LISBON Greenpeace urged European Union and African leaders meeting in Lisbon over the weekend to take urgent measures to stop the destruction of African forests which cause carbon emissions responsible for climate change.
"Leaders in Lisbon have to exercise political muscle and immediately support a halt to deforestation in Africa," said Stephan Van Praet, coordinator for the Greenpeace International Africa Forest Campaign.
Trees soak up carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- as they grow and release it when they rot or are burnt.
According to the United Nations, deforestation accounts for around 25 percent of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide -- roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by the United States, the world's largest polluter.
"It's clear they have to take urgent measures," he said.
Greenpeace activists unveiled a banner at Lisbon's Vasco da Gama tower on Friday that read: "Save the Climate-Save African forests." Stephan Van Praet said Greenpeace would continue with its campaign over the weekend in Lisbon.
Europe should also adopt legislation to prevent illegal timber from being imported into its market to bolster the continent's credibility in the fight against climate change and forest destruction, he said.
"If Europe wants to be responsible in the international market, they should start at home," he said.
The EU has set a goal of cutting emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of a drive to mitigate the consequences of climate change, which could mean more heatwaves, more disease, rising seas and droughts.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, editing by Henrique Almeida and Mary Gabriel.)