Peru creates environment ministry as glaciers melt

Undated file photo of 19,000 foot (5,800 meters)-high Alpamayo Mountain, in Huaraz, northeast of Lima. REUTERS/Renzo Uccelli

LIMA (Reuters) - President Alan Garcia on Tuesday created the first environment ministry in Peru, where scientists say climate change is hitting hard because of the Andean country’s rich biodiversity.

Peru’s melting glaciers, propped high in the Andes mountains, have just 25 years left until they run dry, putting the water security of farms and populations on the country’s desert coast along the Pacific Ocean at risk, research shows.

“The environment ministry will ... allow us to defend Peru against global warming, the lack of fresh water and glacial destruction,” Garcia told reporters.

European and Latin American leaders meeting in Peru later this week should work to promote reforestation efforts and carbon trading systems to cut greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming, he said.

Preserving Peru’s vast Amazon rainforest plays a valuable role helping to combat climate change by absorbing carbon, and Garcia called on leaders to create a global reforestation fund financed by a fossil fuels tax.

Many mining companies operating in Peru, a major global minerals producer, opposed the creation of the ministry, arguing the new agency would create red tape, slow existing projects and discourage new investment in sprawling copper, zinc and gold mines.

Environmentalists pushed Peru to form the ministry, though it could take several years before it is up and running.

Reporting by Marco Aquino and Dana Ford; editing by Terry Wade and Todd Eastham