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New report highlights importance of cutting greenhouse gases, UN official says

New report highlights importance of cutting greenhouse gases, UN official says

A new report published today warning that 1 million species are threatened with extinction unless greenhouse gases are drastically reduced prompted the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to reiterate the importance of bringing into force the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement meant to cut emissions.

"If 1 million species become extinct as a result of global warming, it is not just the plant and animal kingdoms and the beauty of the planet that will suffer," UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer warned. "Billions of people, especially in the developing world, will suffer too as they rely on nature for such essential goods and services as food, shelter and medicines. Many developing countries also rely on nature-based tourism to generate much-needed foreign exchange earnings."

The paper, published in the scientific journal Nature, found that 15 to 37 per cent of all species in the six regions studied - representing one-fifth of the planet's land area - could become extinct under the mid-range climate warming scenarios that are likely to occur between now and 2050.

In contrast, if minimum, rather than maximum, climate warming is achieved, 15 to 20 per cent more of all land species could potentially be saved from extinction. The study, which drew the largest collaboration of scientists ever, projected the future distribution of 1,103 plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, butterflies and other invertebrates.

"Unbridled climate change is the spectre haunting many of the objectives enshrined in…the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in areas such as biodiversity, but also in ones such as water and sanitation," Mr. Toepfer said. "Unfortunately, this alarming report underlines again to the world the importance of brining into force the Kyoto Protocol."