Brazil Proposes Fund to Protect Amazon


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November 11, 2006

OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet

The World and Brazil in particular have come a long way in recent years regarding acknowledging the need to protect the world's rainforests and climate, and developing policy sufficient for doing so. Not so long ago Brazil's government railed against any suggestion by the international community that the Amazon should be protected. Now at the international climate talks in Kenya the Brazilian government has asked "rich nations to back a plan to help it slow deforestation". Along with other tropical rainforest rich countries like Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, it has proposed that a fund be established "that developing countries can tap after they prove they have slowed initial deforestation rates".

This proposal definitely represents progress towards solving two of the world's most dire ecological crises - terrestrial habitat loss and global warming/heating. But as always with such proposals, the devil is in the details. Forest diminishment such as what is caused by "selective" logging and other industrial developments permanently lowers the ability of ancient forests to hold carbon. To be truly effective, such climate funding for forest conservation must protect against deforestation as well as all other ecological diminishment of large, contiguous and relatively intact forest expanses. Ancient forests can simply not be acceptably industrially managed while still holding all their carbon.



Title: Brazil Proposes Fund to Protect Amazon
Source: Copyright 2006, Reuters
Date: November 7, 2006
Byline: Andrea Welsh

Brazil, home to the world's largest rainforest, will ask rich nations to back a plan to help it slow deforestation at global climate talks this week, a senior environmental official said.

The plan marks a first step toward including deforestation in global climate agreements to cut emissions of carbon, a heat- trapping gas released by burning fossil fuels and trees that is partly to blame for rising world temperatures.

Officials from dozens of nations were to meet in Kenya starting Monday for the 12th round of UN global climate talks since 1992. The goal is to start crafting an extension to the Kyoto Protocol, a 1999 treaty that set mandatory targets for most rich nations to reduce carbon emissions.

The Brazilian secretary of forests and biodiversity, Joao Paulo Capobianco, said Brazil will present a plan for rich nations to put money into a fund that developing countries can tap after they prove they have slowed initial deforestation rates.

"A country will only have the right to claim resources after the environmental benefit is delivered," he said in an interview.

Critics have said Brazil just wants to get paid for protecting the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest and home to maybe a quarter of all species on earth.

Slowing deforestation was a cheap and fast way to lower global carbon emissions, nearly a fifth of which come from clearing land and burning trees, Capobianco said.

"When deforestation comes up, people in America, England, France, Italy, they take to the streets and protest because Brazil is cutting down the rainforest," Capobianco said. "The question isn't why would they invest money in this. The question is why wouldn't they?"

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Brazil cannot get credit for slowing deforestation although it burns relatively little oil and gas. A third of its carbon emissions come from felling trees in the Amazon.

In 2005, enough trees were cut down to cover all of Israel or Wales. To date, about a fifth of Brazil's Amazon has been cleared -- an area twice the size of Germany -- mostly to produce lumber, graze cattle or plant crops like rice and soy.

Capobianco said Brazil reduced land-clearing by a third last year and could do better if given credit for the carbon emissions avoided. More money would go to invest in new economic models for the rainforest, which makes poor farm land because of its sandy soil and frequent floods, he said.

"People don't cut down the Amazon because they're angry at trees," he said. "It's actually expensive and quite difficult. People do it because it's how they guarantee their economic survival."

Capobianco also said poor nations would gain by lowering carbon emissions more cheaply than they otherwise could.

Brazil's plan will need support from other developing nations, which were excused from Kyoto's mandatory carbon cuts so they could focus on economic growth and urgent problems like poverty and disease.

The United States, which is responsible for more than a third of the world's carbon emissions, backed out of the treaty saying it unfairly exempted countries like China and India from mandatory cuts.


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