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Australia Plans Satellite System to Protect World's Forests


Australian officials are calling for global support for a satellite monitoring system to combat illegal logging and the destruction of forests in Asia and the Pacific. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

The Australian government hopes an international meeting this week in Sydney will generate support for its plan to reduce deforestation and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Canberra has pledged $175 million for a World Bank-backed fund to reduce forest destruction and illegal logging in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australian officials say that almost 4.5 million trees are destroyed around the world every day.

The government argues that if deforestation is halved, trees could absorb three billion more tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, or 10 percent of total emissions. Many scientists say the emissions, generally created by burning fuels such as oil and coal, contribute to global warming and climate change.

Canberra proposes a global network using satellite technology to monitor logging.

Speaking ahead of the start of the conference on Monday, Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it would test international support for his deforestation initiative.

"We are going to need technology, we're going to need money, we're going to need goodwill and a lot of cooperation," Turnbull said. "Some of the largest deforesters in the world will be there, in the sense that countries like Indonesia and Brazil, the countries of big tropical forests, where most of the deforestation is occurring, are going to be present."

The meeting in Sydney brings together officials from the China, Brazil, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the United States.

Environmentalists have criticized the Australian deforestation plan.

They say it relies on only voluntary measures to reduce deforestation without binding targets. It also is outside the United Nations' negotiations on slowing down the destruction of forests and natural vegetation.

Climate change is emerging as a pressing issue in this year's Australian election.

The environment will also be a key part of the agenda at September's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Sydney. Australia says the APEC meeting will focus on addressing climate change with the world's economic heavyweights - the U.S., Japan, China and India.

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