By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Uganda’s water and environment minister, Maria Mutagamba, has said a global agreement should be designed to help cut down deforestation that contributes to global warming. Mutagamba was speaking at the high level segment of the United Nations (UN) climate talks in Durban attended by top UN diplomats, heads of state, and ministers of environment and country delegates in the ongoing 17th conference of parties (COP17) to UN framework on climate change (UNFCC) negotiations.
She said this in regard to the UN collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in Developing Countries. Forests play a vital role in stabilizing global climate increases since they store large quantities of carbon, both in the trees and vegetation itself and within the soil in the form of decaying plant matter. When forests destroyed more carbon escape into the atmosphere increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and accelerating the rate of climate change. So REDD was introduced to encourage countries to protect their forests and get a motivation fee for the amount of carbon trapped.
Mutagamba said while efforts are being made to implement REDD mainly in developing countries “any agreement should be designed to stop deforestation and degradation, not simply reduce or defer emissions.” She added that: “real solutions are needed to stop deforestation to tackle its underlying drivers.” The minister listed poverty, population explosion and lack of alternative livelihoods as major drivers of deforestation in Uganda.
Massive felling of trees on Elgon Mountain has been associated with the recent landslides that caused extensive harm to people’s livelihoods in the area. Studies show that between 1990 and 2005, Uganda lost 26.3% of its remaining forest cover, and today deforestation continues at an unabated rate of 2.2% annually. In 2009 the National Environment Management Authority issued a report in which it said Uganda was at a dire risk of losing 38% its forest cover by 2020.
Mutagamba, who was giving government’s position less than 48 hours to the conclusion of the 2 weeks COP17 negotiations, said Uganda endorses the second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, which commits nations to reduce their carbon emissions, and establishing a working green climate fund to help the poor nations adapt to vagaries of climate change, largely caused by industrialized countries.