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Climate change and desertification two sides of same coin

by Staff Writers
Madrid (AFP) Sept 13, 2007
Climate change and desertification are two sides of the same coin and must be tackled together, according to participants at the Madrid conference on desertification.

"These two issues are very intimately related in the way you can describe them as two halfs of a coin," according to Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Spanish Environment Minister Cristina Narbona also addressed the twin problem during a round table discussion Wednesday on "desertification and adaptation to climate change" at the UN-sponsored conference which opened on September 3.

"Desertification, the loss of biodiversity and climate change are three inextricably linked aspects" of the problem being addressed at the conference by ministers and scientists from around the globe, according to de Boer.

"Climate change already has had a major impact on desertification and what the scientists are telling us is that if we fail on climate change the impact in terms of desertification is going to be much worse because you'll see changes in rainfall pattern leading to more desertification," said de Boer, a Dutchman.

"Not putting in place renewable sources of energy will lead to people cutting more trees to produce fire wood and contribute to further desertification. About 80 percent of deforestation in tropical areas is caused by people gathering fire wood simply to cook their food," de Boer added.

Guatemalan Environment Minister Juan Mario Dary Fuentes illustrated the link between poverty, deforestation and desertification, a phenomenon threatening an estimated 48 percent of his country's surface area.

Portuguese Environment Minister Humberto Rosa, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, meanwhile said standing up to creeping deforestation, fighting poverty and pushing more sustainable development could help solve the problem.

According to Narbona, there is no need for a new convention to combat climate change and desertification.

Rather, "we must improve existing mechanisms."

Spain is all too aware of the urgency to act with one third of its territory facing desertification which requires action such as more efficient watering of crops and better desalinisation techniques for seawater supplies.

In de Boer's view, what is in short supply is "the application and concrete realisation of policies."

This eighth conference bringing together the 191 signatory nations to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCDD) will at the end of the conference on Friday seek to ratify a ten-year action plan to combat desertification.

De Boer said he hoped that this conference would lead ultimately to the "revitalisation" of a strategy to combat desertification and climate change.

What is needed, he said, is concrete "policy implementation and actually doing things.

"This conference is important because it is looking at a revitalised strategy for this convention and it is discussing the budget that will have to make that revitalised strategy possible," de Boer said, predicting a new strategy whose success would depend ultimately on its financial clout.

"It will be interesting to see at the end of the meeting if we arrive at a situation where countries say 'yes, we like this new strategy and we are willing to pay for its implementation'," he said.

De Boer concluded that the conference would, having underlined the link between climate change and desertification, stress that nations "need to act on those two issues in synergy."

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Slash global meat consumption to tackle climate change: Lancet paper
Paris (AFP) Sept 13, 2007
People in rich countries should limit their meat-eating to the equivalent of one hamburger per person per day to help stave off global warming, a study published by the Lancet on Thursday suggests.

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