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Environmentalists Blame Canada

February 12, 2000

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Environmentalists have accused Canada of trying to block a U.N. forum on protecting the world’s forests in a bid to defend its logging interests.

This week, negotiators attending a U.N. meeting finalized a proposal to create a standing U.N. body called the U.N. Forum on Forests, which would work to implement existing international agreements.

However, a demand by Canada that a new treaty be negotiated stalled final approval for the U.N. forum Thursday night, and forced negotiations to continue through the night Friday.

Canada has for years called for a special treaty on forest preservation, saying the existing conventions aren’t working.

Environmental activists, however, oppose launching talks on a new treaty, arguing it would divert attention and money from implementing existing conventions on forest protection drawn up at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and subsequent U.N. meetings.

In addition, they fear a new treaty would enable Canada and its supporters to put logging practices into law that they say are depleting the world’s tropical forests at a rate of one acre per second.

``We believe that that will be a `talk and log’ scenario,″ said Paul Hohnen, political adviser of the environmental group Greenpeace International.

Calls to Canada’s U.N. mission were not returned Friday.

At a news conference on Friday, Greenpeace and representatives from other environmental groups said Canada, under pressure from its powerful timber industry, was only interested in delaying preservation _ not making it more effective.

``We feel that embarking on the journey of another convention, which would take so many years, is likely to detract people’s attention from implementing actions on the ground,″ said Lambert Okrah, from Ghana’s Institute of Cultural Affairs.

``We are calling for immediate implementation for what has been agreed to,″ he said.

Hohnen said a possible outcome of the current negotiations would be an agreement setting up the U.N. forum with a pledge to consider launching the new treaty process within the next five years.

One-third of the planet is covered by forests, but almost 30 million acres are deforested every year _ mostly to clear land for agriculture, U.N. officials say.

The United Nations has promoted proposals for selective and sustainable logging, so that the remaining 20 percent of the Earth’s original forest cover is preserved.

Canada has received support in its stance from Russia and some other European Union nations. The United States, which is resistant to such international agreements, has opposed the move.

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