Looking to beat back encroaching desert, Chile preserves forests

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 19, 2015 2:09 PM

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - As part of efforts to counteract desertification and erosion brought about by climate change, Chile will invest $250 million to plant vast tracks of native forest, the national forestry agency said on Friday.

Home to the Atacama desert, the world's driest, Chile will plant trees on 100,000 hectares. The forestry agency Conaf will also incorporate a similar amount of forest in the 13 million hectares it already manages as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"Some $1.5 billion have been provided in recent years to recover lands, in areas like forestry, prairies, and agricultural lands," Conaf head Arron Cavieres said.

Chile is the world's top copper producer, accounting for around one-third of global supply, and also a leading exporter of wood pulp, wine, salmon and agricultural products.

A drought, which began in 2007, is hampering copper production in Chile, leading to forest fires, driving energy prices higher and hampering agriculture.

Scientists say there is a long-term trend of increasingly drier conditions, linked to climate change.

Pope Francis demanded swift action on Thursday to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear "the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" and plunging the Catholic Church into political controversy over climate change. Most Chileans identify themselves as Catholic.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Grant McCool)