The environment in the news

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Thursday 24, 2007

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • AFRICA: Call for strong leadership to battle climate change (Reuters)

  • UN proposal to plant 1 billion trees moves ahead as criticism mounts (CanWest News Service)

  • United Nations Surpasses Billion-Tree Pledge Goal (Outside Online)

  • Farmers earn sh5m from carbon credit (New Vision Kampala)

  • An Uncertain Harvest (Plenty Magazine)

  • UNEP to monitor water usage in Arab cities (Gulf News)

  • Arab States to Face Acute Water Shortage (MENAFN - Arab News)

Other Environment News

  • Nuclear power consultation launched (The Independent)

  • Government pushes forward nuclear plans (The Guardian)

  • Nuclear power 'must be on agenda' (BBC)

  • BP Abandons Plans to Build UK Carbon Capture Plant (Reuters)

  • Study Finds Hurricanes Frequent in Some Cooler Periods (New York Times)

  • Up to Five Major Atlantic Hurricanes Forecast for 2007 (Environment News Service)

  • Malaysia on PR Campaign over Rainforests, Wildlife (Reuters)

  • Pontianak, Bekasi Official invited to discussion on global warming in London (Antara News)

  • U.N. Braces for New Breed of Refugees (Inter Press Service)

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

  • ROA

Other UN News

  • UN Daily News of 23 May 2007

  • S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 23 May 2007

Reuters: AFRICA: Call for strong leadership to battle climate change
23 May 2007 14:11:03 GMT

Source: IRIN

NAIROBI, 23 May 2007 (IRIN) - African leaders should champion the awareness of climate change and the threat it poses to the region among the continent's population, urged Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

"The threat of rising seas and melting snow all seems very far [away] to people in the continent," said the Kenyan conservationist on 22 May at the UN Environment Program (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi. "Climate change needs to be seriously taken up by African leaders."

Maathai expressed concerns about Africa's heightened vulnerability to climate change, citing its close proximity to two of the world's biggest deserts - the Sahara to the north and the Kalahari to the south – and the extensive clearing of the Congo forest.

"It is unfortunate that African leaders are interfering with forests. This is not something we can easily trade away," said Maathai, marking the International Day for Biological Diversity. "We can wish for a good environment, but this will only happen through good leadership."

Planting for the future

She urged governments to promote tree-planting programmes and meet global recommendations of 10 percent forest cover. "This will translate into 25 trees per acre," she said. "It does not matter whether the trees are planted as a forest or interspersed or whether they are for fruit production or for fuel."

Globally, at least 4.4 million trees are cut down every day and 1.6 billion trees lost every year. World Agroforestry Centre Director General, Dennis Garrity, said one billion of those trees were not replaced.

Garrity said planting the right kind of trees was also important.

Some species lower the water table and cause more problems, meaning small-holders need to be equipped with a knowledge of agroforestry and its effects. This includes information on integrating 'working' trees (trees for nutrition, fodder, fuel wood, timber, and medicinal trees) into agriculturally productive landscapes. By so doing, trees not only help redress climate change, but protect biodiversity and sustain livelihoods.

Sustainable livestock

Experts have linked frequent droughts and floods in eastern Africa to the widespread deforestation in the region, exacerbated in areas where pastoral farming dominates.

"There is a need to plant trees in these places because a poor environment will not support grazing land. Livestock-keeping communities should consider reducing the sizes of their herds to sustainable levels," Maathai said.

UNEP and partner conservationist groups launched 'The Billion Tree Campaign' in November 2006, aiming to plant a billion trees around the world in 2007.

Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, said the project had surpassed its original target, with more than a billion trees pledged and 13 million already planted.



CanWest News Service: UN proposal to plant 1 billion trees moves ahead as criticism mounts

Steven Edwards,

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2007

UNITED NATIONS -- An ambitious United Nations plan to oversee the planting of one billion trees worldwide -- including 50 million in Canada -- moved ahead Tuesday despite mounting criticism from arguably unexpected quarters.

Officials at the Nairobi headquarters of the UN's environment wing declared that groups and governments around the world have pledged to exceed the goal -- and said the initiative will help fight climate change and poverty.

"People talk too much. We are no longer talking; we are working," said Kenya's Wangari Maathai, whose work as a "green" activist won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

UN Environment Program chief Achim Steiner said the pledges represent a "billion statements" by people worldwide who are saying "time has run out for debating."

Monaco's Prince Albert II is among other international figures who've lent their names to the overall UN effort, while actress Daryl Hannah is backing the planting drive in Canada.

But among the rising number of critics are activists and scientists who share the UN's premise that global warming is a fact -- but say the "Billion Tree" campaign risks causing more harm than good.

"You can't just say, 'There's a billion extra trees; it's automatically good for the environment,'" said Kevin Smith, author of The Carbon Neutral Myth, a newly released report by Amsterdam-based Carbon Trade Watch. "You have to work out the local context, where you're planting them, and what type of trees you're planting."

While Smith is a supporter of the premise man-produced "greenhouse gasses" have caused or accelerated global warming, his report says there is a "huge degree in variation in estimates of how much [carbon dioxide] trees are capable of absorbing."


Outside Online: United Nations Surpasses Billion-Tree Pledge Goal

May 23, 2007

On Tuesday, Senegal’s pledge of 20 million trees hit the goal of the United Nation’s Billion Tree Campaign, a 12-month push to raise pledges for one billion trees to aid in the fight against global warming. The Campaign met its goal in only five months and then surpassed it with Uganda’s promise of 30 million trees, soon after Senegal’s goal-making contribution.

Kenya’s Wangari Maathai was one of the primary champions in the effort and her Green Belt Movement—planting 30 million trees in Africa as a step towards ending poverty and natural resource conflicts—garnered her the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the first African woman to win the honor and first “green” activist to win the notable achievement. She kicked off the Billion Tree Campaign by pledging two million trees.

“People talk too much,” Maathai told a news conference in Kenya. “We are no longer talking, we are working.”

While Maathai continues efforts, the campaign itself is far from complete. According to Reuters only 14 million trees of the total 1.13 billion pledged have been planted. Nonetheless, the UN says it is monitoring all pledges for credibility, to ensure the trees actually go into the ground.

The international enthusiasm for the project varies from five-year-old children to elderly people, individuals from more than 19 countries, local communities, kindergartens, scout groups, schools, artists, city councils, and companies. The grassroots effort has been so successful that foundations and scout movements have been funding their own Billion Tree Campaign advertisements. According to the UN press release dispatched Tuesday, thousands of blogs are helping to spread the word as well.

The Campaign, which can be accessed through the UN Environment Programme’s website, is mainly combating deforestation, a top contributor to harmful carbon emissions. If no action is taken to decrease deforestation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Facts and Figures estimates that between 15 percent and close to 40 percent of plant and animal species in North America will be “committed to extinction” by 2050.


New Vision Kampala: Farmers earn sh5m from carbon credit
Wednesday, 23rd May, 2007

By Gerald Tenywa

WHILE money does not grow on trees, it is possible for tree farmers to earn money without cutting down their trees. By preserving their forests or planting trees, they can get ‘carbon credits’ from richer countries or companies that want to compensate for the pollution they create.

“We want to create awareness about the opportunities that are available in the trade in carbon dioxide emissions,” said consultant Bill Farmer, at the launch of the Uganda Carbon Bureau on Tuesday.

“We shall buy carbon credits at fair prices from farmers and sell it to companies that want to buy them.”

Under the Kyoto Protocol, top polluters agreed to reduce their 1990 emissions by 5.2%. They can do so by taking measures to limit carbon-dioxide pollution in their own countries, or buying ‘carbon credit’ (clean air) elsewhere in the world by encouraging farmers to preserve their forests.

The cutting down of trees, along with emissions of cars, planes, factories and charcoal burning, are responsible for global warming and climate change.

The Uganda Carbon Bureau is the first company in Uganda dealing in carbon credits. It is also the first ‘carbon neutral’ company in Uganda, meaning that it offsets all the carbon-dioxide emissions it produces.

Bill Farmer noted that small-scale farmers in Bushenyi were already benefiting from the carbon trade. They are earning between sh1m and sh5m per year depending on the acres and size of the trees.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority has also benefited from the carbon trade for the last decade and the National Forestry Authority has just entered the market.

“This approach helps to reduce carbon emissions and also promotes sustainable development,” Farmer stressed.

He was reacting to concerns that the carbon-dioxide trade was a way for polluters to continue polluting while compelling poor countries to remain poor and green.

“There is a need to clean up the atmosphere and a market has come up. I don’t see anything wrong with that. As citizens of the world, we own the atmosphere and Uganda can take advantage of the market that this has created.”

He pointed out that countries in Africa share only three percent of the $30b carbon trade market while China takes the lion’s share of over 60 percent, followed by India and Brazil.

He also warned about uncontrolled population growth, arguing that it would inevitably lead to environmental degradation.

During the launch, Phillip Gwage, an assistant commissioner in the meteorology department, said weak institutional capacity and inadequate funding had hampered developing countries from benefiting from the carbon trade.

He said it cost between $50,000 and $100,000 in consultancy fees to write a proposal that could be eligible for funding.
He noted that institutions like the World Bank, UNEP and UNDP were working towards building the capacity of African experts to access the carbon trade market.


Plenty Magazine: An Uncertain Harvest

Increasingly volatile weather patterns around the world are already causing supermarket prices to rise. But when it comes to global warming and the food supply, the real losers will be those in developing countries. A look at how one corner of Africa is coping.

By Jocelyn Craugh Zuckerman

Residents of the Makunda relief camp, in western Kenya’s Busia District (photo by Jocelyn Craugh Zuckerman)

The night the dykes blew, Calimentina Anyango and her family grabbed what they could and ran for higher ground. For the next three days, the rain pounded down. There was nowhere to hide, nothing to eat. The babies cried till exhaustion gave way to sleep. And when the clouds finally cleared, what was left of the family’s ravaged mud home sat in plain view across a decimated field of cassava—a lonely reminder of what little they’d once called their own.

Six weeks later, Anyango and her three sons, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren are still sleeping on the skinny ridge in western Kenya that they fled to on that night. Among some 10,000 people who were driven from their homes by the unprecedented downpours that began here in the Busia District, on the border of Uganda, in late November and continued into the New Year, they now take shelter in tents donated by Doctors Without Borders. And every week, one of them makes the three-mile trek to a health-care center where World Vision and the Red Cross distribute sacks of high-energy Unimix. But they have nothing else: no water for drinking, no charcoal or kerosene for cooking, no blankets, no shoes. They have no crops to harvest and no fields worthy of tilling. And though they are surrounded by stagnant pools of water, they have neither mosquito nets nor anti-malarial medication.

“Especially we need food,” says daughter-in-law Jenna, cradling her 14-month-old son Abraham. Another of Anyango’s grandchildren, James, slumps listlessly in his young mother’s arms. “He’s three months old?” I ask. “One year,” she corrects me.

Anyango expects her family will be here on the ridge for another four or five months, when, she’s hopeful, the ground will have dried up enough to enable rebuilding and replanting. As for the threat of future floods now that the dykes are gone, she doesn’t have the luxury of worrying about that. “We will just go back,” she says of the family’s sodden compound. “We don’t have anywhere else to go. And we don’t have any money.”

“This is the new life,” says John Okello, a local who also fled his home and who now volunteers at another of the seven makeshift relief camps established here in the aftermath of the floods. “We have not experienced anything like it before.”

This past November, in a speech he delivered to the 6,000 delegates gathered in Nairobi for the 2006 United Nations Climate Change Conference, former secretary-general Kofi Annan placed the blame for global warming on “a frightening lack of leadership” and said that it would be developing countries, especially those in tropical regions, that would bear the brunt of rising temperatures. “The impact of climate change will fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest countries, many of them here in Africa,” he said. “Poor people already live on the front lines of pollution, disaster, and the degradation of resources and the land. For them, adaptation is a matter of sheer survival.”

If anyone still harbored doubts about whether human-driven global warming is a real phenomenon, the February report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change likely put an end to them. “February 2nd will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which administers the panel. “The evidence is on the table.”

Indeed, by now we’ve all heard about the rising sea levels, the melting ice caps, and the increasing incidences of hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and floods. Every other day, it seems, some bizarre new detail—whether it be azaleas blooming mid-January in New York’s Central Park, or Russian bears emerging from hibernation weeks ahead of schedule—turns up in the news. But less has been said about the impact that climate change is likely to have on the world’s supply of food. According to the review published last October by Sir Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, a rise of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius in average global temperatures (equivalent to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit, the increase predicted by many climate models) would put up to 200 million people at risk of hunger. Essentially, says Stern, the entire African continent will become scorched, and famines and disease caused by flooding and water shortages will increase in intensity by 60 percent.


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