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. G8 meeting vows action on logging, climate change in Africa
LONDON (AFP) Mar 18, 2005
A Group of Eight (G8) ministerial meeting wrapped up on Friday with the promise of action on illegal forestry and help for African countries likely to bear the brunt of climate change.

In a statement issued at the end of a two-day gathering in central England, G8 environment and development ministers agreed to help poor countries combat illegal logging and trade in poached timber.

"We will share our technical knowledge, help develop tools and build the capacity to detect and prevent illegal logging and apprehend and prosecute offenders," the statement said.

"This will include remote sensing, Geographical Information Systems and other systems to monitor forest activities and conditions."

The statement said the eight industrialised countries would "take steps" to halt the import and marketing of illegal timber.

But the communique made no specific pledge of money.

It added "each country (will be) acting where it can contribute most effectively" and national actions on imports would be "consistent" with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The wording appears to have been a compromise between European G8 members, which pushed for an international agreement among countries that consume tropical timber for halting imports of illegally forested wood, and the United States, which strongly opposed this idea.

Green activists who followed the meeting said the talks had to be extended by a couple of hours on Friday to bridge this divide.

"This is a fairly weak statement. We are disappointed," Patrick Venditti, Greenpeace UK's forestry spokesman, told AFP. "This is a global problem which need a global response."

On global warming, the statement said "further international action is required to address climate change" and vowed to help countries, especially those in Africa, that are particularly vulnerable to it.

The main focus will be on providing equipment and training for African scientists so that countries can "understand and manage" climate risks.

Poor tropical countries are predicted by scientists to bear the brunt of climate change.

The main risk is through changes of rainfall patterns that will translate into drought and flood, as well as more frequent and more severe storms. Most African nations lack the money and human resources to adapt to this threat.

The communique made no mention of the Kyoto Protocol, the UN treaty to combat the fossil-fuel gases that are causing the problem.

The Protocol entered force in February after a marathon effort to decide its complex rulebook, and surviving a walkout by the United States, which says its provisions are too costly for its oil-dependent economy.

The communique was issued after a meeting in the village of Breadsall, near the city of Derby, that was also attended by the European Commissioners for the environment and development and officials from the United Nations, World Bank and World Conservation Union (IUCN), a Swiss-based agency that identifies threatened species.

Its conclusions will be handed for endorsement by the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, from July 6-8.

The G8 is chaired by Britain this year, under a rotating presidency. Its other members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

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