisor, emphasised the importance of preserving rainforests. He explained that they 'contribute lots of environmental services which are key to climatic stability, and if we are to cope with the seemingly inevitable 2 - 3 °C temperature rise over the next few decades then it is crucial to stop deforestation'.
Rainforest coverage has dropped from 12 per cent to 5 per cent of the Earth’s surface and continues to shrink. Burning rainforests creates a 5th of global CO2 emissions and one day’s deforestation emits the equivalent of 12.5 million people flying between London and New York.
The ‘double whammy’ here is that rainforests also act as a carbon sink, absorbing 15 per cent of industrial CO2 emissions. If destroyed they become a net producer of CO2 which has to be added to their lost absorption capability in terms of the overall consequence of their destruction.
The PRP report An Emergency Package for Tropical Rainforests was published in April 2009 and recommends treating rainforest loss as an 'economic problem that needs economic solutions, with the proposal to treat the rainforest like a utility'. Public-private partnerships in developed countries would help those with rainforests onto a low-carbon development path. Tony Juniper went on to highlight that 'carbon markets are part of the economic solution, but the PRP has proposed an alternative financial mechanism raising money now to be deployed in tropical countries as soon as possible.' He added that this is a package that is planned to get an impact immediately.
The Price of Wales clearly does not have an official role in international relations, however the intent is to address this crucial issue in advance of the July G8 meeting in Italy and the December Copenhagen Climate Change negotiations, rather like the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign in advance of the 2005 G8. 'The plan is to present a set of proposals at global and national level that is designed for an immediate response outside of Copenhagen', according to Tony Juniper.
Back to the frog. In order to garner support and mobilise action on the PRP proposals a high level of public support is desirable. Hence the online campaign, which plans to tap into the reach of social networks, to build awareness of the link between deforestation and climate change.
People can create their own ‘frog message’ through adding a digital photo of themselves or indeed they can do a ‘mash-up’ and put themselves in the film alongside the celebrities. 'The idea is to share this with friends and all clips will automatically be added to YouTube', explained Briony Mathieson, the PRP’s Head of Communications. In order to virally spread the message ‘widgets’ can be placed on partner websites and there is a ‘frogjumper’ that indicates how many people you have signed up. The plan is that in order to keep the ball rolling, further celebrities will endorse the campaign throughout the year.
The Prince describes in his webcast that 'the aim is to build an online community to call for urgent action to protect the rainforests' - effectively ‘globalisation from the bottom-up’. The agency that created the campaign website, Blue State Digital, is the same that provided the online tools and strategy for President Obama’s highly successful election campaign. Let’s hope that with the Prince’s help ‘Yes We Can’ for the rainforest too.
For more information on the Prince's Rainforest Project
Damian Tow is studying for a Masters in Sustainable Development at Forum for the Future