Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mekong climate change risk, WWF warns

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

by Staff Writers
Bangkok (UPI) Oct 6, 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

The World Wildlife Fund called for Asia's first regional climate change adaptation agreement in the Greater Mekong region.
The area -- which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southwest provinces of China -- is already strongly affected by climate change, and a lack of immediate action will come at great cost to the Mekong nations, states a WWF report released Monday in Bangkok, while the U.N. climate change talks were still in progress.

The WWF report, "The Greater Mekong And Climate Change: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Development at Risk," says the region, covering an area of 600,000 square kilometers, is to undergo major changes caused by climate change.

"Greater regional cooperation and coordination among Mekong nations is necessary to best cope with the impacts of climate change," said Geoffrey Blate, Climate Change Coordinator for the WWF Greater Mekong Program, Xinhua reports.

Over the last 50 years, average daily temperatures across Southeast Asia have increased between 0.5 and 1.5 centigrade. By the end of this century, the report says, temperatures in the Greater Mekong region are predicted to rise between 2 to 4 centigrade. WWF said that the region's coastal communities are threatened by a rise in sea levels, and changes to the climate are stressing ecosystems.

The region is home to more than 300 million people. Also known for its rich biodiversity, some 1,000 new species were discovered in Mekong during the last 10 years.

Land is being lost in coastal zones of the Greater Mekong, WWF said, and glacial melting in the Himalayas may impact the region's major rivers. Wetlands will either dry up or become flooded out, WWF predicts.

The WWF report calls for implementing a regional climate change adaptation agreement and for a reduction in non-climate stresses such as unsustainable infrastructure.

"There is a leadership opportunity here to champion what would be Asia's first regional climate change adaptation agreement to help Greater Mekong nations prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change," said Blate.

WWF also called for decisive action on a global scale to avoid the consequences of climate change. It urged world leaders to strike an ambitious and fair agreement on a climate treaty at the U.N.-backed talks in Copenhagen in December.

"Rich and developed nations must make deep emission cuts and commit to significant financial help to assist vulnerable regions such as the Greater Mekong," said Kim Carstensen, who heads up WWF's Global Climate Initiative, Xinhua reports.

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