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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.
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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

Homepage photo by welsh boy

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匿名 | Anonymous



Is the Amazon a national or an international resource?

I would have more sympathy with this nationalist argument if Brazil had taken more care of the Amazon rainforest. The fact is that the Amazon has been for sale for decades.. not to foreigners but to rich Brazilians who have been cutting it down to sell the valuable woods, or to create unsustainable cattle ranches that eventually turh into desert. The government has encouraged landless people to settle there to avoid tackling Brazil's terrible social inequalities and the military have encouraged settlement in the Amazon for their own strategic reasons. Brazilians used to argue that they had the right to cut down the forest because other countries had cut down their forests in the past. This is a stupidly nationalistic and short sighted view that will not help the Brazilian people in the long term. Now, when foreigners want to put money into conserving the forest, this is seen as a bad thing -- for the same shortsighted nationalistic reasons. The Amazon rainforest is vital for the future of everyone on earth. If Brazil does not want to be criticised for its failure of stewardship, then better stewardship is the answer, not blaming outsiders. If climate change continues as scientists now predict, the Amazon rainforest is going to die anyway. How will that help Brazil or anyone else in the world?

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匿名 | Anonymous


按我来看,阿莫里姆、雷森德及席尔瓦敦促发达国家负减排的责任是对的, 因为发达国家的排放量在过去和现在一向算是世界上最高的。这种论点相当于“中外对话”上一些说发达国家怎么不减排还敢告诉中国减排的评论。然而,不令人满意的是这些巴西高官没提到大豆产量的增加对亚马孙森林采伐的恶化作用。尤其在贫穷的马拉尼奥州,当地政府服从企业的要求,如此导致环境破坏的后果。对“中外对话”来说,这个题目特别恰当,因为近年来中国对大豆入口的要求 (来作为猪食)一直推动巴西出口的增加。 世界野生动物基金会 (WWF) 2003年关于这个题目发表了一篇文章,在 这里可以看得到。

what about soybeans?

In my opinion, Amorim, Rezende, and Silva are correct when they urge industrialized nations to assume more responsibility for emissions reductions, because these emissions have been and continue to be the highest in the world. This line of argument resembles many of the comments posted on China Dialogue, which state that China should not be told to reduce emissions if industrialized nations are not following suit.
However, it is upsetting that these top Brazilian officials should fail to mention the increase in soybean production that has exacerbated deforestation in the Amazon region. This applies especially to the impoverished Maranhao province, where the local government has played into the hands of business at the expense of the rainforest. This topic is especially relevant to China Dialogue, since Chinese demand for soybeans (largely as fodder for pigs) has fuelled Brazilian exports over the past few years.
An article published by the World Wildlife Fund on the topic in 2003(available here ) renders more insight into the issue.