UN 'green helmets' to respond to eco-crises

UNITED NATIONS "green helmets" may be mobilised to fight environmental emergencies, said a top UN official.

Professor Klaus Topfer, the new head of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), told the Independent on Sunday last week that environmental crises such as the fires in Indonesia, which are threatening to be worse than last year, "need at least the same investment from the global family" as political ones such as Somalia, where blue-helmeted UN peacekeeping troops were mobilised.

Fires have also been raging out of control in the Amazon basin for two months. "We must be aware," said Prof Topfer, "that in the future there will be more and more environmental catastrophes, with big repercussions. We had blue helmets in Somalia, maybe we will need green helmets elsewhere." Last week he was put in charge of a global campaign to fight the Indonesian fires by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General.

Prof Topfer, a former German environment minister, is building on an idea put forward five years ago by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev to set up international emergency forces to tackle environmental crises.

The world's fireman, page 13

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