By Nassim Khadem, Canberra
The Age
March 16, 2006

A leading British environmental scientist has urged the Australian Government to switch its focus from nuclear power and clean-coal technologies to renewable energies.

Norman Myers said he had raised the issue with federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell just two days ago.

Professor Myers was speaking yesterday at the National Press Club about the mass extinction of animal and plant species being a greater threat to the world than global warming.

Professor Myers, a visiting fellow of Oxford University, said despite Australia having vast amounts of coal and uranium available to export to countries such as China, it still needed to consider how it would produce energy beyond the fossil-fuel era. "I would suggest to Australia, as I did to the minister, that in anticipation of the end of the fossil fuel era Š Australia might want to develop an alternative energy strategy. That is, a clean and renewable source of technology."

Asked whether he agreed with the Australian Government that nuclear power was a possible way to reduce global warming, he said it was not safe and it would take at least 10 years before a nuclear power plant would be operational.

His comments came as Australia confirmed it was close to signing an agreement with China on the sale of uranium. Officials from both nations met in Beijing a fortnight ago for the latest round of negotiations.

Professor Myers, who has been a senior adviser on biodiversity to the United Nations, the World Bank and the White House, said Earth was experiencing the largest mass extinction of species in 65 million years. He said there were about 10 million species and half could be lost if governments did not act quickly.

Professor Myers is renowned for identifying "hot spots" -- homes to our most valuable animal and plant species -- in grave need of protection. There are
34 hot spots and only five countries have more than one. Australia has two: one in southern Western Australia and the other taking in forests on the east coast.

A UN meeting in Brazil next week will discuss reducing the loss of species by 2010.

Informant: NHNE


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