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MDG to be replaced

03 December 2012, The Zimbabwean

Addressing the media on the sidelines of the Forest Day 6, held on 2 December 2012 in Doha, Qatar in conjunction with the UNFCC COP18, Hongbo says climate change confronts society with a range of uncertainties.

The 2012 Forest Day brought together over 600 scientists, delegates and other interested people under the title “Living Landscapes.” “One thing is very clear. We as an international community are at a very critical juncture in our social and economic development”.

He stressed the importance of pushing forward on implementation of the MDGs, but at the same time pointed to the emergence of new challenges. “During the past few years, we have witnessed a lot of new challenges, for instance shortage of energy, the food crisis, shortage of clean and drinking water, which all point to an essential issue, whether we are going to have sustainable development or not.”

Sustainable development, with its three interlinked dimensions of social and economic development, and environmental protection is foremost on our list of priorities as the United Nations, he added.

“In the case of agriculture and forestry, demand for goods and services is expected to increase over the next decades, as the world’s population grows. At the same time, the sectors are likely to undergo changes in climate which vary significantly within individual countries, let alone across larger geographical areas,” Hongbo added.

He added that forests are also vital renewable resources for industry, and they provide globally important environmental services. “For long-term sustainability, balancing the needs of large and small producers is not easy, but there is growing evidence that giving people well-defined forest-user rights enables them to improve their livelihoods and manage forests sustainably,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report that more than a billion of the world’s poorest people rely on forests and trees on farms to provide food, energy and cash income. But more than 13 million hectares of forest are lost each year worldwide.

Addressing the same media event, Uganda’s Minister of Water and Environment, Ephraim Kamuntu said as Africa struggles to feed a growing population without expanding into forests and scrubland, policymakers need to consider making more efficient use of land and relocating agriculture to non-forest or degraded landscapes.

Kamuntu added that Africa has been faced by climate change throughout the centuries. “Nature has adapted, and farmers have always reacted to changing weather patterns. The uncertain and unpredictable incidence of rainfall and extremes of temperature have always meant that decisions on sowing, managing and harvesting crops have to be kept constantly under review.”

He said as leaders decent to Doha for COP18 they must put differences aside and make sure that local community benefit from preserving their natural resources. “While there are many ways to work towards a balance between food security conservation, they say, support from policy makers is needed to increase momentum,” Kamuntu added.

Hongbo added that current understanding of climate change, and projections of its impacts over the decades to come, indicate a far higher level of uncertainty in the future. “This has implications across all sectors of economic and social activity, for agriculture and forestry, it points to changes in weather patterns taking place more rapidly, and with more powerful effects, than in recent experience.”

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