Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 13:46 UK

Peru sets up environment ministry

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Sunset in the Amazon region of Peru
Peru contains the largest area of Amazon rainforest outside Brazil

Peru has created its first environment ministry, on the eve of a joint Latin American and European Union summit expected to focus on climate change.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia said the new ministry would help protect the nation's Amazon rainforest.

A scientific study has said that Peru - which is hosting this week's summit - is one of the three nations that will be most affected by global warming.

Many Peruvians will see the foundation of the ministry as long overdue.

Peru's Andes mountains are the home of more than half the world's tropical glaciers, but it is estimated that in 25 years time they will be gone.

The glaciers supply rivers which provide water for farms and people on the arid Pacific coast, where almost three-quarters of Peru's population live.

On the other side of the Andes lies the biggest stretch of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil's, an area which Mr Garcia says - with the creation of the environment ministry - will be preserved for its important role in combating climate change.

Economic concern

Mr Garcia said European and Latin American leaders meeting in Peru this week should promote reforestation and carbon trading to cut greenhouse gases.

He also urged world leaders to create a global reforestation fund financed by a fossil fuels tax.

However, some say the new environment ministry has been hastily put together in time for the summit and because it was a requirement of a bilateral trade deal with the US.

Peru - a major minerals exporter - had been worried that a ministry could slow existing mining projects and deter investment in its vast reserves of copper, zinc and gold.

But preserving the environment is now an economic concern.

A recent study predicted that Andean countries could lose $30bn (15bn) in the next 20 years because of climate change.

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