THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Wednesday 10 September 2008
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News ; New Agency of Nigeria: Mitigating climate change with trees ; Science News: New Rules Needed To Govern World's Fragile Polar Regions
; The Greenbang Special Report : Producing the start up index
; Antigua Sun: Officials gather in Antigua to discuss environmental concerns
; National Press Club: Leadership for a Comprehensive Energy Roadmap: The First 100
; Tehran Times: UN chief to demand Israel pay Lebanon $1bn in reparations
; UNEP join hands with Google in creating the ―Environment Map‖
Other Environment News
; The Independent: Pollution can make you fat, study claims
; The Guardian: Forecast: dry, becoming drier
; BBC News: Hurricane Ike blows past Havana
; The Tampa Tribune: Devastation Throughout Haiti Offers Valuable Lessons
; Gulf Times: Mixing e-waste with rubbish could be dangerous
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
; Environment News from the UN Daily News of 9 September 2008 (None)
; Environment News from the S.G.‘s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of
9 September 2008 (None)
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
New Agency of Nigeria: Mitigating climate change with trees
Wednesday, Sep 10, 2008
After decades of scepticism about global warming and its after effects, the world has come face-to-face with the realities of that danger.
With reports of extreme floods in Kenya, Canada, Indonesia and Southern Africa, the world has been jolted with the stark reality that it is headed toward something worse if urgent steps are not taken.
Also manifest are increased cases of drought in the Sahelian region of Africa and the now common incidence of hurricanes in the U.S.
In central Nigeria, excessive warming is being blamed for the consistent violence between nomadic cattle herders and farmers.
The duo have been locked in battle for the scarce green areas as the desert creeps southwards.
Similarly, deforestation, dwindling water supplies and rising sea levels are already sparking mass migrations, provoking ethnic conflicts.
UN reports on climate change indicate that humanity may have to brace for more challenges as they predict a rise in temperature by 1.4 degrees Celsius to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2010 in Africa.
―Regions that are already least secure in food production, like sub-Saharan Africa, stand
to be the worst victims of global warming as wet areas become wetter and dry areas become drier,‖ says a recent global report on climate change.
Speaking on the issue, Ms Jennifer Morgan, the Director, Global Climate Change Programme at the WWF, describes Africa as the ‗‘most vulnerable continent to climate change‖.
Pointing to its ‗‘extreme poverty‘‘, she says that the continent will find it increasingly difficult to cope as desertification is threatening to drive millions of Africans from their homes.
Morgan says that her comments are drawn from a recent international report on the work of 1,360 scientists in 95 nations.
She particularly cites an instance in Uganda where researchers and the government found that the climate has become hotter.
‗‘It also found that the rains were becoming even more erratic in the last decade, posing a threat to its key coffee crop.‘‘
To justify their fears of the worst for Africa, environmentalists point to gullies of eroded, barren earth scarring the shoreline of Lake Victoria, which borders Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Rising sea temperatures are also among the threats to Africa‘s lush east coast, the main survival line of poor coastal communities who depend solely on fisheries and tourism. Morgan sums up the effects: ‗‘On the whole, the results have been loss of lives, destruction of property, injury and hardship inflicted on humanity, underscoring the fact that global warming is both a reality and a phenomenon that begs for collective action.‘‘
It is against this backdrop that stakeholders continue to evolve strategies to contend with the challenges of how to mitigate the effects of global warming.
Expectedly, more attention has been on such vulnerable areas as Africa, already scarred by deforestation, poor soil health and drought.
The strategies are contained in some protocols and conventions among which are the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols, targeted at reducing the emission of carbon dioxide globally.
The Kyoto Protocol, for instance, aims at curbing the air pollution blamed for global warming, requiring countries to cut the emission of carbon dioxide and other green house gases.
Kyoto, which became legally binding on February 16, 2005, demands a 5.2 per cent cut in gas emissions from the industrialised world by 2012.
But observers say that the protocols have in most cases failed to achieve set emission targets because the countries adopted a laid back approach to meeting set objectives. In particular, countries, notably the worst polluters, have continued to place their economies above the commitments to the protocols, thereby jeopardising their realisation, much to the chagrin of most developing countries and environmentalists. But for many environmental experts, the new initiative tagged ‗‘Plant a billion trees,‘‘
launched at the 12th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto
Protocol in Nairobi in 2006, seems to hold the key to checking devastation by global warming.
The campaign, fashioned after the works of a Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wangari Maathai, and sponsored by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), hopes to realise the target of planting one billion trees by the end of 2007.
Maathai said that the vital importance of voluntary collective action in the fight against climate change was being undertaken with the launch of the campaign which, she noted, was an action the world must take today to preserve the climate for future generations.
She said that the target of 2007 was achievable if one billion people out of the world‘s
estimated population of six billion ‗‘dig a hole, put a tree in it and water it.‘‘
The campaign is premised on the science of using trees as ‗carbon sinks‘ whereby they soak up carbon dioxide and release it into the atmosphere as oxygen.
According to UNEP, rainforests cover only seven per cent of the land on earth but contain nearly half of all the trees on earth and generate about 40 per cent of the world‘s oxygen.
‗‘In one year, an average tree inhales 12 kg (26 pounds) of carbon dioxide and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year,‘‘ UNEP says.
Recognising that there were many tree planting schemes round the world, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said recently that achieving set targets under the campaign must not be confined to the corridors of the negotiation halls. ‗‘They must offer a direct and straight forward path toward recreating lost forests and developing new ones.‘‘
He said that the focus should also be on addressing other concerns such as the loss of bio-diversity, improving water availability, stemming desertification and reducing erosion. Steiner spoke further: ‗‘The billion tree campaign is an acronym, but it can also be practically and symbolically a significant expression of our common determination to make a difference in developing and developed countries alike.‘‘
According to him, the world has a short time to avert serious consequences as a result of climate change.
Under the initiative, people, communities, businesses and industry, the civil society and government are being encouraged to make commitments to planting trees. Prince Albert 11 of Monaco says one of the primary aims of the campaign is to create an unprecedented mobilisation in favour of the environment.
Albert, who is the patron of the initiative, says that the project will encourage and coordinate the planting of local species initiated by governments, NGOs, communities and even children.
‗‘The campaign is a simple gesture, yet a strong symbol of sustainable development,‘‘ he says.
Al Gore, former U.S. Vice-President, lent credence to the efficacy of tree planting last year when he said that ‗‘the symbolism and substantive significance of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on earth.
‗‘It is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions to the environmental crisis.‘‘
In Nigeria, governments at various levels have in the past two decades embraced tree planting campaigns aimed at greening the desert, checking desertification, degradation and erosion in most parts of the country.
However, the campaign, experts note, has degenerated into an annual fanfare without sustainable strategies to ensure that the campaign succeeds.
Dr Tony Nyong, an environmentalist with the International Development Research Centre, describes the tree planting campaign in Nigeria as ‗‘a mere jamboree‘‘.
Nyong says that the present campaign needs to be overhauled and plants such as palm trees be included in the campaign in view of their economic potential. On a debit side, however, a recent research by scientists at the Nairobi-based World Agro Forestry Centre, appears to question the benefits of the ‗plant a billion tree campaign‘ as it claims that trees utilise more water than hitherto believed.
The research notes that trees such as Eucalyptus consume as much as 2,000 litres of water daily while Pinus Patula consumes between 500 and 1,000 litres daily. Thus, the implication of planting trees such as Eucalyptus under the campaign is that watershed management will be under serious threat if one million of such species are included in the campaign, the research says.
Plantations of thirsty trees, according to the research, funded by the Swedish International Developmental Agency, will only be viable in high rainfall areas where ground water is more readily available.
One of the lead scientists in the research, Dr Chin Ong, says that the ‗plant one billion tree campaign‘ must, therefore, target local species that will not pose any threat to the watershed.
He advises stakeholders to identify such local tree species that will not only conserve water for the needs of the rural populace, but also assist in scaling up their livelihood. While environmentalists are not in a hurry to dismiss the findings of this research, they still insist that the world will be better off with more trees and challenge humanity to plant as many as possible.
Abutu writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
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