The environment in the news thursday, 12 June 2008

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Thursday, 12 June 2008

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • National Geographic: THEN & NOW: Africa Satellite Images Show Stark Changes

  • The Australian: Africa images show four decades of damage

  • Business Daily (Kenya): Africa; Continent Losing Massive Forest Cover

  • NZ Herald: Atlas of global warming

  • BBC Monitoring Africa: UN satellite images show deforestation across African continent

  • Greenwire: BEIJING OLYMPICS: As games approach, China struggles to clean its air and green its image

  • Diario Granma (Cuba): Organismo de la ONU revela cambios en topografía de África

  • Ansa (Italy) : Clima: ONU, In 300 Immagini Africa Vittima Riscaldamento

  • IPS : ENVIRONNEMENT :Un atlas pour comprendre les défis écologiques de l'Afrique

  • RFI : L'Afrique vue par satellite

Other Environment News

  • AP: Lions in danger in Kenya's Amboseli park

  • Reuters: Rich nations fail to take lead at climate talk: U.N.

  • AFP: Merkel wants progress on climate at G8 summit

  • Reuters: Bush says G8 leaders aim for climate goal

  • AFP: Pollution kills 10,000 a year in southern China: study

  • Melting Arctic Ice Could Spur Inland Warming - Study

  • Guardian: Severn barrage will be costly ecological disaster, say environment groups

  • Independent on line: G8 summit tackle climate change

  • Independent: New recycling plant to create a virtuous circle for plastic

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

  • ROA

  • ROAP


  • ROWA

Other UN News

  • Environment News from the UN Daily News of 11 June 2008

  • Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 11 June 2008 (none)

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

National Geographic: THEN & NOW: Africa Satellite Images Show Stark Changes
* PHOTOS: African Forests Falling Faster to Loggers (June 7, 2006)

* PHOTOS: Megaflyover: Documenting Africa's Last Wild Places (August, 2005)

June 11, 2008—Satellite images from 1972 (left) and 2007 (right) show water-level decline in Lake Chad, once the world's sixth largest.
At the junction of Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, the lake is now one-tenth its former size, due to declining rainfall and diversion of water for human use.
The images are part of Africa: Atlas of Our Changing Environment, a new UN book unveiled today to illustrate how climate change is affecting Africa.
"It is an indication of how serious the situation has become," said Achim Steiner, the agency's executive director, at a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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The Australian: Africa images show four decades of damage
Lewis Smith
GLACIERS, lakes and forests have disappeared from Africa at an alarming rate in the past 36years, satellite images show.

The changing face of the continent was brought home to African ministers yesterday when they were presented with an atlas charting the speed of environmental destruction.

The loss of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro and the vanishing waters of Lake Chad were among the best-known problems, but deforestation, urbanisation and the spread of agriculture have all taken a heavy toll.

Other major damage includes tree loss and land degradation caused by refugees in the Sudan, the virtual disappearance of Lake Ngami in Botswana, the expansion of the city of Bujumbura in Burundi, and the loss of Cameroon's rainforest to rubber and palm plantations. Hundreds of before-and-after satellite images offered a sobering assessment of the enormous damage done in less than four decades.

The images form part of Africa -- Atlas of Our Changing Environment, launched yesterday after a two-year project by the UN Environment Program.

Some examples of where the landscape has been restored or improved include the re-establishment of trees in Niger and the creation of mangroves on the Eritrean coast, but most of the images highlight severe cases of environmental damage.

The deputy director of UNEP's early warning division, Marion Cheatle, said the atlas -- presented at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Johannesburg -- was intended to show where and why action needed to be taken.

``What we're really trying to do is to make people aware of the extent and rate and enormity of the changes taking place,'' she said. ``We're trying to make policy- and decision-makers realise they can take decisions that will staunch this degradation.''

The biggest factor contributing to the damage was the extraordinary rise in Africa's population to 965million.

From 2000-05, the population rose by 2.32per cent a year compared with the global average of 1.24per cent -- 20of the fastest-growing countries around the world in terms of population are in Africa.

The land available for each individual has fallen from 13.5ha in 1950 to 3ha today, and is set to fall to 1.5ha by 2050.

``Where we've got problems at the moment, they're likely to get worse with climate change,'' Ms Cheatle said.

Deforestation was a major concern in 35 nations, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi and Rwanda. About four million hectares of forest a year is lost in Africa.

Biodiversity loss was highlighted in 34 countries and land degradation from erosion -- up to 50 tonnes of soil are lost per hectare -- was a ``major worry'' for Ghana, Cameroon and 30other African nations.

In the Rwenzori mountains of Uganda, the glaciers shrank by half between 1987 and 2003.
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Business Daily (Kenya): Africa; Continent Losing Massive Forest Cover
Business Daily
A recently launched report by Unep shows Africa is losing four million hectares of forest cover every year and brings vividly to light the impact of development policies, population growth, climate change and conflicts on the environment.

The report titled Africa: Atlas of Our Changing Environment, which was done in conjunction with various environmental partners across the continent, concludes that the continent is losing trees two-times faster than the current rate of deforestation across the world.

The report is the latest effort - based on evidence on the ground - to educate the public and government policy makers to come up with policies to change the worsening environmental conditions of the continent.

"The results of this report are actions of the last 30 years," said Satinder Bindra, director of the division of communication and public information.

The atlas shows the changing environment in photographs and satellite imagery in before and after pictures that cover a span of 35 years.

The report brings to light the impact of development policies, population growth, climate change and conflicts on the environment.

The 400-page publication captures the disappearing glaciers of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya, drying up lakes like Lake Chad which used to the sixth largest lake in the world 40 years ago and is now just one-tenth of its original size.

The atlas also points out some countries' efforts in fighting climate change. In Kenya, for instance, concerted policies have helped reduce the wanton destruction of the Mount. Kenya forests.

Although the report does not cover the developmental programmes on the ground, it gives a broad analysis and shows potential degradation hotspots.

Mr Bindra said the report is timely as the new agreement on climate change convention to be held in Copenhagen in 2009 will show the people concerned the impact of climate change in the African continent.

"They will want tougher rules countries emissions and African countries will demand more money to climate proof their countries," he said.

It took two years of extensive scientific research at a cost of $700,000 (Sh44.1 million). The book contains over 600 satellite images, ground photographs and over 150 maps which cover every African country in over 100 locations.

Satellite pictures, often taken three decades apart, show expanding cities, pollution, deforestation and climate change were damaging the African environment despite glimmers of improvement in some areas.

"Africa is losing more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of forest every year- twice the world's average deforestation rate," according to a statement by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) about the 400-page atlas, prepared for a meeting of African environment ministers in Johannesburg.

Four million hectares is roughly the size of Switzerland or slightly bigger than the US state of Maryland.

Photographs show recent scars in forests in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda. It notes that forest loss was a major concern in 35 countries in Africa.

And it shows that environmental change extends beyond the well-known shrinking of the snow cap on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa's highest peak at 5,895 metres (19,340ft), or the drying up of Lake Chad.

On the Ugandan border with Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, glaciers on the Ruwenzori Mountains where the highest peak is 5,109 metres shrunk by half between 1987 and 2003, it states.

Trees and shrubs had been cut from the Jebel Marra foothills in Sudan, partly because of an influx of refugees from the conflict in Darfur.

"The atlas ... clearly demonstrates the vulnerability of people in the region to forces often outside their control, including the shrinking of glaciers in Uganda and Tanzania and impacts on water supplies linked with climate change," Unep executive director, Achim Steiner, said in a statement.

The atlas said 300 million people faced water scarcity and that areas in sub-Saharan Africa experiencing shortages were expected to increase by almost a third by 2050.

"Climate change is emerging as a driving force behind many of these problems," it said.

Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a new UN treaty by the end of 2009 to slow climate change, blamed mainly on emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. But the atlas said there were signs of hope.

"There are many places across Africa where people have taken action- where there are more trees than 30 years ago, where wetlands have sprung back and where land degradation has been countered," Steiner said.

Among examples, the report showed that action to prevent over-grazing had helped a national park in south-eastern Tunisia.

A project to expand wetlands in Mauritania was also helping to control flooding and improve livelihoods.

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NZ Herald: Atlas of global warming
7:15AM Thursday June 12, 2008

The United Nations environment agency unveiled a new atlas yesterday that shows what the agency says are the dramatic effects of climate change on Africa.

The nearly 400-page long publication features more than 300 satellite images taken in every African country.

The before and after photographs, some of which span a 35-year period, appear to show striking environmental changes across the continent.

According to the atlas, Africa is losing more than 4 million hectares of forest every year - twice the world's average deforestation rate.

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BBC Monitoring Africa: UN satellite images show deforestation across African continent

June 11, 2008 Wednesday
Excerpt from report by French state-funded public broadcaster Radio France Internationale on 11 June

Seen from the sky Africa gives away some of its secrets.

The United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] yesterday presented in Johannesburg a new atlas of the African continent thanks to satellite photographs taken over a 35-year period.

This report allows to concretely observe the effects of humankind's actions on the black continent. The report is overall negative but the images allow us to appreciate the efficacy of the measures taken in protected regions.

Anne Francois is in charge of training at the UNEP and we ask her what exactly does the report show.

[Francois] The report features over 300 images taken by satellite of all the African countries but what is interesting is that it includes before-and-after photos taken over approximately a 35-year period. It really does document the shocking changes to the environment across the continent.

[Presenter] What are the major trends of change? Deforestation mainly?

[Francois] Yes it shows deforestation, also the disappearance [through melting] of glaciers, among others in Uganda [sic] we also have Mount Kilimanjaro [Tanzania] and the consequence of conflict, particularly in the Darfur area which has had a large influx of refugees resulting in massive deforestation. [Passage omitted]

Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 1230 gmt 11 Jun 08
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Greenwire: BEIJING OLYMPICS: As games approach, China struggles to clean its air and green its image
June 11, 2008 Wednesday

Michael Burnham, Greenwire senior reporter

BEIJING -- The 1,500-meter race is the ultimate test of strength and speed. World-record-holder Steve Ovett had what it takes.

But in the 1984 Olympics' 1,500-meter final in smoggy Los Angeles, Ovett gasped to keep pace with fellow Briton and archrival Sebastian Coe. Running fourth as the bell signaled the final lap, Ovett doubled over with chest pains.

Coe won the gold, but asthma beat Ovett. The ozone over central Los Angeles peaked at more than 235 micrograms per cubic meter during the games, searing his lungs.

"Pollution was one of the major factors in my having exercise-induced asthma in Los Angeles," Ovett told the journal Nature, two decades after his final Olympic race. "There was a significant number of sufferers but not much was reported."

Times have changed. As Beijing prepares to host the XXIX Olympiad next month, the capital's filthy air is the subject of global scrutiny.

Flecks of dust and ash in Beijing's air surpassed 600 micrograms per cubic meter last December -- a record for the year and 12 times beyond the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization. During stretches without wind or rain, the gray bouillabaisse shrouds ancient temples and modern skyscrapers.

Wary of Beijing's pollution, British marathoner Paula Radcliffe said she might wear a respiratory mask before she competes. Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie will skip the marathon but run the 10,000-meter race. Dozens of other athletes will train in Japan and Korea until the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies.

But Beijing is determined -- some say defiant -- that its skies will be blue and its games green. Eastern China is sometimes not visible from space because of pollution. China is trying to clean the air in advance of the Olympics by closing or retrofitting inefficient factories, planting millions of trees and enforcing tougher automobile emissions standards. Map courtesy of NASA.

"We are definitely confident that the air quality will be sufficient for competition," said Yu Xiaoxuan, Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games' (BOCOG) deputy director for construction and the environment. "All days in August will meet our air quality standard."

Beijing isn't the first Olympic host to make such promises, but it is arguably the most important. Largely fueled by coal, China's red-hot economy exacts a growing price on the planet's water, soil and sky. The so-called Red Dragon now rivals the United States as a top economic power and emitter of greenhouse gases.

From satellites, China's airborne dust can be seen drifting toward North America -- the same course traveled by container ships of consumer goods.

But change is afoot. Since China first promised the world a "green" Olympics eight years ago, this dynamic land of communism and capitalism has set out to show it can green its gross domestic product and reduce its emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

"Like America in the '70s, China has reached and is turning the environmental corner," said James Connaughton, President Bush's top environmental adviser. "Now, the question is how far and how fast." Pollution paradox

Like Los Angeles, Beijing can blame some of its air problems on geography.

Sand blows in from parched plains to the west, while an arc of mountains hems in humid air from the south.

But there is a large human element. Decades of unsustainable farming and overgrazing are turning grasslands and lake beds into dust. New high-rise blocks sprout like bamboo, soaking up ever more water and electricity. Automobiles are elbowing out bicycles.

More than a thousand additional cars take to the streets every day in this megacity of 15 million people. Beijing adds more than 1,000 additional vehicles each day. Most of the cars are privately owned. As congestion worsens, Beijingâ[#x20ac][TM]s leaders are struggling with how to let cars, commerce and clean air coexist. Photo by Michael Burnham.

"Beijingers are like Angelenos now with their love of cars," said Rob Watson, a New York-based sustainable development consultant who worked in China for a decade. "By 2009, unless you're moving underground by rail, you're not going to be able to go anywhere."

China's conspicuous consumption and pollution-related health problems are paradoxical, said Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown. More coal consumption means more energy here. More energy, more industry. More industry, more wealth. More wealth, more cars. More cars, more pollution. More pollution, more health problems.

"In most economies, as people get wealthier, they get healthier," Brown said. "In China, in many situations, as people get wealthier, they get sicker.

"At some point, this is going to be an explosive political issue," he warned.

Cancer became the top killer in China last year. A Ministry of Health survey cited air and water pollution, as well as food additives and pesticides, as the leading causes of China's cancer incidence, which rose 19 percent in cities and 23 percent in rural areas between 2005 and 2007.

In its analysis of the 2008 Olympics, the United Nations Environment Programme called air pollution Beijing's greatest public health threat. And the city's water, while in compliance with World Health Organization standards at its source, erodes in quality as it moves through an aging distribution network.

Olympic tourists will soon learn to boil tap water before drinking it.

"Beijing's old or nonexistent infrastructure, rapid development and geographical constraints mean the city still has considerable challenges to overcome," UNEP concluded. "Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the environmental projects developed in Beijing prompted or accelerated by the award of the Olympics represent a long-term positive legacy for the city." For host cities, there's gold in going green VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- As Beijing basks in its outsized Olympic plans, Canada's westernmost metropolis is quietly building upward and biding time until it hosts the 2010 winter games.

Vancouver is perhaps best known for its blue waters and gray winters, but come 2010, this famously laid-back place is planning to boast about its green games.

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell aims to make his province carbon-neutral in 2010 by reducing direct emissions where it can and buying carbon offsets where it cannot. The ambitious plan is borne out in the Olympic athletes' village rising along the edge of downtown Vancouver and alpine sporting venues to the city's east.

All buildings in Vancouver's Southeast False Creek athletes' village are designed to achieve the Canada Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) "gold" standard. Heat captured from the 50-acre village's sewage system will warm apartments for 2,800 athletes, while the buildings themselves will be architecturally aligned to soak up winter sun rays and be cooled by summer breezes.

In other words, the village is expected to save megawatts and greenhouse gas emissions by flushing toilets and opening windows.

"Our vision is to be the most sustainable Olympics ever," Campbell told dignitaries assembled here recently for a conference on business and the environment. "It will be a springboard for enormous opportunities in the future."

Beijing officials, of course, are making similar promises (see main story). But a little green gamesmanship never hurt anyone, says the International Olympic Committee, which promulgates the winter and summer games.

In 1994, the Switzerland-based body made environmental stewardship the "third pillar" of the Olympics, alongside sport and culture. The IOC integrated the United Nations' Agenda 21 sustainability agenda by striving to improve the socioeconomic and environmental conditions of host cities.

Last fall at the 7th World Conference on Sport and Environment in Beijing, IOC President Jacques Rogge urged Beijing and future Olympic host cities to raise the bar.

"We are all too aware that the fragile condition of the environment could ... pose a direct threat to the future of sport," Rogge said. "Global warming will jeopardize sport in the long term, and, for example, the very existence of winter sports in many areas of the world."

For its part, Beijing is closing polluted factories, building energy-efficient athlete housing, eliminating 300,000 high-emission vehicles and planting a lot of trees.

Canadian officials, meanwhile, are focusing on the energy efficiency of their athletic venues and villages.

The alpine community of Whistler, B.C., which will host skiing and other outdoor events, boasts nine venues built to LEED standards, said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.

"When we first started talking about sustainability eight years ago, I have to admit I was one of the guys in the room who didn't know what we were talking about," Furlong said. "I felt the ground shifting below my feet."

But Furlong said he knows now. "It simply means behave responsibly," he explained.

Other cities that hope to host the Olympics are taking notes and starting early.

The IOC last week named Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro as the final candidates to host the 2016 Olympics. The organization will select the winner in October 2009.

Chicago is already consulting with Beijing.

Sadhu Johnston, Chicago's sustainability director, suggested that the Windy City has a head start on its competition: Mayor Richard Daley (D) has vowed to reduce Chicago's greenhouse emissions 25 percent by 2020, largely through retrofitting buildings and planting carbon-swallowing trees (Greenwire, Nov. 9, 2007).

And what Daley wants, he typically gets. The roof of City Hall and the edges of trails along the Chicago River are planted with trees and shrubs.

"The legacy of the mayor's greening work will help a lot in terms of improving the air quality and keeping the city cool," Johnston said. "Those kinds of things will help build confidence in the IOC that we can deliver a successful Olympics."

Click here to listen to an IOC video on environmental sustainability.

Click here to view an E&E slideshow of Vancouver's Olympic village.

-- Michael Burnham

But Olympic organizers also know well that what happens in August may color how the world views China for decades. Green games, blue skies

The International Olympic Committee promises to monitor air pollution and weather daily to decide whether to postpone outdoor endurance events, such as the marathon, triathlon and cycling, which require at least an hour of continuous physical effort.

The IOC has never postponed an event because of dirty air -- not even in notoriously polluted Los Angeles and Mexico City, IOC Medical Commission Chairman Arne Ljungqvist noted in a recent conference call with reporters.

"We have been in polluted areas other times without conducting an analysis or having paid attention at all," explained Ljungqvist, who analyzed government air-quality data collected last August. "This is the first time that air pollution has become an issue, and we have taken this issue seriously."

Olympians with asthma may see their performance suffer, he conceded, but most athletes will not be impaired by pollution.

"We may not see many world records under unfavorable conditions," he added. "But that's not the purpose -- to set records -- but rather to compete."

To be sure, when networks broadcast the games, millions of international viewers will be seeing China for the first time. Beijing has spent more than $17 billion to improve its air quality since 2001, when the city won the bid to host the Olympics, according to state media.

The sprawling Olympic Green sports more than a half-million new trees, while the athletes' village and venues feature energy-efficient lights and other green-building technologies (see video).

The city has closed or moved almost 200 factories and power plants and is considering banning more than a million motorists from driving in August. A new auto emissions standard, meanwhile, should reduce breathable particulate matter by 330 tons this year, city officials say.

But an independent analysis of the city's air quality data casts doubt on Beijing's claims of progress.

Beijing reported that the number of "blue sky" days -- days when the city's 500-point Air Pollution Index measures below 100 -- increased to 246 last year, up from 100 in 1998. The index is based on 27 stations throughout the city that measure sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter levels.

Steven Andrews, a Maryland-based environmental consultant and former Princeton in Asia fellow, wrote in a recent study that Beijing traded measuring nitrogen oxide, the city's worst pollutant, for nitrogen dioxide in 2000. Five years later, the city dropped two stations near busy highways from its API calculations, he charged.

"What's clear at this point is that the games haven't been a catalyst for cleaner air," Andrews said in an interview. "There isn't a need for drastic changes, such as encouraging people to drive fewer days or moving factories."

"The key issue is a need for enforcement," added Andrews, who said he plans to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal.

BOCOG environmental director Yu denies that any air monitoring stations have been moved. Rather, he said, the city has increased its monitoring stations more than threefold to more accurately gauge pollution.

"Beijing is a megacity in a developing country," Yu said. "So as we prepare for the Olympic games, we must pay more attention to the environment." Greener Dragon?

Whether Beijing is greenwashing is not really important, argues Jennifer Turner, who runs the Woodrow Wilson Center's China Environment Forum in Washington. Beijing's air quality should be much worse than it was a decade ago, she said, given the country's exponential growth in consumption of cars and coal.

"Beijing's air quality is about the same as it was about 10 years ago," Turner explained. "But if during that time coal use has doubled, and more than a thousand cars are going on the road every day, there's something right going on."

Top Chinese and U.S. government officials are careful to emphasize long-term environmental trends over short-term results. As major trade partners, the two countries share a common interest in a wealthier, healthier China, noted White House environmental adviser Connaughton.

"I have seen a significant shift of commitment at the highest levels of China's government for sustained environmental commitment," he explained. "First and foremost, it's driven by their desire to protect the health and welfare of their people."

Last year, China set a target of getting 15 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020. A national afforestation target calls for increasing China's carbon-swallowing tree cover from about 8 percent today to 23 percent in 2020. The new China Central Television (CCTV) building, pictured above, is one of the most striking additions to Beijingâ[#x20ac][TM]s central business district. The structure, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is an iconic symbol of Chinaâ[#x20ac][TM]s emerging market economy. Photo by Michael Burnham.

China's current five-year plan calls for cutting energy consumption 20 percent per unit of gross domestic product by 2010 while reducing sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants by 10 percent.

China's leaders concede that ending five consecutive years of double-digit GDP growth may be necessary. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has called for more modest 8 percent GDP growth this year "on the basis of improving the economic structure, productivity, energy efficiency and environmental protection."

Hitting the ambitious environmental targets may also mean changing not only how China produces energy, but also how this nation of 1.3 billion people uses it in urban factories and high-rises. Sustainable development in the countryside is also essential, experts say.

About a quarter of China's population is projected to urbanize during the next two decades. The population shift is expected to put even greater pressure on China's natural resources and man-made infrastructure.

Clearly, the Olympics has stepped up the pressure on China to improve its air and water quality -- and even its approach to human rights. The Tibet-related protests along the torch relay route proved that the Olympics is not just sport but politics.

"The Olympics are more than a set of games. This is about China's national image and pride," explained Hanling Yang, a senior program manager with the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, a nongovernmental organization with offices in Beijing and Portland, Ore.

Ping He, who runs the International Fund for China's Environment, which also has U.S. and China offices, considers the Olympics a window for China to improve its environment.

The green games and GDP goals mark a good start, he offered, but stamina matters most.

"The numbers show ambition," Ping said. "The trend is more important." E&ETV takes an in-depth look at the "green" Olympics, Beijing's plans for sustainability

Beijing, China, host to this year's summer Olympics, has faced a tremendous amount of international pressure to improve its air quality since it was named host city. With all eyes on Beijing, has the city made the necessary improvements to address air quality issues? In this special report, E&E explores the measures being taken to "green" the Olympic venues and Beijing as a whole.
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RP Online (Germany): Dramatische Bilder - Der Kilimandscharo schmilzt

Johannesburg (RPO). Mit 5895 Metern ist der Kilimandscharo der höchste Berg Afrikas. Jedes Jahr besteigen Tausende Abenteurer den Riesen, die Region lebt vom Tourismus. Jetzt belegen dramatische Bilder und Studien: Bis 2020 wird der Gletscher auf dem Berg weggeschmolzen sein.

Im südafrikanischen Johannesburg hat das UN-Entwicklungsprogramm (UNEP) einen Atlas präsentiert, der die gravierenden Veränderungen der afrikanischen Landschaften in der vergangenen 35 Jahren dokumentiert.

Die Region um das Kilimandscharo-Massiv und den Kilimandscharo-Nationalpark ist bei Touristen sehr beliebt. Im südlich des Massivs gelegenen Moshi gibt es eine Vielzahl von touristischen Einrichtungen.

Welche Folgen das Schmelzen des Gletschers hat, ist noch nicht abzusehen. Auch andere Gebiete in Afrika sind vom Klimawandel betroffen: So hat zum Beispiel der Gletscher am Rwenzori-Berg in Uganda zwischen 1987 und 2003 die Hälfte seines Umfangs verloren

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Diario Granma (Cuba): Organismo de la ONU revela cambios en topografía de África

NACIONES UNIDAS, 10 de junio (PL).— La topografía de África está cambiando a gran velocidad, con pérdidas de bosques, la reducción de glaciares y ampliación de zonas desérticas, según un atlas elaborado por el Programa de la ONU para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA).

El atlas contiene unas 300 imágenes de satélite tomadas en cada país africano sobre la situación de antes y la actual, algunas con un período intermedio de hasta 35 años, según una información divulgada en esta sede.

Las imágenes muestran la reducción de los glaciares en las montañas Rwenzoru, en Uganda, que se derritieron a la mitad en los últimos 17 años, así como la deforestación en el norte de la República Democrática del Congo.

También revela la desaparición de una gran parte de los bosques en Madagascar debido a la agricultura y a la recolección de leña, y la expansión arbitraria de la capital de Senegal, Dakar, durante los últimos 50 años.

El atlas elaborado por el PNUMA subraya sin embargo las señales positivas de buena administración medioambiental que en algunos casos están revirtiendo la degradación en regiones de ese continente.

África está perdiendo más de cuatro millones de hectáreas anuales de bosques, el doble que el promedio mundial, y más de 300 millones de personas carecen de agua suficiente, un problema que va en aumento.

A pesar de que el continente produce sólo el cuatro por ciento de las emisiones de dióxido de carbono que causa el efecto invernadero, sus habitantes sufrirán desproporcionadamente las consecuencias del cambio climático, advirtió el PNUMA.

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Ansa (Italy) : Clima: ONU, In 300 Immagini Africa Vittima Riscaldamento
(ANSA) - ROMA, 11 GIU - La prima vittima innocente degli effetti del riscaldamento globale è l'Africa, che pur essendo responsabile di solo il 4% delle emissioni sta già subendo pesanti disastri ambientali. E' quanto è emerso dalla conferenza dei ministri africani (Amcen) in corso a Johannesburg, durante il quale è stato presentato un rapporto dell'Onu che testimonia in 300 immagini i cambiamenti principali degli ultimi 35 anni.

Nel rapporto, stilato dall'agenzia Onu per la protezione ambientale (Unep), è presentato il 'prima e dopo' di 100 diversi luoghi monitorati via satellite. Dal confronto emerge che in 35 stati c'é stata una perdita di foreste, mentre il degrado del suolo riguarda 32 nazioni. Dalle foto emerge anche che ogni anno l'Africa perde quattro milioni di ettari di foreste, il doppio della media mondiale. Per quanto riguarda i singoli siti, stanno scomparendo ad esempio i ghiacciai dell'Uganda, che hanno perso il 50% della superficie, mentre l'urbanizzazione sta 'mangiando' aree verdi enormi in Senegal, dove la città di Dakar ha raggiunto ormai i 2,5 milioni di abitanti. "I modelli climatici prevedono grossi cambiamenti nelle precipitazioni del continente - si legge nel rapporto - che potrebbero portare ad un aumento delle carestie e della desertificazione, che l'Africa non ha i mezzi tecnologici per affrontare". (ANSA).

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IPS : ENVIRONNEMENT :Un atlas pour comprendre les défis écologiques de l'Afrique
Peter Dhondt

BRUXELLES, 11 juin (IPS) - Le Programme des Nations Unies pour l'environnement (PNUE) vient d'éditer un atlas de l'Afrique, qui illustre les transformations de la nature et de l'environnement sur le continent au cours des dernières décennies. Cet ouvrage de près de 400 pages offre aux décideurs politiques des cartes, des photographies satellites et une vision claire des défis écologiques présents et à venir.

L'une des particularités de cet atlas, présenté mardi par le PNUE à Johannesburg, en Afrique du Sud, est de contenir des centaines de photographies satellites du continent qui ont parfois plus de 30 ans, et de les comparer avec des vues récentes. Le résultat est spectaculaire et pas forcément toujours négatif.

Ainsi, au Niger, on peut constater qu'il pousse aujourd'hui entre dix à vingt fois plus d'arbres qu'au cours de la décennie 1970 et que cette avancée est le résultat des énormes efforts de plantation entrepris par les fermiers locaux. Les images des réserves naturelles de Tunisie, de Mauritanie, du Kenya et du Liberia, par exemple, démontrent également une progression des surfaces couvertes par la nature, ainsi que des tourbières.

D'autres images présentées dans cet atlas sont cependant beaucoup plus alarmantes, comme ces photographies satellites de l'assèchement du lac Tchad, de la fonte des glaces du Mont Kilimandjaro ou de la baisse des eaux du lac Victoria; des changements et des défis environnementaux bien connus, mais pour lesquels cet ouvrage apporte aujourd'hui un nouvel éclairage.

Par ailleurs, l'atlas intitulé "Afrique : Atlas d'un environnement en mutation" met également en lumière des problèmes et des défis environnementaux moins connus du grand public, comme la disparition des glaciers du Mont Rwenzori, à la frontière entre l'Ouganda et la République démocratique du Congo (RDC), par exemple, qui ont diminué de 50 pour cent entre 1987 et 2003.

L'accent est également mis sur la déforestation massive du continent africain. En RDC, par exemple, l'expansion des routes, dans le nord du pays, a ouvert de nouveaux corridors de déforestation depuis le milieu des années 1970, souligne le PNUE, et de nouvelles routes menacent encore un peu plus la richesse forestière du Congo.

Selon les auteurs de cet ouvrage, l'Afrique perd en moyenne 40.000 kilomètres carrés de forêt par an, soit plus de la superficie de la Belgique. Cela représente un taux de déforestation deux fois plus élevé que la moyenne mondiale. Aujourd'hui, la déforestation est devenue une préoccupation majeure pour 35 pays du continent, notamment pour le Rwanda, la RDC, le Malawi ou encore le Nigeria.

En outre, 32 pays africains sont confrontés à une dégradation de leurs terres et de leur biodiversité, dont le Cameroun, l'Erythrée ou le Ghana. Certaines régions du continent perdent ainsi plus de 50 tonnes métriques de sol par hectare par an. D'autres pays doivent également faire face à des problèmes de désertification, comme le Burkina Faso, le Tchad, le Kenya et le Niger, ainsi qu'à des pénuries d'eau.

En Afrique, plus de 300 millions de personnes sont déjà confrontées à la rareté de l'eau et les zones qui connaissent des pénuries en Afrique subsaharienne augmenteront encore probablement de près d'un tiers d'ici à 2050, selon les prévisions du PNUE.

En éditant cet ouvrage, le Programme des Nations Unies pour l'environnement veut également rappeler que la capacité de l'Afrique à s'adapter aux changements climatiques, qui accélèrent ces transformations, est assez faible. "Bien que l'Afrique ne produise que 4 pour cent du total mondial des émissions de dioxyde de carbone, ses habitants souffrent des conséquences du changement climatique mondial de manière disproportionnée", soulignent les auteurs de l'atlas.

"Afrique : Atlas d'un environnement en mutation" a été réalisé par le PNUE en collaboration avec des chercheurs et des organisations en Afrique et ailleurs. Il a notamment bénéficié du soutien de l'Agence des Etats-Unis pour le développement international (USAID), de la Communauté de développement d'Afrique australe (SADC) et de la Belgique.

Le site Internet de l'atlas : (FIN/2008)

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