Greenpeace International today urged political leaders from Europe and Africa, attending a joint summit in Lisbon, to play an active role in ending tropical deforestation which accounts for roughly one-fifth of global greenhouse emissions.
Activists unfurled a banner on the Vasco Da Gama tower, overlooking the meeting, reading “Save the Climate - Save African forests” and urged the leaders to make an immediate commitment to protect Africa’s dwindling forests.
A recent briefing by Greenpeace outlines how climate change is a direct threat to Africa as the frequency of extreme events such as droughts and floods are expected to increase. Africa's intact rainforests act as a regulator of rainfall for the region. Acting as vast stores of carbon, which would otherwise be released as the global warming gas carbon dioxide, forests also help brake the further acceleration of climate change.
“Leaders in Lisbon have to exercise political muscle and immediately support a halt to deforestation in Africa,” said Stephan Van Praet, Africa forests campaign co-ordinator of Greenpeace International. “The second phase of the Kyoto Protocol is five years away and urgent measures are needed now to protect Africa’s forests and also ban illegal and destructive logging,” he added.
Greenpeace also wants government leaders in Lisbon to send a strong message to their delegations at the UN climate talks, being held in Bali, Indonesia, to include reductions in greenhouse gases from deforestation in the negotiating mandate for extending the Kyoto Protocol.
“European and African leaders need to send a clear signal to the Bali climate talks about the importance of ending deforestation,” said Van Praet. “Forest-rich nations, like those of Central Africa, stand to gain enormously if the extension of Kyoto includes a new international financing mechanism to protect forests and provide income to local communities,”
Earlier this week, in Bali, Greenpeace proposed a 'Tropical Deforestation Emissions Reduction Mechanism' combining market-based and central government funding which would reward and incentivise reductions in deforestation in development countries.
European countries, as major greenhouse gas emitters and consumers of tropical timber, have a responsibility to be more active in supporting African nations in the development of forest protection measures. One priority is legislation to prevent illegal timber from being sold on the European market. This would bolster Europe's credibility in efforts against both climate change and forest destruction.
Greenpeace believes it is possible to keep the worst impacts of climate change - such as extreme weather events, water crises and increased hunger - from putting millions of people at risk. This calls for a revolution in the production and use of energy, and a commitment to stop deforestation globally within 10 years. Governments must commit to bigger emissions reduction targets in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol in order to keep the rise in global mean temperature as far below a threshold of 2 degrees Celsius as possible.