Mountainfolk make climate plea as UN talks approach climax

9th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Mountain communities and the UN on Thursday joined hands to warn of the "devastating" impact of global warming in mountain areas, as climate change talks draw to a close in Cancun.

In an appeal to mark world mountain day on Saturday, the UN Environment Programme, experts and people from Switzerland, Bhutan and Canada warned that climate change was already changing their landscape, livelihoods and sapping water supplies.

"I'm convinced that unless we as individuals but also governments wake up and do something about it, I'm afraid that for my two boys there will be not much left to ski or to climb," said Patrick Z'Brun, a mountain climber and winemaker in southwestern Switzerland's Valais region.

He said the warming climate had over the past decade moved his grape harvest foward a month to September and cut the water supplies available.

Z'Brun, who has scaled more than 500 peaks worldwide including Mount Everest, said melting snowfields and permafrost were also changing the game for climbers, who were left with crumbling rock in the summer climbing season.

"Many routes I climbed over the past 25 years can't be climbed any more or only in a different season," he said.

Lam Dorji, of Bhutan's Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, said melting glaciers and changing temperatures in the Himalayas had increased threats such as glacial lakes, and soil erosion in the east of the country.

"People used to have springs close to their communities. These have dried out and people have to move further to fetch water," he explained.

Mountains cover 20 percent of the earth's surface and are home to just 10 percent of the world's population but half of humanity depends on freshwater water from mountains, according to UNEP.

"While the international community continues to be deadlocked in its efforts to negotiate a new climate deal... UNEP wants to remind the world that the consequences of higher increase in temperature would be devastating for mountains, for the services they provide and for the large population who depend on them," said UNEP Europe director Christophe Bouvier.

A UN report released in Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday said mountain glaciers were melting fastest in southern South America and Alaska and communities urgently needed to adapt.

Climate negotiators have voiced hope that the talks between 190 countries would iron out differences to reach by Friday a limited accord on fighting deforestation and assisting poor countries worst hit by global warming.

© 2010 AFP

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