Celso Amorim, Marina Silva & Sergio Rezende: The Amazon is ours. It is not for sale...

Climate change is due only in small part to changes in land use, including deforestation


Recently there have been frequent newspaper references to the interest shown by foreign individuals, institutions and even governments in 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, so it is wrong and unfair to focus attention primarily on countries' present emissions. Some of the countries currently producing emissions - particularly in the developing world - have little or no historical responsibility for global warming.

The main cause of climate change is well known: at least 80 per cent of the problem is a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels - especially coal and oil - from the mid-19th 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 Climate Change Convention 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. The rate of deforestation from mid-2004 to mid-2005 was 32 per cent lower than over the previous twelve months, and according to preliminary data there was a further fall of 11 per cent in 2005-06. 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 co-operation through the exchange of experiences and support for technical capacity-building. We welcome such co-operation, 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 sources. 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.

The writers are, respectively, Brazil's foreign, environment and science & technology ministers

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