Wealthy nations should pay dozens of the world's poorest countries up to $33 billion a year to preserve their rainforests, according to a report commissioned by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The cash would fund a scheme where tropical countries would be rewarded for preserving the stock of carbon in their remaining forests. Proceeds would go to local communities.
"We are living on borrowed time," said the report's author, Johan Eliasch, a Swedish multimillionaire businessman and deforestation campaigner who was appointed as Brown's special representative on deforestation and clean energy last year. "Deforestation will continue as long as cutting down trees is more economic than preserving them."
Rainforest destruction is thought to be a key contributor to global warming, accounting for one fifth of carbon emissions.
Eliasch, who owns a 400,000-acre tract of the Brazilian Amazon and is a former deputy treasurer of the British Conservative Party, said that the scheme would be monitored using satellite imagery.