Forests play key role against climate change, UN tells African-Near East meeting

19 February 2008 –

Sustainably managing the world’s forests is going to be crucial to combating and mitigating the effects of climate change, a United Nations official has told the largest-ever gathering of experts from national forestry and wildlife agencies in Africa and the Near East.

Jan Heino of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) yesterday told the first joint meeting between the agency’s Near East Forestry Commission and the Africa Forestry and Wildlife Commission, held in Khartoum, Sudan, of trees’ outsized impact on global warming.

“The forestry sector, mainly deforestation in tropical area, causes 17 per cent of global emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Mr. Heino, Assistant Director-General for Forestry at the FAO. “Sustainable forest management is a necessary component of a global strategy to combat climate change.”

This is particularly true in arid or semi-arid countries that do not have large tracts of forests, like many nations in the Near East, according to another FAO official at the meeting, Pape Djiby Koné.

During a series of meetings in Khartoum – the largest-ever gathering of the heads of national forestry and wildlife agencies in the two regions – the 160 experts from dozens of countries will discuss ways to resolve the conflict between humans and wildlife, which destroys hundreds of hectares of food crops in Africa annually.

In the Near East, most wood products are imported, with oil being the main source of energy, while 80 per cent of Africa’s wood is used to provide energy to the continent.

In a related development, the scientific arm of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity kicked off a five-day gathering in Rome to assess agricultural and forest biodiversity, which are being affected by climate change.

“The threats to biodiversity are also threats to food security,” Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Convention’s Executive Secretary said, stressing that one of the largest challenges facing mankind in the near future will be feeding billions of people while protecting biodiversity.

“The challenges are being compounded by the negative impact of climate change and accelerated urbanization,” he said.


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