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Endnotes on the environment year

Richard Black | 10:10 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

It's the time of year when this middle-aged man's thoughts, at least, turn to dark puddings and the laughter of children.

Christmas pudBut the end of the year is also a time for tidying up loose ends. And before I put the laptop down, give the mouse a few days off the lead and recharge all the batteries that need it, there are a few things I wanted to set down here.

First, a big thank you to everyone who's taken the time to read and post comments on this blog. It's a new venture for me, but one thing I'm already am sure of - the more discussion we can have, the better the reading will be.

Secondly, an apology to everyone whose e-mails I've failed to reply to over the year. On an average day I receive 150-odd, and unfortunately there are days and weeks when I just don't have time to reply - which is especially galling when they are as nice as they were in response to the story that I enjoyed writing most during the year.

From my perspective, 2008 has provided something of a breathing space in a calendar that is becoming more and more dominated by climate change.

2007 saw the chain of IPCC reports and the key UN climate summit in Bali; and 2009 should see the crafting of a new global climate pact that in its complexity and breadth will make the Kyoto Protocol look like an infant's plaything.

A journalist has to follow the big political and social stories and big set-piece events, and that can leave precious little time for anything else.

The last year has been slightly quieter on the climate front, which has meant a little more time for covering the other environmental issues that don't so often make headlines.

The ongoing loss of global biodiversity is one; another is the steady growth in the world's population - and therefore consumption - that could undermine progress in other areas.

AmazonDeforestation remains a cross-cutting issue, impinging on biodiversity, water resources, climate change, and the livelihoods of people who depend directly on the forest.

These are all issues we have tried to highlight over the year, although I fear climate change has still probably emerged as the issue covered most often.

One aspect of climate politics that has largely escaped comment over the year is that 2008 marks the beginning of the Kyoto Protocol's first "commitment period" - the time by which the reductions are supposed to be made.

The protocol prescribed cuts by the period 2008-12; no longer is it a future target. It is a sobering thought.

Climate change has real political momentum now, and is showing signs of dragging deforestation along with it, albeit in a way that presents some social and ecological difficulties.

But on other issues such as biodiversity loss and the over-exploitation of fisheries there is still far less little discernible political movement at the global level.

In terms of the BBC's coverage of the environment, 2008 saw the initiation of this blog and also the introduction of video to the website on a much more structured basis, which I hope enhances our reporting of the nature end of the issue, such as my colleague Becky Morelle's venture into the frog habitats of Costa Rica.

Despite these changes, there is still far more information coming in than we manage to translate into news stories, and if we've missed issues and events during the year that you felt important, apologies.

So, my best wishes to you over the Christmas period. May it be white if you want it white, green if you want it green, and a hazy blur if that's what you prefer.

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