Brazil plans fund to save rainforest

Plans for a global fund to help contain rainforest destruction and slash carbon emissions will be unveiled next month by the Brazilian government.

The project, by which rich nations would offer financial incentives to developing countries that combat deforestation, will be announced at a convention on climate change in Nairobi.

Championed by Marina Silva, Brazil’s Environment Minister, officials claim the fund would help protect tropical forests while giving a much-needed economic impetus to the developing world.

“It is a win-win situation,” a Brazilian government source said, describing the plans as Brazil’s contribution to the global fight against climate change. “The climate wins, the developing countries win and those industrialised countries who will be fulfilling their obligations [to reduce deforestation] win.’‘

News of Brazil’s proposals followed crossed swords with the British government, after the United Kingdom Environment Secretary, David Miliband, raised doubts over Brazil’s capacity to protect the rainforest.

In an interview on October 1, Miliband reportedly suggested creating an “international trust” to manage the world’s largest tropical rain­forest. The British government denied Miliband’s comments but they caused anger among Brazilians, many of whom are suspicious of foreign intervention in the Amazon.

In a newspaper article entitled “The Amazon is not for sale”, three senior Brazilian ministers this week championed the idea of an international fund and suggested that attempts to “privatise” the rainforest were an attack on the country’s sovereignty.
They added that “well-intentioned” outsiders were “ignorant of the reality of the Amazon rainforest” and should stick to trying to influence their own governments.

At least two foreign businessmen—Johan Eliasch, a Swedish sportswear tycoon, and Chinese timber magnate Lu Wei-Guang—have purchased large tracts of the Amazon in recent years, professing the desire to help cut deforestation and implement sustainable development.

Authorities in Brazil, however, insist they are tackling the problem, pointing to a 32% cut in deforestation last year and predicting a further 11% drop next year.

“We are taking care of Amazonia in accordance with development models based on the principles of sustainability,” the ministers wrote. “[It] is the patrimony of the Brazilian people and is not for sale.”

Brazil is often at the sharp end of criticism from environmentalists, who point to the destruction of more than 132 000km2 of rainforest since 2000—razed by cattle farmers, illegal loggers and soya planters.

Yet officials say developed nations are in fact responsible for the bulk of greenhouse emissions through their dependency on fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Mauro Armelin, political coordinator of WWF Brazil, welcomed the idea of a fund but warned that the contradiction between agricultural progress and sustainability was still far from being resolved.

“A clean toilet is not the one you most clean, it is the one you dirty least,” he said.—Â

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