Amazon loses more forest while carbon-neutral movement grows, UN says

An ecological site in Amazon region

19 February 2009 – New releases from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today show two sides of the human effect on climate change, with a report revealing hastened degradation of the earth’s largest forest zone and the Danish city of Copenhagen becoming the 100th member of a climate-friendly network.

“Our Amazonia is changing at an accelerated rate with very profound modifications in its ecosystems,” the eight Amazonian countries declared in the GEO Amazonia report, supported by UNEP and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).

Despite the development of national programmes to manage the region’s ecosystems, economic activities, infrastructure construction, and human settlements are still decimating the great rain forest, vital to keeping atmospheric carbon down.

The report says that by 2005, 857,666 square kilometres of the forest had been transformed, reducing vegetation cover by approximately 17 per cent, equal to two-thirds of Peru or 94 per cent of Venezuela.

It recommends that the countries of the area – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela – harmonize their efforts for sustainable utilization of the Amazonian ecosystems.

It also called on them to bolster their environmental institutions, boost their information campaigns, promote the economic value of sustainability and create a monitoring and evaluation system for all policies, programmes and projects.

Meanwhile, UNEP announced today that Copenhagen, Denmark, which will host the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in less than 300 days, has become the 100th member of the Climate Change Network (CN Net).

Launched a year ago, the CN Net brings together a wide range of participants, including countries, cities, major international companies, UN agencies and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UNEP said.

“One year on, the unfolding financial and environmental crises make the CN Net more relevant than ever before as a showcase of both the promise and viability of the low-carbon development model which goes hand-in-hand with the emerging Green Economy initiatives around the globe,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said at the agency’s annual Governing Council meeting, taking place this week in Nairobi.

UNEP added that Copenhagen, under its vision of becoming a “climate capital of the world,” has already cut its CO2 emissions by one-fifth since 1990 and has pledged another 20 per cent cut by 2015.

The city will play host to a music and arts festival in September to be run entirely on renewable energy, including a dance party in which stationary bike teams will generate power for the sound system and ‘piezoelectricity’ created by dancing crowds will light up the dance floor.

In a related development, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said today that experts at a Geneva conference urged the world maritime shipping fleet to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of seaborne vessels, adding that dealing with climate change is a priority that should not be undermined by other concerns such as the current global financial crisis.

Engines of seaborne vessels now contribute between 1.6 and 4.1 per cent of the global output of CO2, speakers said at the three-day meeting entitled: “Maritime transport and the climate-change challenge.”


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