Government must secure stronger protection for rainforests say MPs

By staff writers
June 29, 2009

A committee of MPs has warned that developed countries must change their patterns of consumption in order to prevent deforestation and tackle climate change.

It comes after work by campaigners, including the Catholic Aid agency Cafod, who supported the visit of a world renowned Brazilian activist. The activist told MPs that the world’s rainforests cannot be put under further pressure from multinational companies or illegal loggers and miners.

An area of forest the size of England is lost each year and deforestation is the third largest source of greenhouse gases globally, producing more emissions than transport.

The Commons environmental audit committee warned today that deforestation remained “a huge threat to the global climate".

Their report, published today (Monday) followed last week's launch of the government's climate change plan.

Ahead of December's global climate change talks in Copenhagen, the committee called on the government to lobby for an agreement to reduce the economic incentives for deforestation.

MPs urged the government to set limits to the demand for the commodities which cause deforestation and backed action to protect rainforest communities.

Governments of developed nations were advised to provide a mechanism to pay for reforestation in poorer nations.

The report urged the government to work with the rest of EU to reduce the demand for products causing deforestation, including banning the import of illegal timber.

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, from the Yanomami people in the Amazon who has been dubbed ‘the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest’ had given a stark warning to MPs that any climate change initiatives would be jeopardised if the rainforests were not protected.

Campaigners say that rainforests are a vital defence in tackling climate change. They provide critical ecosystem benefits for the whole world by storing water, regulating rainfall and providing a home to over half the planet’s biodiversity.

Rainforests absorb almost 20 per cent of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions every year, while tropical deforestation anually releases an extra 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometres of forest - an area larger than Greece. At current rates, over half the entire Amazon rainforest may be gone in 20 years time.

As the spiritual leader and head of his indigenous community, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, told MPs on 10th June that the world’s rainforests cannot be put under further pressure from multinational companies or illegal loggers and miners.

Dr Mike Edwards, CAFOD’s Climate Change Advisor, said: “We need to listen to people such as Davi who are warning us that our resource-consuming behaviour is destroying the ecosystems upon which all life depends. Climate change is a clear indication that we in Western industrialised societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth. If we choose not to heed Davi’s words, then we will be facing a very bleak future.”

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