23 January 2009

Cameroon: Climate Change Threatens Humanity More Than HIV/Aids - British MPs

Some seven senior British Parliamentarians currently visiting Cameroon have warned that climate change is a jinx that threatens humanity more than HIV/AIDS.

The MPs, who met with the President of the National Assembly, Hon. Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, and the Prime Minister, Ephraim Inoni, January 19, are in Cameroon for a five-day fact finding mission on the sustainable exploitation of forest resources and the protection of the environment.

Speaking to the press, the leader of the delegation, Hon. Timothy Stephen Kenneth Yeo, who is the chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee in the British House of Commons, said climate change is a threat to humanity and all hands must be put on deck to fight it.

He said they were concerned about the efforts that Cameroon is making to cut down the rate of deforestation, which fuels climate change.Earlier, the seven-man delegation held discussions with Cameroonian MPs led by Deputy Speaker, Hon. Rose Abunaw. They wanted to know how committed the various stakeholders in the country are in the fight against deforestation.

Hon. Jean Jacques Zam, the Regional Coordinator of the Central African Network of Parliamentarians for the Sustainable Management of Congo Basin Moist Forest Ecosystems, and Hon. Cyprian Awudu Mbaya, the country Coordinator of the African Parliamentary Network on Climate Change, briefed their visitors on the strength and weaknesses of the fight against deforestation in Cameroon.

They thanked the British government for enabling them win major battles in the fight for sustainable forest exploitation and environmental protection.Meanwhile, at the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, January 20, the Minister, Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, expressed gratitude to the British Government for the diverse support so far accorded to Cameroon's forestry sector. He said the mission of MINFOF centres around rational management of the forests and resources.

The Ministry, Ngolle Ngolle noted, has five technical services, ten regional and divisional delegations spread across the country while some 2000 personnel are directly employed by the state in that Ministry.

Ngolle Ngolle said his ministry is working to ensure that the local population benefits from forest exploitation. He also noted that logging companies are bound in line with the 1994 forestry law to provide basic infrastructures for the local population in their respective areas of operation.

In the same vein, he announced that some 160 community forests have been created from which the population concerned derive some benefits. He also talked of forest royalties paid to councils and the local population by the state as some of the benefits of forest exploitation.

In their stop over at the Ministry of Environment and the Protection of Nature, MINEP, its Minister, Pierre Helé, dwelled on the environmental concern of his ministry when its comes to forest exploitation. He said they strongly recommend the exportation of timber exploited from forestry concessions where environmental norms are respected.

He explained that when projects under implementation are contrary to environmental prescriptions, his ministry steps in to call for modifications or outright cancellations of such operations.

In reaction to what both ministries are doing to fight against deforestation, Ngolle Ngolle said about 70 percent of Cameroon's forests are under management plans. He noted that as much as 2.3 million trees were planted as part of the re-afforestation programme in 2008 while some 3 million more trees would be planted in 2009.

He also talked of sanctions meted out to defaulting logging companies for contravening the forestry law in the course of their operations.Pierre Helé in response to the same worry from the MPs, said countries of the Congo Basin Rainforest have raised the issue of compensation to countries engaged in forest conservation in the sub-region with western nations several times with no positive reaction registered yet.

He expressed surprise that only a single global project of re-afforestation could be identified in China and urged nations of the world to move away from rhetoric into real action.

He, however, thanked the British government for providing FCFA 500 million to foster conservation efforts in the Congo Basin Rainforest.Other members of the delegation included Hon. Colin Robert Challen; Hon. David Michael Chaytor; Hon. Mark Lazarowitz; Hon. Desmond Stanley Turner; Hon. Jo Swinson; Hon. Joan Walley; Hon. Anne-Marie Griffiths and Hon. Oliver Giles Bennet.

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