By Hugh Bronstein
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Peru will confront the deforestation of its Amazon region by issuing a decree next month putting palm oil plantations under federal rather than local authority, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said on Sunday.
With big areas of Peru already stripped of natural vegetation, largely due to farming, Pulgar-Vidal said it was important to strengthen regulations on palm oil. He expects the decree within two weeks. "It's ready to go," he said.
Demand for palm oil, a cash crop widely used in food and cosmetics, has fueled deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil plantations are relatively new to Peru and other South American countries.
"Part of the problem is that land use procedures are too easy in some cases, and managed by regional governments that are not strong enough to deal with the problem," Pulgar-Vidal said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Forests worldwide play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; chopping them down worsens global warming.
Over the last decade an average total of 13 million hectares
of forest have been cleared annually. Tropical forests are
"Since 2008 the national government has delegated land use decisions to regional authorities, including the right to offer palm oil concessions," Pulgar-Vidal said. "We recognize that was not a good decision."
"The idea of the new regulation is to have clearer land use rules, so that Palm oil plantation are limited to already-deforested areas of the country."
Forests cover 30 percent of the planet's surface and are
home to an estimated 350 million indigenous people whose
cultures and livelihoods depend upon them.
"In Peru the biggest driver of deforestation is migratory agriculture, mostly poor people who migrate from the Andes to the Amazon. Illegal mining is also a big problem," Pulgar-Vidal said. "The decree will affect everything related to land use ... I hope it will take effect in no more than two weeks."
(Additional reporting by Mitra Taj in Lima; Editing by Nick Zieminski)