Expert gives call to action over mass forest loss

THE secretary general of the Commonwealth gave a "call to arms" for the world to tackle deforestation at the start of a major conference in Edinburgh yesterday.

Kamalesh Sharma warned 25,000 square kilometres of forest is being destroyed every year in Commonwealth countries alone and said time was running out to reverse the trend of "environmental vandalism".

He said forestry represented the "front line" in the battle against climate change.

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"The judges of our action or inaction will not be our peers but our children and our grand children," he said.

Mr Sharma gave the keynote speech at the start of the five-day Commonwealth Forestry Conference. Delegates from 40 countries gathered at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

The Prince of Wales addressed the conference using a video message, warning that forests continued to be lost at an "alarming rate, driven largely by the insatiable appetite of agribusiness for new land".

He added: "To carry on as we are is surely to court disaster."

Roseanna Cunningham, environment minister, told delegates Scotland was setting an example by aiming to increase forest cover from 17 per cent to 25 per cent by 2050 - by planting an extra 1.34 million hectares of trees.