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Saturday, June 21, 2008

UN urges RP youth: Plant a tree every year

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:01:00 06/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines--A high-level United Nations official on biodiversity called on the Filipino youth Friday to ride "the green wave" and take part in global efforts to protect all life on earth as the world counts down to 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.

Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also called on more Asian leaders to agree to a plan to end deforestation by 2020 to slow down the destruction of plants and animals.

Djoghlaf called on Filipino school children to plant a tree every year on May 22, the International Day for Biodiversity, and join the billion-signature campaign to protect the global ecosystem.

"All schools of the world will be planting trees at 10 a.m. every 22nd of May of every year. A tree is the most beautiful symbol of nature. It provides enough oxygen for a family of five," he said.

About 80 percent of the world's known biodiversity could be found in forests, where about 1.6 billion people also depend for their survival, Djoghlaf told a news conference at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City Friday.


"The project to stop deforestation by 2020 is feasible, it's doable," he added.

The UN official said the world was losing around 13 million hectares of its forest cover every year, about the size of 36 football fields a minute. About 95 countries have totally lost their forests, he added.

Launched by the CBD secretariat in a biodiversity summit in Bonn, Germany last month, the Green Wave is "a multi-year tree-planting campaign" that engages children and students around the world to plant important tree species in their campuses, said the Asean Center for Biodiversity (ACB).

The ACB called the Green Wave a "fun and exciting way... for children and the youth to make a difference one step at a time."

"We hope all schools in the Philippines will take part in this and unite the new generation to bring nature into schools," Djoghlaf said.

He also encouraged Filipinos to sign up online in a campaign for a billion signatures to support the green wave. The document will be presented before world leaders attending the 2010 Conference of Partners (COP) of CBD's 191 signing countries in Nagoya, Japan.

The event is expected to bring heads of states together in drafting a goal for the protection of the world's plant and marine species in the coming decades, among them a goal for "zero net deforestation by 2020," said Djoghlaf.

"What is lost in the Philippines, what is lost in the Asean is lost for the world. One square meter of tropical forest in the Philippines, or Indonesia, or Malaysia has the biodiversity of the entire United Kingdom," said the UN official, emphasizing the importance of the country's natural habitat.

ACB Executive Director Rodrigo Fuentes also said the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia were among the world's top "megadiverse" countries. At the same time, the three Asean nations were also among 25 biodiversity hotspots or places at risk of species loss.

Fuentes said Southeast Asia could "have three-fourths less forest cover and 42 percent less biodiversity by 2010" at the current rate of logging, forest fires and problematic land use, among others.

Djoghlaf said forest fires destroyed about 10 million hectares in Southeast Asia between 1997 and 2006.

Today, more trees are being felled due to shifting agricultural practices, illegal lumber trade and large-scale mining.

Global warming and climate change are environmental phenomena intertwined with the world's decreasing biodiversity, according to the UN official.

"The loss of biodiversity is making climate change more complicated... The melting of glaciers liberated tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide). Because of [this], icebergs, the poles in general, oceanic composition will change... There will be more fresh water than marine water," Djoghlaf said, explaining the risks that climate change poses on the planet's marine and plant life.

With a report from Reuters