The Amazon is not for sale

Conserving the rainforests will help prevent climate change. But proposals to protectively sell the Amazon abroad would deprive the Brazilian people of their heritage, say government ministers Marina Silva, Sergio Rezende and Celso Amorim.

Recently there have been frequent newspaper references to the interest shown by individuals, institutions and even governments in foreign initiatives aimed at acquiring land in the Amazon region for conservation purposes. Such initiatives arise from concerns regarding the possible role of deforestation in climate change. However, they are also based on a lack of information regarding the Amazon rainforest, and ignore important scientific data.

Climate change is a genuine problem, and one to which Brazil attaches great importance. There is a global consensus that the phenomenon is being accelerated by human actions. It is a cumulative process, resulting from the progressive concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. To focus attention primarily on countries’ current emissions is therefore wrong and unfair. Some of the countries currently responsible for emissions – particularly developing countries – have little or no historical responsibility for the global warming, the effects of which we are now beginning to feel.

The main cause of climate change is well known: at least 80% of the problem is a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels – especially coal and oil – from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. It is due only in small part to changes in land use, including deforestation.

There are many reasons why current levels of deforestation around the world are a cause for concern, but in combating climate change the focus should be on altering energy matrixes and promoting more intensive use of clean energy. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol are quite clear on this point: those who caused the problem – the industrialised countries – must meet mandatory reduction targets and have the obligation to act first.

Although not obliged to meet any mandatory reduction targets, since it bears little responsibility for the problem, Brazil is doing its part. We have one of the cleanest energy matrixes in the world. Our bio-fuels programmes are often quoted as an example to be followed by other countries. We are therefore contributing to sustainable development and to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Brazil is also fighting deforestation by implementing policies aimed at promoting the value of our native forest and supporting the socio-economic development of communities that depend on it. Over recent years we have achieved significant reductions in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon. Total deforestation in 2005 was 32% lower than in 2004, and preliminary data suggests there will have been a further fall of 11% over the course of 2006. These are important results, but the efforts towards a permanent decrease in deforestation must continue.

Sustainable forest-management is an area with a great deal of potential for international cooperation through the exchange of experiences and support for technical capacity-building. We welcome such cooperation, as long as it is based on respect for our laws and our sovereignty.

Brazil is an active participant in the international debate regarding forests. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi in November, we will be putting forward a proposal aimed at creating incentives for countries to reduce rates of deforestation voluntarily, which we believe would also be an appropriate way for developed countries to support the conservation of tropical rainforests.

The proposal constitutes just one aspect of Brazil’s contribution to the shared efforts aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is firmly opposed to the unsustainable development patterns that have led to irreparable environmental damage all over the world. Brazil expects the industrialised countries, which are responsible for these development patterns, to comply with their obligations for reducing emissions.

In the developed world, well-meaning individuals who are concerned about climate change, with good reason, should dedicate themselves to influencing their own governments with a view to altering unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and to utilising renewable energy resources. The latter is an area in which Brazil has much to offer in terms of expertise and technology.

We are taking care of the Amazon in accordance with development models based on principles of sustainability defined by Brazilian society. The Amazon is part of the heritage of the Brazilian people, and it is not for sale.

Article written jointly by Brazil’s foreign, environment, and science & technology ministers, published in Folha de São Paulo on 17 October 2006.
Celso Amorim, Foreign Minister
Sergio Rezende, Minister for Science and Technology
Marina Silva, Environment Minister

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